The Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln is the heart of
the Benedictine community of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. It was
completed in 1907 and underwent a major renovation in 1996-97.
The first stone for the building was laid in 1899 and
construction continued for nearly eight years. Workers from the
monastery and the local town hauled large sandstone blocks, using
horses and mules, from the abbey's own quarry a mile away.
The church was designed by a Franciscan brother, Adrian Wewer,
OFM (1836-1914), a gifted "amateur" who designed more than 100
church buildings over his long career.
Planning began in 1890s
Excavation and fundraising had been set in motion in the early
1890s in the tenure of Fr. Fintan Mundwiler, OSB, second abbot of
Saint Meinrad. After Abbot Fintan's death, the project was carried
forward under the leadership of Fr. Athanasius Schmitt, OSB, the
The building itself is 64 feet wide by 184 feet long; from floor
to cross-vaults, it measures 58 feet. Prior to the church
renovation in 1968, a center aisle and two side aisles divided the
Many of the original adornments and special features of Our Lady
of Einsiedeln had to be contracted out and built elsewhere. As it
turned out, the church interior took three years to complete and
proved to be the most expensive part of the project.
By 1907, the Abbey Church was a quite stunning achievement. The
building's great supporting structures were massive columns made of
The original high altar, itself a work of art, had been created
in the studios of Joseph Deplaz of Regensburg, Bavaria. Its mensa
(table), weighing over two tons, rested on six columns of blue-gray
Marble steps lead to the
main entrance, where three statues are set in niches above the
doors. The statues were sculpted of Tennessee marble by Herbert
Jogerst. The center statue is of the Madonna and Child. Known as
Our Lady of Einsiedeln, she is the patroness of the Archabbey
On the left is St. Benedict, who in the sixth century wrote a
guide to monastic living that is still followed today by monks and
nuns of the Benedictine order.
On the right is St. Scholastica, the twin sister of St.
Benedict. She is traditionally regarded as the founder of
Benedictine monasticism for women.
Original stained glass windows
The windows are the original stained glass ones produced by the
Emil Frei Studio in St. Louis, MO, and the studio of Francis X.
Zettler of Munich, Germany.
At the time, the church served the
needs of the Benedictine monks, as well as the students attending
the seminary operated by the monks and the local townspeople, who
did not have a parish church at that time.
The renovation of 1996-97 was extensive, with the installation
of a marble floor, a new altar, the relocation of the organ, and
new furnishings that included the return of the monks' choir
stalls, which had been removed from the church in the 1960s.
The renovation was successful in preserving and honoring the
liturgical tradition of those early monks. Yet its beauty and
design provide a vitality that allows the monastic community to
continue its tradition of prayer and liturgy well into the 21st century.