Benedictine monks immigrated from Bavaria in 1846 to establish a monastery and college in the foothills of Pennsylvania's Allegheny Mountains. They chose the tiny town of Latrobe, about an hour east of Pittsburgh, to establish Saint Vincent Archabbey.
By 1854 the monastery had already grown considerably — and along with it, the number of monks in residence.
That's when Saint Vincent constructed its own gristmill. In keeping with Benedictine tradition, the monks did the construction work. They made the bricks by hand and used Chestnut — harvested from the surrounding forests — to construct the mill. Their choice of materials, and their craftsmanship, were expert — more than 150 years later, the mill is still operating, providing flour for Saint Vincent Archabbey's daily bread.
Bounty of Liane Hansen's trip to the Archabbey, here in our DC studio. That's a bag of Saint Vincent flour, along with a locally-roasted bag of Saint Lazarus Coffee. See exactly where it came from, and how it was made, in the slideshow below.
The sun rises in Latrobe, Pennsylvania behind a statue of Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, who founded the Saint Vincent Archabbey in 1846. It shares a home with St. Vincent College.
Inside the Saint Vincent Basilica, which hosts local church services. Monks gather here for prayer at six o'clock each morning.
Here monks live and work in accordance with Benedictine tradition. In the monastery's outdoor garden, an arbor shines in mid-afternoon sunlight.
The Saint Vincent Gristmill, built by the monks of the Archabbey in 1854 to meet the milling needs of both the monastery and the community. The Gristmill's latest addition is a Coffeehouse, run by students of Saint Vincent College.
Brother Francis is the Miller at the Saint Vincent Gristmill. He's pictured here next to one of two one-ton burhstones, brought from France by the monastery's founders in 1846, which are used to grind wheat into flour.
Wheat awaits grinding in the Saint Vincent Gristmill.
Brother Francis displays a handful of freshly-ground flour. After grinding, the flour is separated and bagged as whole wheat flour or refined into white flour.
Saint Brecca is a mousing cat kept and adored by all the Gristmill. Pictured behind her are bags of freshly ground flour.
Tools rest on a flour-covered burhstone in the mill. The craftmanship used in the milling process has gone largely unaltered since 1854. Only the method of power has changed — from coal to electric.
A crucifix hangs on the wall above bags of flour in the Saint Vincent Gristmill.
The Gristmill's grain cleaner is located on the second floor, above the burhstones. Here grain is cleaned before falling one floor below into a hopper, which transfers it to burhstones for grinding.
A rosary hangs on wooden beam in the Saint Vincent Gristmill. The beams were harvested from plentiful Chestnut forests in the area for the mill's construction in 1854.
Bread for sale in the gift shop of the Saint Vincent's Gristmill. The bread — baked using flour ground in the mill — is also sold in local shops and supermarkets.
The Gristmill also houses a workshop where monks produce fabrics and bind books. Students at Saint Vincent College may have their graduate thesis hand-bound by a monk.
The Coffeehouse is the Gristmill's most recent addtion. The bricks that make up the Gristmill were hand-made by monks when the building was constructed in 1854.
Behind the counter of the Coffehouse, a sign displays the Gristmill's founding year.
Wireless internet is offered free of charge in the coffeehouse. Students at the college consider it a place all their own, where they have an opportunity to meet and interact with monks who drop by for a cup of coffee.
An antique fan on a desk in the Saint Vincent Gristmill Coffeehouse, where a lamp illuminates pictures of the area's landmarks — among them a statue of archabbey founder Boniface Wimmer.
"Monk Bread" made using flour from the Gristmill is also sold inside the Coffeehouse, where donations for wireless internet are graciously accepted.
Ryan Hrobak and Ed Moss work in the Coffeehouse. Both are juniors at Saint Vincent College.
A monk walks with a cane outside the monastery at the Saint Vincent Archabbey.
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Slideshow best viewed in full-screen for added detail — click the four divergent arrows in the righthand corner.