St. John's Abbey
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Architect Marcel Breuer
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Location Collegeville, Minnesota   map
Date 1953 to 1961   timeline
Building Type church complex
 Construction System cast-in-place concrete
Climate temperate
Context rural
Style Modern
Notes Great concrete trees support ceiling in large spaces.


View from north

View from northwest

Interior, looking south toward front


Plan Drawing

Section Drawing

Discussion St. John's Abbey Commentary

"The master plan for this Benedictine Community provides for replacing most of the 22 existing buildings with new and expanded facilities. This will be done step-by-step, one building at a time. To achieve this, a system of shadow planning was developed, whereby the new building, or wing, is placed in the shadow of the old, which is then demolished. The six-stage-transformation of the Community's central quadrangle is illustrated at left.

"The plan aims at a clear separation between the monastic living quarters and the educational units. The two are connected by the important structures they both share—church, auditorium, library, and administration building.

"The church and its bell banner are the dominant structures of St. John's. The main floor plan reflects the basic liturgical concepts of the Order: one enters the symbolic center doorway, down the center aisle to the altar and abbot's throne, around which is placed the very large choir for 300. The relation of abbot's throne and monks' choir to the congregation of 1,700 defines the shape of the plan with the altar near the center of the church in plain view of congregation, choir, and large balcony."

—from Cranston Jones, captions and introduction. Marcel Breuer: Buildings and Projects 1921-1961. p36.

The Creator's Words

"Colors which you can hear with ears;
Sounds to see with eyes;
The void you touch with your elbows;
The taste of space on your tongue;
The fragrance of dimensions;
The juice of stone."

— Marcel Breuer. from Cranston Jones, captions and introduction. Marcel Breuer: Buildings and Projects 1921-1961. p11.

Sources on St. John's Abbey

"From Maybeck to Megachurches", by Douglas R. Hoffman, ArchitectureWeek No. 61, 2001.0808, p1.

Roger H. Clark and Michael Pause. Precedents in Architecture. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1985. ISBN 0-442-21668-8. LC 84-3543. NA2750.C55 1984. plan and section diagram, p155. — 1996 edition available at

Cranston Jones and Marcel Breuer. Marcel Breuer: Buildings and Projects 1921-1961. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962. NA737.B68A45 1963. LC 62-21001. discussion p11, 36. longitudinal section drawing, f2. plan drawing, f3.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about St. John's Abbey


Web Resources
Links on St. John's Abbey

Saint John's AbbeyThe Abbey's own web site

St. John's Abbey at ArchiplanetFind, add, and edit info at the all-buildings collaboration

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