Conception Abbey, MO

Yesterday evening I was able to visit Conception Abbey, MO.

Conception was founded by a monk, Frowin, from Engelberg Abbey in Switzerland.   The Abbey shows a real influence of Beuron, with is distinctive artistic style.  The monks even wear the Benedictine habit in the style of Beuron.  Alas, they sing their office in English, but they do sing it.  We heard Vespers before having supper with some of the seminarians in the Abbey’s college, a minor seminary.

The church is a minor basilica.

Nearby, there is a monastery of Benedictine sisters.

They have a spectacular church.

A couple things.

First, consider that these buildings were built in the glory of God.  Their ecclesiology their love of God and their understanding of what liturgical worship meant led them to built them as they did.  Think of that when you look at churches which look more like municipal airport terminals than sacred edifices.

Also, it is possible to build great buildings today.  It takes sacrifice.  But it took sacrifice for people to build these buildings in times past as well.  It was never easy to build them.  It won’t be and shouldn’t be now.  But it can be done, provided we desire to express what we believe.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in On the road, SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Eric says:

    Cool umbralino.

  2. sekman says:

    Conception is a very nice place indeed. Some of the things they have done to the interior of the basilica are quite regrettable. They removed the high altar and put in a reredos/rood screen kind of deal separating the apse from the rest of the church. The frescoes are very beautiful.

  3. One of my good friends is in the seminary there. Seeing the pictures makes me want to visit that much more.

  4. MargaretMN says:

    One of my relatives is a Benedictine priest there and my mom has been there to visit. She told me that the operation they have there is impressive, the printery and all the other things they have going on. It’s a vibrant community. As you say, it was built with money from Irish and German farmers, not the wealthiest people. The place is a testament to their faith and sacrifice. I would love to visit it some day.

  5. Fr Tim Edgar says:

    Couldn’t agree more Father. Trying to move the Tabernacle back to the centre of the Church here, have a proper Confessional that is worthy of the Sacrament,change the music to something that is worthy is proving to be a very bloody and bruising experience. As you say, it shouldn’t be easy but it is about sacrifice. I pray it can be done.

  6. irishgirl says:

    Very nice pictures, especially of the nuns’ chapel.

    Did you escape the ice storm? I looked at the radars on a couple of weather sites, and things looked really nasty!

    Will you visit the Benedictines of Mary during your time in Missouri? I’m sure they’d appreciate seeing you if you have the time!

  7. roamincatholic says:

    Fr. Z (or anyone else)–

    I’m curious, what’s the quality of education for the seminarians at Conception? Our diocese sends the seminarians there, and I have heard some pretty… erroneous… stuff come from at least one of them– especially with regard to a hermeneutic of discord and discontinuity– like, nothing exists before Vatican II in their mind.

    Granted, he is in his pre-theologate… maybe his assimilation of the material is incomplete.

    Anyway, I was just wondering– I know that they don’t teach the EF.

  8. robtbrown says:


    Conception has a college seminary. Whatever erroneous opinions might exist there, I don’t think any seminarian studies theology at Conception.

  9. Shmikey says:

    A couple of things, this is the seminary that Supreme Court Justice Thomas attended for a year or so. I have a brother who went there and I visited it when I was considering seminaries. The designer of the church was a Franciscan brother, Brother Adrian Wewer, OSF, who also designed the church that I grew up in, and was a prolific architect. The link is his bio and a list of the churches he was involved in designing.

  10. Shmikey says:

    To respond to comments on the orthodoxy of the seminary, from my experience, it is hit or miss, depending on your undergraduate degree. I have a prep seminary classmate that attended, and he is one of the most orthodox priests that I know, so I think it is depended upon the disposition of the person who attends, and orthodoxy isn’t discouraged, but isn’t heavily supported either, that is only my experience from some time in the past.

  11. Cath says:

    My son went to a boys jr. high Companion Camp (kind of a vocation weekend) at Conception last year and loved it. I love Archbishop Naumann and am very happy to be in his archdiocese. And the stuff I read from Bishop Finn is wonderful. God bless them both.

  12. John 6:54 says:

    Not that it should matter but I wonder what it costs to build a church of like stature? I know there are two being build or that have been built recently a similar fashion. 1 in Wisconsin, 1 in California. Fr. Z it might be a cool post to call out such newer build churches that are of such stature in the US.

