Home Architectural Travel A 12th Century Oasis in Miami, Florida

A 12th Century Oasis in Miami, Florida

by Penny Sadler
Ancient Spanish Monastery Miami Florida ©pennysadler 2013


Several weeks ago, I went to Florida to catch up with an old friend currently living in Ft. Lauderdale. Wanting to be a good host, my friend asked me what I wanted to do for the weekend.

I’m sure what he expected me to say was, I wanted to go to the beach, shopping, Little Havana, South Beach (I did that-story coming soon) …you know, the usual tourist things. What was first on my list, however, was visiting a 12th century Spanish monastery located in North Miami.

Spanish Monastery in Miami Florida ©pennysadler 2013

The Cloisters of St. Bernard de Clairvaux

Thanks to expat Ana O’Reilly, who I had met just about a week before my departure, I had learned of The Cloisters of the Ancient Spanish Monastery and their amazing history. I love it when life presents a beautiful synchronicity like that.

Ana told me that she also had been visiting a friend in the Miami area, and had found the Cloisters quite by accident. She had seen a sign that said Ancient Spanish Monastery and just had to go and see for herself what it could be.

I was instantly intrigued and added it to my list for the weekend. I’m so glad I did. It turned out to be one of the best moments of my weekend.

What I loved about the Monastery was the simple beauty of the old stones, the shape of the corridors and the arched windows, the peaked ceilings. I also love it when there are altars with real candles. I always light a candle and say a prayer. I’m not a religious person, it’s more like a little meditation to me.

Shrine of Our Lady ©pennysadler 2013

Shrine of Our Lady

I also adore being outside and taking photographs. A structure like the monastery is a perfect subject for all of these reasons, and more. It pleases my eyes.

I find inspiration in old churches and cathedrals, as well. These buildings are made to inspire. It’s a no brainer that it’s easier to find God in a building that is beautiful, and where the light glows no matter what the hour of the day – unlike many more modern churches that look like boxes with a spire or cross on top.

Coat of Arms of St. Bernard

Coat of Arms

Here is a short history of the Monastery in my own words:
The Ancient Spanish Monastery has a rather long and chaotic history. Built in Spain in the Province of Segovia about 1133, it was later named in honor of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, a Cistercian Monk. Approximately 1000 years later, the Cloisters and the out buildings were purchased by American millionaire and publisher, William Randolph Hearst. Every brick was packed into a numbered crate – (11,000 crates!) and shipped to the United States. However, when they arrived in the U.S. there was an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease, every box was inspected, and the hay which had been used to cushion the stones was burned. When the bricks were put back in their boxes, no care was given to see that it was the box which it had been shipped in.

The entire lot sat in a warehouse until the death of William Randoph Hearst. After his death the monastery was purchased by William Edgemon and Raymond Moss at the cost of 1.5 million dollars to become a tourist attraction.

Ancient Spanish monastery miami florida ©pennysadle2013

detail of stone wall

Imagine putting all of this back together, into what you see today! Incredible!

I highly recommend a visit to the Monastery if you are in the Miami area. Where else can you see a 12th century structure in the United States? If you love history or architecture, it’s not to be missed. It’s a miracle that it exists here at all. If you’re a bit tired of the crowds, this is a perfect escape.

Ancient spanish Monastery miami Florida ©pennysadler.com

St. John’s Garden

The wishing well at the Ancient Spanish monastery in Miami, Fl. ©pennysadler2013

wishing well

©penny sadler 2013 doorway at the Cloisters of St. Bernard de Clairvaux

beautiful carved arch over a doorway.

Today the Monastery and Chapel are an active Episcopal church. Services are held in English and Spanish on Sundays. It is often used for events like weddings and photo shoots.

If you read the website, don’t miss this page which shows period photographs documenting the reconstruction.

Touring hours are Monday through Saturday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Sunday 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.


All materials ©pennysadler 2013

If You Liked This Article Check Out Another!


D.J. - The World of Deej March 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Well that is quite a unique find, especially to this Floridian. At first, I questioned your title knowing that our state was only discovered 500 years ago (this year in fact) but now it all makes sense. Guess where I’m heading next time I’m in Miami:)

Penny February 27, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Yes, churches are a great way to find some peace and relaxation. I do that often myself.
Thanks for commenting. Hope you can check out the monastery some time.

larissacmilne February 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I always enjoy ducking into a church or churchyard for a quiet moment when traveling in Europe. It’s nice to know that even frenetic Miami offers similar respite 🙂

larissacmilne February 27, 2013 at 11:59 am

One of my favorite ways to catch a quiet moment when traveling through Europe is to duck into a church or churchyard. Nice to know that even in frenetic Miami that’s possible 🙂

wanderingeducators February 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

just beautiful! i want to go explore, ponder, and soak it all in!

Penny February 26, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Thank you! I appreciate the comments. 🙂

Kate February 26, 2013 at 5:25 am

This is not what I think of when I think Florida! Reminds me of the Cloisters in NYC.

Penny February 26, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Hi Kate. Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard about the Cloisters in NYC.
I just love these old spiritual buildings. Can’t get enough of them.

Chef Emil February 15, 2013 at 9:08 am

We have visited this monastery and found it so very magnificant. Your photos are wonderful.


Leave a Comment