Monday, February 7, 2011
Mt. Angel Abbey: A Quiet Place Close By
Located about 40 miles south of Portland, the abbey sits on a hilltop above the town of Mt. Angel. The serene setting provides a stunning view of four volcanoes, the foothills of the Cascades, and a great chunk of verdant, Willamette Valley farmland. Wide lawns, sturdy Romanesque brick buildings, grand old trees, and black-robed monks strolling across campus contribute to the site’s special ambiance.
People of all faiths are invited to enjoy the Benedictine tradition of hospitality in a visit to the abbey. For those seeking that “quiet place” for some spiritual r&r, the retreat house offers simple rooms for overnight or short term stays. At $77 (single room) per day ($124 double), guests receive three buffet meals, a million dollar view, an escape from television, and the opportunity to participate in the many daily prayer services sung by the monks.
Also of interest to visitors are two small, but unusual museums. The first, sometimes referred to as the natural history museum, displays a huge collection of stuffed mammals and birds donated to the abbey by an avid wild game hunter. It certainly serves as a testimony to the art of taxidermy. Other exhibits, displayed on a rotating basis, feature small collections of odds and ends ranging from glass paperweights to pink coral formations, all donated to the monks for safekeeping. Sadly, the world’s largest hairball has been rotated out of the current exhibition, but the two-headed calf is on display!
For the last 40 years, the abbey has presented an annual Bach Festival in late July. On each of three evenings, the event begins with the monks singing Vespers in the Abbey Church, followed by a half hour recital played on the grand organ. Guests then move to the grassy, front lawn to enjoy a picnic supper prepared by the abbey. More concert music in the Damian Center concludes the evening. Tickets can be ordered on line, but be forewarned this event usually sells out. In the midst of the 21st century, the traditional and simple lifestyle of the monks may seem slightly archaic. Nonetheless, even monasteries maintain websites and you may visit theirs’ at http://www.mountangelabbey.org./