Have you ever been to the Chapter Room at Saint Meinrad Archabbey? I’ve asked Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Director of Communications at Saint Meinrad Archabbey & Seminary and School of Theology, to give us an “insider’s perspective” on one of the special facets of the Archabbey. Read on to learn more about the beautiful and serene Saint Meinrad Archabbey.
Tour the Chapter Room at Saint Meinrad Archabbey
“If you’re interested in learning about a Benedictine monastery and the monks who live there, there’s a special place at Saint Meinrad Archabbey (St. Meinrad, IN) that tells the story through art.
When you visit, stop at the front desk of the Archabbey Guest House and Retreat Center and ask for the free audio tour or a Visitors Guide brochure. Both will show you the way to the Chapter Room. (A monk-led tour, each Saturday at 1:30 Central time, also includes the Chapter Room.)
The Chapter Room is where the monks gather for important meetings or spiritual conferences. What makes Saint Meinrad’s Chapter Room unique is its decor. The artwork was created in 1942-43 by a Belgian monk, Father Gregory de Wit, who was stranded in the United States during World War II.
Through stained glass windows and scenes painted on the wall, Fr. Gregory turned a simple meeting room into a lesson on Benedictine monastic life. On the wall are 10 scenes that illustrate some of the “tools for good works” that are listed in the Rule of St. Benedict (a guide for monastic living written in the sixth century and still followed today).
In one panel, a shepherd in tattered clothes is pictured at the door to a monastery, apparently on his way home after rounding up a lost sheep. One of the monks kisses his feet, while another sets a bowl of soup on the table for the man to share with them.
The artist has painted a halo around the visitor’s head with a cross in it: a sign of Christ. In Latin are words about hospitality from the Rule: “Because in the poor, Christ is more especially received.”
Fr. Gregory used the room’s ceiling as a mural to showcase God’s creation. Various panels take the visitor through the diversity of nature, fish, birds, animals and, finally, man. On the wooden beams, he added the Latin words to a song of praise called the Benedicite. One verse reads: “All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.”
Everywhere you look in this room, you’ll find insights into the monks’ life of prayer, work and community–a life that has continued the Benedictine tradition in this part of southern Indiana for more than 150 years.” ~ Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Saint Meinrad Archabbey
—– Are you ready to visit? I sure am!