Saint Benedict’s Convent and College Historic District
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The Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict came to Stearns County in 1857 with the purpose of establishing a convent. When they moved to Saint Joseph, the sisters initially worshipped, lived, and taught in a 30' X 56' wood frame building (which burned in 1886). Since the Convent traditionally kept a small number of borders, many of whom were candidates for sisterhood, and regularly accepted women to be educated, the provision of adequate housing and teaching facilities became necessary by the later 1870s. By June 1879 the Convent consisted of 45 choir sisters and novices, and 15 lay sisters and novices. As a result, Saint Cecilia Hall opened in 1882 as a combined convent and academy with 36 pupils. Subsequent buildings listed here detail the growth.
The original buildings (cited below) evolved over time to become the main residence/ dining/social area for the Saint Benedict's Monastery, and accompanying landscaping, ponds, benches, and sitting areas were eventually added. Additionally, the historic district includes the monastic cemetery on the grounds of the College of Saint Benedict, which dates to the mid-1800s.
The east edge of the district is delineated by a series of five interconnected brick buildings built between 1882 and 1914. The district is significant in American history for the vital role it has played in meeting the religious and educational needs of German Catholic immigrants in Stearns County. Thousands of others throughout the country have benefited from the largest community of Benedictine women in the world.
The five interconnected buildings illustrate the college's dramatic growth over its 130 year history. Each of the four original buildings--Saint Cecilia, Saint Benedict, Saint Scholastica, and Saint Gertrude--share similar structural and design qualities and were constructed using the same red brick. While not identical, they form a complementary ensemble of relatively unaltered second Renaissance Revival and Romanesque Revival styles.
What can be considered the second major building phase of the Convent roughly coincided with the official recognition of the College of Saint Benedict in 1913. At this time three new buildings, including the Sacred Heart Chapel, were erected, all based on designs by George Stauduhar.
Blegen, Theodore C. Minnesota: A History of the State. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1975.
Koop, Michael. St. Benedict's Convent and College Historic District [College of Saint Benedict]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1989.
McDonald, Grace. "A Finishing School of the 1880s: Saint Benedict's Academy." Minnesota History 27, no. 2 (1946): 96-106.
McDonald, Grace. "Pioneer Teachers: The Benedictine Sisters at Saint Cloud." Minnesota History 35, no. 6 (June 1957): 263-71.
McDonald, Grace. With Lamps Burning. Saint Joseph, MN: Saint Benedict's Priory Press, 1957.
Mitchell, William B. History of Stearns County Minnesota. Vol. 1. Chicago: H. C. Cooper, Jr. and Co., 1915.