History: Abbey of Our Lady of the Prairies
In 1892, Monsignor Ritchot, parish priest of St. Norbert, and Archbishop Tache of St. Boniface invited five Cistercians of the Trappist Order from the Abbey of Bellefontaine, France, to establish a monastery in a secluded farmland along La Salle River. The community was named Our Lady of the Prairies (Notre-Dame des Prairies). The Romanesque Revival church was built in 1903-04 and the connecting monastic (residential) wing in 1905. The guesthouse was erected in 1912 on the foundations of the first church building. This self-proficient monastery included milking barns, stables, cheese house, apiary, sawmill and cannery.
In 1975, St. Norbert had become a much more urban area, and the Trappist monks relocated to a more protected and rural location in Holland, Manitoba.
In 1983, vandals set fire to the vacant chapel and monastery, reducing the historic buildings to shells. The guesthouse, located some distance away, remained untouched.
In 1988, the location was designated a provincial historic site.
1n 1991, the guesthouse became the home of the St. Norbert Arts Centre.
In 2002, the two-hectare Trappist Monastery Provincial Park was created to preserve the historic ruins and prevent future commercial development on the site.
In 2012, the guesthouse turned 100 years old!! Built by the Trappist monks in 1912, the three-storey French Provincial structure features a stone foundation, mansard roof, hardwood floors, twelve-foot ceilings and dormer windows. The guesthouse is surrounded on three sides by La Salle River, a mature deciduous forest, a fruit orchard, several vegetable and flower gardens and the Ruins which are the extraordinary remains of the tyndall stone chapel and monastery. The guesthouse is a great venue for social functions and events, such as wedding reception and banquet, with a seating capacity for 100 people or so. It also provides an excellent rural setting for wedding / engagement photography, portrait shots, as well as family group pictures.
A Life of Meditation
Monasticism is a way of life committed to God, The Trappists of Our Lady of the Prairies lived a simple and strict communal life, sharing worship and work, away from the distractions of a secular world. The secluded grottos, thick stands of oak and willow, and expanse of rich farmland surrounding the monastery provided the ideal setting for meditation.
Past Pictures of Trappist Monastery Prior to Fire
Interior and exterior views of Trappist Monastery prior to the fire incident in 1982 are available at University of Manitoba Architecture/Fine Arts Library.
Map & Driving Direction
From downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. A twenty-minute drive:
- South on Pembina Highway past the Perimeter Highway overpass.
- At the second set of traffic lights, turn right (west) on rue des Trappistes.
- Drive for one minute (.5 km) to the end of the houses and cross the little “bridge” with farmland to your right and two roads to your left.
- You’ll see a big green “SNAC” (St. Norbert Arts Centre) banner by the second of the two roads, and two boulders carrying signs for Southwood Golf Course and the Trappist Monastery Heritage Park.
- Turn left on the second road (Rue des Ruines du Monastere) and drive .7 km past the Golf Course, through the Ruins parking lot and down the gravel lane to the SNAC parking lot.
Exact location of Trappist Monastery parking lot is indicated by Green Arrow on the following map.
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