Home Architectural Travel A 12th Century Oasis in Miami, Floria: Ancient Spanish Monastery

A 12th Century Oasis in Miami, Floria: Ancient Spanish Monastery

written by Penny Sadler

The oldest structure in the Western Hemisphere, the resurrection of the Ancient Spanish Monastery, in 1953, was called the largest jigsaw puzzle in American history by Time Magazine.

A 12th Century Oasis in Miami, Florida by Adventures of a Carryon


The Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami, Florida originally constructed in the 12th Century, the monastery traveled from Spain to the United States almost 1000 years later. 


The Cloisters ©PennySadler

The Cloisters of St. Bernard de Clairvaux


History of the Ancient Spanish Monastery

The Monastery has a rather long and chaotic history. The story begins in Spain, in the Province of Segovia, about 1133. Originally named Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, it was later named in honor of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk and mystic.

12 Century Oasis in Miami, Florida

Shrine of Our Lady


After a social revolution in the 1830s, the cloisters and monastery were seized, sold, and became a granary and stables. Approximately 1000 years later, the Cloisters and the out buildings were purchased by American millionaire and publisher, William Randolph Hearst.

Monastery, Miami

beautiful carved arch over a doorway.


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 in Europe. Every box was opened,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 the order in which they were replaced in the boxes. 


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

wishing well

Hearst fell on tough times and consequently, the monastery was not reassembled in his lifetime. The entire lot sat in a warehouse until 1952. After his death the monastery was purchased by William Edgemon and Raymond Moss at the cost of 1.5 million dollars. Savvy entrepreneurs, they thought it would make a good tourist attraction.

It took nineteen months to put the monastery back together. Imagine putting putting together (11,000 boxes!), that had been packed in no particular order, 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. The monastery is a true hidden gem. 

from, A 12 Century Oasis in Miami, Florida

St. John’s Garden

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.

IF You Go:

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

Sunday 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.


All materials ©pennysadler 2013

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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.


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