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New Melleray Trappist Abbey

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1867–1875, John Mullany, 1975, remodeling; Frank Kacmarick, Hammel, Green, and Abrahamson, Inc. Southwest of Dubuque on US 151, approximately 7 miles; right on county road D41 1.5 miles
  • New Melleray Trappist Abbey (David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim)

The monastery was established in 1849. Temporary wooden buildings were first constructed, but in 1865 the Dubuque architect John Mullany, who had designed a number of churches in the area, was engaged to design permanent buildings in stone. During a period of ten years, the monks quarried the local limestone and built their new monastery. The main complex consists of two-, three-, and four-story sections arranged around a completely enclosed cloister. In style it is Puginesque Gothic, featuring rough stone walls with finely cut stone for window and door frames and other details. In 1975 a two-story wing containing a chapel below and a dormitory above was revamped to provide a large single space for the chapel. The second floor was removed and the walls were stripped of their plaster. The resulting space is an impressive one, and surprisingly it seems as if it had been designed as a two-story gabled chapel from the very beginning.

Across the road from the abbey-monastery is the Church of the Holy Family. This Gothic Revival brick church with a central entrance tower (1889) presents a near-perfect picture of a rural Iowa church. An open field leads up to the cemetery in front of the church building. A thick, dark-green grove of coniferous trees forms a backdrop to the red brick building with its tall, thin white spire. Though the composition is impressive during the summer months, its best moments are on a sunny winter day with gleaming white snow, the red brick church, and the shadowing green trees in the background.

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim


What's Nearby


David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim, "New Melleray Trappist Abbey", [Peosta, Iowa], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Iowa, David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 92-93.

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