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Reasons to Love Minnesota No. 63: Saint John’s Abbey

An epic monastery in the middle of nowhere

The imposing Abbey Church of Saint John the Baptist at Saint John’s University in Collegeville is nothing short of spectacular. The architecturally polarizing building, which looks as if it could have been airlifted out of the Soviet Union circa 1977, was actually designed by the Bauhaus-schooled Marcel Breuer in the 1950s. The construction, which was mostly handled by Benedictine monks, was completed in the summer of ’61.
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While its Brutalist bones are made of harsh concrete, inside you’ll find a kaleidoscopic wall of latticed stained glass, designed by Polish painter and visionary art professor Bronislaw Bak. The vast trapezoidal space has no columns, blessing up to 1,500 parishioners with a VIP ticket to the liturgical action.

On a recent visit, one of the Abbey’s monks told us that the nearly 60-year-old cathedral needs $50 million in renovations, but we were too floored by its hard-edged, melodramatic beauty to notice. ⁣

The Abbey Church is open daily from just before 7 a.m. services until to 10 p.m. You can tour the space on your own (informational leaflets are available) or gather up some friends and request a one-hour guided tour by a monk. The recommended offering is $5 per adult and $2 for kids under 12, with a minimum of six people.

Saint John’s Abbey
2900 Abbey Plaza, Collegeville, MN; 320-363-2011.