Adventures written by the VAMONDE Team
The Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, commonly known as the Ancient Spanish Monastery, was originally built in the 12th century in Spain. In 1925, American business tycoon William Randolph Hearst bought the monastery and had the buildings taken apart stone by stone and shipped to New York. However, for various financial and administrative reasons, the pieces never continued their journey to California, where Hearst presumably wanted to use them in the design of his castle-like estate in San Simeon.
After Hearst died, two entrepreneurs, Raymond Moss and William Edgemon, purchased the stones and had the monastery reassembled as a tourist attraction in Florida. The project was featured in a 1953 issue of Time magazine in which it was called “the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history.” Moss and Edgemon embellished the buildings with items from other properties in Spain, like the large coat of arms, which came from another monastery in Segovia.
Take a virtual tour of the monastery:
In 1964, the monastery was purchased on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of South Florida. Soon after, it was put up for sale again. A local philanthropist, Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr., bought the property and donated it to the St. Bernard de Clairvaux parish, with which it remains to this day.
The monastery is the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. On a tour of the grounds, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the monastery, the formal gardens, a small museum, and the active Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux. For a free guided tour of the monastery, visit on a Saturday or Sunday at 1:00 p.m. If you can't make it on the weekends, you can schedule a tour during the week by calling 305-945-1461 a week in advance.
Cover image by Daderot [CC0].