Mt. Angel Abbey sits upon a small hill overlooking the Bavarian themed town of Mt. Angel, Oregon. In a clearing at the top of a forested hill, it looks serenely over the beautiful rolling hills and patchwork farms of the Willamette Valley. I would visit there just for the views alone. But we were on a search to see the architecture of their library.
The library was designed by famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Following the Benedictine tradition of study and reflection, the Abbey places importance upon libraries and has it open for all who wish to use its collections. The library with its modern curving design, was completed in 1970 and is built into the side of the hill. The architecture takes advantage of its overlook and uses natural light as much as possible. When you walk in, it is quiet – a place for reflection and research. They offer tours for those interested, or you can wander in on your own, keeping voices low. They have a small room of antiquities just off the library, with showcases of ancient books and Abbey history.
Looking much like a small college campus, you walk around the grounds of the Abbey and find another surprising museum. To the right of the church and down a few stairs you will be amazed at the little museum there. Would you expect to see a full-sized stuffed buffalo at an abbey? Probably not, but their natural world exhibit took us all by surprise and is a not-to-be-missed stop at the abbey.
Another nice find was the book store and coffee shop. Set inside a lovely old building next to the post office, it looked like a place I’d love to stop for coffee break. It is only open until 3:00, so plan your trip accordingly.
If beer is more to your liking, the Benedictine monks also run the Benedictine Brewery and opened a new spot at the bottom of the hill called St. Michael’s Taproom.
Mount Angel Abbey is an active private Roman Catholic seminary, university, and community of Benedictine monks. It was established in 1882 as an extension of an Abbey in Switzerland. They invite you to stay a while – to rest in silence, read, walk, reflect, but also to respect the place and those around you. It is not AbbeyWorld. It is not a place for screaming children or blue-tooth radio. Come and visit – they welcome you – but respect your surroundings.