Better known as the St. Norbert Ruins, the Trappist Monastery Provincial Park sits on the banks of the LaSalle River, surrounded by old growth forest. A quiet and contemplative spot on the edge of modern Winnipeg, it provides a haven from modernity and city life.
As so, the location struck the founders as the ideal place for a monastery. In 1892, Monsignor Richot, parish priest of St. Norbert and Archbishop Taché of St. Boniface decided to invite five Cistercians of the Trappist Order of Bellefontaine from France to establish a monastery on this spot. They named their new community Our Lady of the Prairies.
In 1903 to 04, they built a Romanesque Revival church, followed by the monastic wing in 1905. The monks erected a guest house on the site of their original church in 1912. The monastery was one of quiet contemplation and functioned as a working self-sufficient farm that supported the monks. The farm portion of the monastery included milking barns, stables, granaries, a butter and cheese factory, bakery, apiary, shoemaker’s shop, forge, sawmill, cannery, and greenhouses, as well as extensive fields for cattle.
By 1978, growth of the City of Winnipeg began to encroach of the quiet life favoured by the monks and they found themselves to close to the hustle and bustle of the sprawling suburbs of St. Norbert. That year, they relocated the entire monastery to Holland, MB, where they can be found today making their special cheese.
Unfortunately after the departure of the monks, the lack of someone living on the premises left the site open to vandalism. A fire swept through the church and the monastic quarters in 1983, reducing the structure to ruins. The fire, fortunately, spared the 1912 guest house.
St. Norbert Ruins in the Present Day
In 1991, the St. Norberts Arts Centre took over the guest house as a facility for the use of artists. They provide a place of quiet retreat for those who want to work on a project, free from interruptions.
The Province of Manitoba has taken over the remaining ruins of the church and monastic wing to establish a provincial park.