Subiaco Abbey (Arkansas)

Subiaco Abbey

Abbey cloister with a view of the Abbey Church
Monastery information
Other names New Subiaco Abbey, St. Benedict Priory
Order Benedictine
Established March 15, 1878
Mother house St. Meinrad Archabbey (1878-1887), Einsiedeln Abbey
Dedicated to St. Benedict of Nursia
Diocese Little Rock
Founder(s) Dom Wolfgang Schlumpf, O.S.B.
Abbot The Right Rev. Leonard Wangler, O.S.B.
Prior Bro. Edward Fischesser, O.S.B.
Status active
Functional Status abbey
Heritage designation NRHP Ref. #78003484
Designated date February 28, 1978
Groundbreaking 1898
Completed date 1902

Subiaco Abbey is an American Benedictine monastery located in the Arkansas River valley of Logan County, Arkansas, part of the Swiss-American Congregation of Benedictine monasteries. The abbey and the preparatory school it operates, Subiaco Academy, are major features of the town of Subiaco, Arkansas. It is located within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock and is named after the original Subiaco Abbey in Italy, the first monastery founded by Saint Benedict.


In 1877, the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad (LR&FS) owned thousands of open acres which it wished to settle. Deciding to offer land only to German Catholics, the company approached the Abbot of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, Martin Marty, O.S.B., with an offer for the establishment of a monastery and school to serve the German population it was bringing into the region.<ref name=SA /[1] The abbot negotiated with an agent of the railroad of a grant of 640 acres (2.6 km2)for the establishment of a Benedictine monastery for monks and an additional 100 acres (0.40 km2) for the foundation of a monastery for Benedictine nuns. This agreement received the support of Bishop Edward Fitzgerald, Bishop of Little Rock, who was in need of German-speaking priests for his diocese.

The original foundation was made on March 15, 1878, upon the arrival of three monk-missionaries from St. Meinrad Archabbey, Father Wolfgang Schlumpf, O.S.B., and two lay brothers. The foundation was named St. Benedict's Priory. Due to financial and personnel difficulties, St. Meinrad requested assistance. In the fall of 1887, its own founding monastery, Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland, assumed authority over the new foundation and sent eight novices and a priest-monk to Subiaco, Father Gall D'Aujourd'hui.[2]

In 1891 the monastery was raised to the status of an abbey by Pope Leo XIII, becoming independent of Switzerland, with the name being changed to the one the abbey currently has. The first abbot, Ignatius Conrad, O.S.B., a monk of Einsiedeln who was serving in Missouri, was elected in March 1892. Under his leadership, construction of a new abbey, made from local sandstone, was begun in 1898. In December 1901, just as the construction was nearing completion, the original wooden abbey, located about a mile away, burned to the ground and the monks transferred to the current site. This building was gutted by fire in 1927 and rebuilt. The third Abbot of Subiaco, Paul Nahlen, O.S.B., obtained Pope Pius XII's blessing for the construction of the present church on the campus. The church was completed in 1959.[2] This act is depicted in one of the 182 stained-glass frescoes in St. Benedict Abbey Church.

Over the years, the Benedictine monks at Subiaco have pursued various spiritual, agricultural, and commercial endeavors. First were missionary works, then the establishment of Subiaco Academy, a university-preparatory school. An overseas foundation was made in 1964 in Nigeria, but had to be closed in 1968, due to the Biafran War. A subsequent foundation, Santa Familia Priory was made in Belize in 1971.[2]

Monastery commercial endeavors

The abbey pursues the commercial cultivation of grapes and other fruits, cattle feed crops (hay), and stands of timber.

The abbey maintains an electronic commerce website where products made at the abbey are sold. These products consist primarily of candy (Peanut Brittle) and food seasonings, especially a habanero one termed "Monk Sauce".

For decades, the abbey maintained a dairy operation, but that effort was abandoned in 1964 with an open auction of the dairy cattle. Beginning in 1999, the abbey decided to make another attempt and began raising a registered herd of black Angus cattle, starting with cattle donations from local ranchers. The quality of the herd is carefully controlled with a program of artificial insemination. In 2001, the cattle operation became one of the first to begin a program of ultrasound of pregnant cattle, which enables close monitoring of the breeding program and the quick sale of bulls. The program reached a milestone in January, 2005, with the first sale of registered Angus cattle, bringing an average price of more than $5500 per animal.[3]

Coury House Retreat Center

Subiaco provides accommodation for friends of the abbey, family members of academy students, and in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, anyone who comes in peace. Visitor accommodations are made at the Coury House Retreat Center, an hotel-like establishment on the campus that provides room and board to visitors—including married couples—who wish to experience the spiritual renewal and solitude of the Subiaco Abbey and campus.

Subiaco Academy

Main article: Subiaco Academy

Subiaco Academy is a boarding/day school of Catholic tradition for any qualified young man in grades 7 through 12. It offers college preparatory classes, with co-curricular activities including sports, arts and music and outdoor activities including hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing and kayaking.

The college placement rate for graduates is 100%. The academy's goal is to "challenge students to grow - mind, body and spirit".

Student Body

The Academy has a diverse student body attracting international students mainly from South Korea and China.In the 2013-2014 school year there were students from 10 countries and 17 States. There are also students from Belize, Belarus, Mexico, Spain, Thailand and Japan. In addition, the academy attracts students from across the United States.

Media references

KNWA-TV, a Fort Smith, Arkansas television station, produced a half-hour report on the history of the abbey and the academy in March 2009.[4]

See also


  1. "Subiaco History". Subiaco Abbey.
  2. 1 2 3
  3. Bennett, David (May 19, 2005). "Subiaco Abbey's Angus herd". Delta Farm Press. Archived from the original on February 27, 2010. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
  4. retrieved April 1, 2009

Coordinates: 35°18′04″N 93°38′00″W / 35.3011°N 93.6333°W / 35.3011; -93.6333

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