On Saturday March 23 2014 I drove 66 mile south to North Miami Beach and visited St. Bernards Spanish Monastery which is the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere.
If you happen to visit South Florida this place is worth a visit just realize that this is an active church and they do book weddings and other events. My suggestion is to call ahead to see if any such events are going on. I did not and was unable to photograph the interior of the church because there was a wedding going on inside.
History of the Monastery
Construction of the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux was begun in the year 1133 AD in Sacramenia, near Segovia in northern Spain. Completed eight years later in 1141, the Monastery was dedicated to the Blessed Mother and was originally named ‘The Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels.’ Upon the canonization of Bernard of Clairvaux in 1174, the Monastery was renamed in his honor. A Cistercian monk and mystic, the founder and abbot of the Abbey of Clairvaux, Bernard was one of the most influential church leaders of his time. Cistercian monks occupied the Monastery for nearly 700 years. After a social revolution in the 1830’s, the Monastery’s Cloisters were seized, sold, and converted into a granary and stable.
In 1925, William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloisters and the Monastery’s outbuildings. The structures were dismantled stone by stone, bound with protective hay, packed in more than 11,000 wooden crates, numbered for identification and shipped to the United States. Soon after the shipment arrived, Hearst’s financial problems forced most of his collection to be sold at auction. The massive crates remained in a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, for 26 years. One year after Hearst’s’ death in 1952, they were purchased by two entrepreneurs for use as a tourist attraction. It took 19 months and the equivalent of nearly $20 million dollars (in today’s currency) to put the Monastery back together. In 1953 Time magazine called it “the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history.”
In 1964, Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr, who was a multimillionaire banker, philanthropist and benefactor of many Episcopal churches, purchased the Cloisters and presented them to the Bishop of Florida. Today the parish Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux is an active and growing congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. Services are held on Sundays and weekdays in both English and Spanish. (Info Source)