Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville

Saint John's Abbey

Saint John's Abbey Church and Bell Banner, on the Campus of Saint John's University
Monastery information
Order Order of Saint Benedict
Established 1856
Mother house Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania (founded 1846)
Diocese Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Cloud
Founder(s) Fr. Bruno Riss, O.S.B., Fr. Cornelius Wittmann, O.S.B., and the founding German Benedictines.
Abbot Rt. Rev. Fr. John Klassen, O.S.B.
Prior Rev. Fr. Bradley Jenniges, O.S.B.
Location Collegeville, Minnesota, USA
Public access Yes
Other information Website

Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota is a Benedictine monastery affiliated with the American-Cassinese Congregation. The abbey was established following the arrival in the area of monks from Saint Vincent Archabbey of Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1856. Saint John's is the largest Benedictine abbey in the Western Hemisphere, with 190 professed monks.[1] The Right Reverend Fr. John Klassen, OSB, serves as the 10th abbot.


In 1856, 5 monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania arrived in St. Cloud, Minnesota at the behest of the Bishop of St. Paul.[2] They established the priory there and began to minister to the German immigrants in central Minnesota. One of the first ministries of the new community was Saint John's College, which would come to be known as Saint John's Preparatory School. In 1862 the community moved some miles west, into the wooded area of the valley, and again in 1865 to the shores of Lake Sagatagan. It was in this location that the community began to flourish, and in 1866 the priory was raised to the status of Abbey and the community elected Fr. Rupert Seidenbusch as the first Abbot.

Abbey Church of Saint John the Baptist

By the early 1950s the monastic community had reached to a near 450 Monks, and had outgrown the original Abbey church and so plans were made to construct a new, larger worship space which could accommodate a larger congregation.[3] The liturgical movement which would culminate in the Second Vatican Council was in full swing at Saint John's and so the new church was also to be designed with some of the anticipated liturgical changes in mind. (Following the Council, almost no changes needed to be made to incorporate the new liturgical rules.) The community contacted twelve architects and asked them to submit plans for a church which would "be truly an architectural monument to the service of God."[4] In 1954 the community selected Marcel Breuer to design not only the new church but an addition to the monastic enclosure.

Breuer's design incorporated the traditional axis of baptistery, nave, and altar in a modern concrete structure.[5] The monastic choir stalls and Abbot's throne were placed in a less traditional semi-circular shape around the main altar, which also served to invite the congregation closer.[4] The church was designed so that even with a capacity of over 1500, the entire community was able to feel like they were intimately involved in the liturgy. Perhaps the most striking part of the design was the facade and bell tower, which itself was shaped like a large bell and sat suspended over the main entrance of the church. The "banner" rises 112 vertical feet in front of the church and houses the 5 bells which sound the hours and call the monastic and university communities to prayer.[6][3] The north facade of the building is the largest wall of stained glass in the world and contains 430 colorful hexagons of abstract design. The interior of the church truly considers attention to the W. Holtkamp Pipe Organ, the Largest Pipe Organ west of the Mississippi River.

Construction of the church began on May 19, 1958 and lasted until August 24, 1961.[3] The church was consecrated in the fall of 1961 and serves to this day as the principal liturgical space of both the monastic community and the university. The monastic community gathers for morning prayer, midday prayer, Mass, and evening prayer every weekday and except for rare occasions these liturgies are open to the public.[7] On the weekends there is not public midday prayer. All liturgical events in the Abbey Church are broadcast on the Abbey website, as well as through the Saint John's University on-campus cable system.[8]

The Great Hall, on the campus of SJU; it served as the abbey church until the construction of current present church.

Ministries and grounds

In addition to the preparatory school, the Abbey also established Saint John's University which was connected to the Abbey itself by "the Quadrangle", which at the time was the largest building west of the Mississippi dedicated to education. The Abbey also operates Liturgical Press, one of the foremost liturgical publishing houses in the United States. Also located on the grounds of the Abbey are the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, the Episcopal House of Prayer (Diocese of Minnesota), the original Minnesota Public Radio studio, and the Saint John the Baptist Parish Center. The 2,500-acre (10 km²) grounds of the Abbey comprise lakes, prairie, and hardwoods on rolling glacial moraine, and have been designated a natural arboretum. The Abbey is the location of a number of structures designed by the modernist Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer. The Abbey Church, with its banner bell tower, is one of his best-known works. In its undercroft is a chapel that contains the relics of Saint Peregrine.

Outside of St. John's, the Abbey's monks serve 16 parishes along with various Nursing Homes and Hospitals in the Diocese of Saint Cloud and in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. A sister priory of Saint John's, Trinity Benedictine Monastery, is located in Fujimi, Japan. The Abbey is also the setting for the popular collection of essays on Christian spirituality, The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris.

Saint John's Bible

The Abbey's Hill Museum & Manuscript Library houses the world's largest collection of manuscript images. This library is also the home of The Saint John's Bible, the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible to have been commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the invention of the printing press.

Sexual sbuse allegations

More than 250 allegations of sexual and other misconduct by over 60 members of Saint John’s community have been made.[9] The latest allegations have been made as of November 25, 2015.[10]

List of Abbots

  1. Rt. Rev. Rupert Seidenbusch, O.S.B. (1866-1875) Named Bishop of the Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Minnesota
  2. Rt. Rev. Alexius Edelbrock, O.S.B. (1875-1889)
  3. Rt. Rev. Bernard Locnikar, O.S.B. (1890-1894)
  4. Rt. Rev. Peter Engel, O.S.B. (1894-1921)
  5. Rt. Rev. Alcuin Deutsch, O.S.B. (1921-1950)
  6. Rt. Rev. Baldwin Dworschak, O.S.B. (1950-1971)
  7. Rt. Rev. John Eidenschink, O.S.B. (1971-1979)
  8. Rt. Rev. Jerome Theisen, O.S.B. (1979-1992) Elected Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation
  9. Rt. Rev. Timothy Kelly, O.S.B. (1992-2000)
  10. Rt. Rev. John Klassen, O.S.B. (2000-present)


  1. "OSB InternationalCollegeville - Saint John's (1856)". Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  2. "Saint John's Abbey :: Abbey History". Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  3. 1 2 3 "Saint John's Abbey :: Abbey Church". Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  4. 1 2 "AD Classics: St. John's Abbey Church / Marcel Breuer". 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  5. "Saint John's Abbey Church Tour" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  6. "MPR: Still controversial, the Abbey Church turns 40". 2001-10-24. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  7. "Saint John's Abbey :: Praying with Us". Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  8. "Saint John's Abbey :: Liturgy Broadcasts". Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  9. "Behind the Pine Curtain". 2015-04-28. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  10. "St. John's Abbey monk accused of abuse reports 200 sexual encounters". 2015-11-24. Retrieved 2016-11-28.

Coordinates: 45°34′49″N 94°23′32″W / 45.58028°N 94.39222°W / 45.58028; -94.39222

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