  13. John 6:54

    A lot. About $20-30 Million.

  14. robtbrown says:

    In the 80’s when I was doing consulting work, I would often drive to Conception to spend a few days. Meticulous research has turned up that none of the mansions in St Teresa’s Interior Castle mentions anything about driving a sports car 100 mph to a monastery with Gregorian Chant playing. Anyway, to continue:

    The guest master told me that a church architect had been brought in to make recommendations about renovating the church. one of which was that the frescoes should be whitewashed. His reason was that there is too much noise in contemporary life, and those frescoes are noise (A big hello to Quietism and Iconoclasm!). The monk said he told the community that visitors bothered him a lot more than the frescoes.

    BTW, the guest master, a really good man, was Fr Philip Schuster, who died in the tragedy of 2002.

  15. robtbrown says:

    And the sisters’ chapel at Clyde is, as Fr Z says, beautiful.

  16. patrick_f says:

    Regarding Buildings Fr. Z,

    John Michael Talbot’s monastery in Arkansas, the church there, looks very much traditional, even the small amount that has been built. Perhaps that can be testament to STILL being able to build buildings that are beautiful

    I would love to hear the office in latin just once sometime. I know Clear Creek does, the last two monasteries I have visited, and also St Louis Abbey, all did english, But I believe there has been some regrouping of such in St Bernard, I remember seeing their musicmaster on EWTN. It was wierd hearing someone with a stoic southern accent, but chant so beautifully.

  17. GoZagsGo says:

    Speaking of building nice churches, the FSSPX chapel St. Isidore’s in Denver is pretty darn nice for a recently built structure…

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    Well, look at that. And in the USA too. I might have to go see it.

  19. Athelstan says:

    That was a bit of a drive out of your way, wasn’t it, Fr. Z?

    Ah…but a beautiful one. Conception is about as isolated as you can get…in the Midwest. And worth the trip.

    The problems with the sanctuary aside, they did rather well out of the renovation. The Beuronese murals are gorgeous. And possibly outshone by the sacred art of the sisters’ chapel.

    Lord, give us the strength to build more such beauty to your glory. Again.

  20. jesusthroughmary says:

    Patrick F:

    The only place I have ever heard the Office sung in Latin was at an Anglo-Catholic church, S. Clement’s in Philadelphia. They have Solemn Vespers every Sunday, sung entirely in Latin according to the Liber Usualis.

    That actually brings a question to mind for Fr. Z:

    Immediately upon the conclusion of Vespers, they celebrate Benediction. What level of participation is permitted at such a service? Is it permissible for a Catholic to assist at Vespers from the pew? If so, must he step out of the church during Benediction? What about assisting in choir? May a Catholic sing Vespers in choir from the chancel and simply remain seated during Benediction, or must he still leave altogether? Or does any participation raise the possibility of scandal? This church is under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania.

  21. lhatch says:

    Conception Seminary College is my alma mater. I graduated in May of 2008 and I can honestly say that CSC prepared me well for theology. The liberal arts program, especially the philosophy, is solid. The liturgies are done extremely well! At CSC, you know the difference between a weekday, Sunday, and Feast/Solemnity Mass as the monks understand the concept of progressive solemnity. There are a few people in the administration who are opposed and even confrontational to those who exhibit a more “traditional” mindset of the Church… I just hope that their intentions are honest and not malicious. Having served on the Board of Regents during my tenure as President, I know that there is a desire… a demand that the seminarians get exposed to the Extraordinary form and to receive some catechesis on the history and development of the Mass. In my opinion, I feel that they are being a little slow in providing that, but as they will say… “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” If I ever become director of seminarians for my diocese, I will definitely send seminarians to CSC. To this day, I proudly wear my conception gear when I am not wearing my clerical attire. (Not a cleric yet)

  22. jeffc says:

    I’ve only seen pictures of the Abbey Church at Conception since the renovation and they all make me miss the Church pre-renovation. Granted it was dark, but I think it preserved the Beuronese flavor better. At least they saved the murals. The monks at Conception are very nice. I was a Brother in simple vows at St. Benedict’s Abbey almost 20 years ago and I did my pre-profession retreat at Conception. They have a nice community! Any plans on visiting St. Benedict’s Abbey and Benedictine College? Cardinal Shonborn spoke there this afternoon, If I didn’t live in the Houston area, I would have gone to seem him speak.

Comments are closed.