Feathers, Fur & St. Francis at the Ancient Spanish Monastery
During our recent visit to the most sublime historic site, the Ancient Spanish Monastery — also known as the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, or the Spanish Monastery — we encountered an unexpected amount of wildlife in this tiny sanctuary, tucked away in North Miami Beach’s expanse of concrete. A significant cultural and religious monument, the Ancient Spanish Monastery remains one of the most important monasteries in North America, and the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. It’s more than a tourist attraction or a premier wedding venue; this historic site includes peaceful gardens, a setting to meditate and worship, and an opportunity to enjoy Romanesque architecture from the twelfth century — offering you the chance to feel the medieval stones beneath your hands, truly a unique experience in south Florida, let alone the United States. Amidst the 870-year-old architecture (1133-1144) and winding gardens, we startled a hawk at the fountain; being in the middle of our annual South Florida winter drought, animals vie for water wherever they may find it. And the kitties! It seems as though — at least, to a casual observer — that the monastery is doing a superb job with TNR (trap-neuter-release) to control feline overpopulation, especially in (but by no means limited to) city centers. Most everyone knows how useful a few kitties can be to control rodent populations…. So kudos! And another thanks to publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who bought and shipped the abandoned Cloisters and monastery from Spain stone-by-stone (despite the fact that it was intended for his private California estate of San Simeon). Without the whims and extravagances of these fabulously wealthy magnates, we wouldn’t now have this serene and lovely spot to enjoy.