Saint Louis Abbey

Saint Louis Abbey

Abbey Church
Monastery information
Full name The Abbey of St. Mary and St. Louis
Order Benedictine
Established 1955
Mother house Ampleforth Abbey
Dedicated to Virgin Mary
St. Louis, King of France
Diocese St. Louis
Controlled churches St. Anselm's
Oratory of Ss. Gregory and Augustine
Founder(s) Rt. Rev. Columba Cary-Elwes
Rt. Rev. Luke Rigby
Rev. Timothy Horner
Abbot Rt. Rev. Thomas Frerking
Prior Rev. Gerard Garrigan
Location Creve Coeur, Missouri
Coordinates 38°38′39″N 90°28′44″W / 38.6442°N 90.4789°W / 38.6442; -90.4789Coordinates: 38°38′39″N 90°28′44″W / 38.6442°N 90.4789°W / 38.6442; -90.4789
The coat of arms of the abbey

The Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis is an abbey of the Roman Catholic English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) located in St. Louis County, Missouri United States. The Abbey is an important presence in the spiritual life of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The monks of the Abbey live their faith according to the Benedictine discipline of 'prayer and work', praying the Divine Office five times daily, celebrating daily Masses in English and Latin, and working in the two parishes under their pastoral care and in the Saint Louis Priory School, which the Abbey runs as an apostolate.[1][2][3] The Abbey and its school sit on a 150-acre (0.61 km2) campus in west St. Louis County, in the city of Creve Coeur.[4]


Saint Louis Abbey was founded in 1955 as a priory of the Benedictine Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire, England, which dispatched three monks to plant a new foundation in St. Louis. They came at the invitation of Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter and a group of prominent St. Louis lay Catholics, who desired a boys' school in their community run according to the English Benedictine educational tradition. Those original three monks, Father Columba Cary-Elwes, Fr. (later Abbot) Luke Rigby, and Fr. Timothy Horner, arrived in St. Louis in the summer of 1955 and set about the formation of a new monastic community, with Fr. Columba serving as the community's founding prior and Fr. Timothy serving as the Priory School's founding headmaster.[5]

Fr. Columba served as prior until 1967, when he departed for missionary work in Africa, and was succeeded in his post by Fr. Luke. The St. Louis Priory, as it then was, became independent of Ampleforth in 1973, and was elevated to an abbey in 1989.[6] At this time, Fr. Luke Rigby was elected as the first Abbot of Saint Louis Abbey.[7] He was in turn succeeded by Fr. Thomas Frerking, OSB, a Rhodes Scholar, former Headmaster of the Priory School and Thomist scholar, who was elected to serve as Abbot on July 12, 1995.[8]

Construction of the distinctive Abbey Church was completed in 1962, and the original 1950s monastery was rebuilt and expanded in 2000–2001.[9][10] The various buildings of the Priory School also sit on the Abbey grounds; the current Lower House was constructed in the 1960s, and served as the Upper House at the time of its completion. The current Upper House was completed in several stages built from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Notable Brethren

Present day

As of March 2010, St. Louis Abbey is home to a community of 23 solemnly professed brothers and 4 brothers in simple vows, as well as a claustral oblate and several novices.[13] It is the largest American house of the EBC.[6]

In addition to their other duties and ministries, many of the brothers are directly involved in the Abbey's school, teaching classes in most areas of instruction including Theology, Latin, Fine Arts, English, Mathematics, and Science, and coaching sporting teams including Tennis and Rugby.[14]

In line with the Benedictine tradition of offering hospitality and respite to travelers, the Abbey maintains a guest wing on the south side of the monastery with five rooms and two gardens. The brethren make themselves available to guests to hear confessions or provide counsel.[15]

The Abbey Church, also known as the Church of St. Mary and St. Louis and the Priory Chapel, was designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum (HOK), with the Italian architect and engineer Pier Luigi Nervi serving as consultant.[16][17] The Abbey Church was an important landmark and name-making project for HOK, now the world's largest architectural practice (according to the 2006 edition of the BD World Architecture 200). The church's circular facade consists of three tiers of whitewashed, thin-poured concrete parabolic arches, the top one forming a bell-tower; the arches appear to float upwards from their grassy base. They are faced with dark insulated-fiberglass polyester window walls which create a meditative translucency when viewed from within. The church also contains a 14th-century sculpture of the Madonna and Christ child, a 17th-century holy font in the Della Robbia style, and more modern sacred art by artists from the United States, Great Britain, Spain, and France. On the grounds outside the church sit life-size sculptures of Saint Benedict, by Lithuanian-born artist Wiktor Szostalo, and of the Virgin Mary, the "Holy Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, Our Lady of Grace" by American sculptor Philip Howie.[9]

The Abbey Church serves as the home of the Archdiocesan parish of Saint Anselm. Monks of the abbey serve as pastor and associate pastor in the parish.[18]

Additionally, the Abbey is responsible for the pastoral care of the Oratory of Saints Gregory and Augustine, the rector of which is Fr. Bede Price, OSB. The Oratory is one of two non-territorial parishes of the Archdiocese of St. Louis that offer daily celebrations of the Tridentine Latin Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum.[19][20] Services are currently held on the Abbey grounds, in the chapel of St. Anselm's parish center.[21]


  1. 1 2 T. Fry; et al. (1981). RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes. The Liturgical Press. ISBN 0-8146-1220-2.
  2. "Work". Saint Louis Abbey. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  3. "Worship & Prayer: The Divine Office". Saint Louis Abbey. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  4. "Saint Louis Priory School". Independent Schools of St. Louis. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  5. 1 2 Horner, Timothy (2001). In good soil: the founding of Saint Louis Priory and School, 1954–1973. Saint Louis Abbey Press. ISBN 0-9662104-1-7.
  6. 1 2 "Monasteries of the English Benedictine Congregation". English Benedictine Congregation. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  7. "A Priory Legacy: Abbot Luke Rigby" (PDF). Saint Louis Abbey. January 10, 2007. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  8. "In Brief". St. Louis Review. Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri. July 24, 2003. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  9. 1 2 Faherty, William Barnaby; Abeln, Mark Scott (2009). Catholic St. Louis: A Pictorial History. St. Louis, Mo: Reedy Press. p. 176. ISBN 1-933370-83-1.
  10. Wotawa, Elizabeth (August 2, 2001). "New St. Louis Abbey: Linking prayer, beauty". St. Louis Review. Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  11. Wright, Ralph (2008). Our Daily Bread: Glimpsing the Eucharist Through the Centuries. Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-4525-1.
  12. Delbrel, Madelaine (1993). The Joy of Believing. Éditions Paulines. ISBN 2-89039-536-7.
  13. "The Monks". Saint Louis Abbey. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  14. "Saint Louis Priory School Faculty List". Saint Louis Priory School. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  15. "Guests". Saint Louis Abbey. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  16. "An Interview with Gyo Obata". FX Magazine. October 2006. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  17. "Pier Luigi Nervi". Structurae. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  18. "Saint Anselm Parish". St. Anselm Parish. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  19. "About the Oratory". Oratory of Ss. Gregory and Augustine. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  20. Schildz, Jean (November 29, 2007). "Archbishop Burke approves new oratory for Latin Mass". St. Louis Review. Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  21. Brinker, Jennifer (September 21, 2007). "Archdiocesan priests attend meeting on Latin Mass rules". St. Louis Review. Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
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