St. John's University Abbey Church


Courtesy the Minnesota Historical Society

St. John's University Abbey Church
Marcel Breuer
  • Architecture

In 1954 St. John’s, a Benedictine monastery, selected architect Marcel Breuer to design a new Abbey church. Anticipating the changes being contemplated to the liturgy as part of the Second Vatican Council, Breuer’s design retained the traditional axial arrangement of the baptistery, nave, and altar, but rendered the building in a modernist vocabulary fabricated from concrete. Two exceptionally striking features of the structure are its 112-foot-tall bell tower and the 430 hexicons of stained glass that comprise the colorful facade. The Abbey is a masterful balance of interior intimacy, albeit for 1500 worshippers, and exterior strength and expressionistic substance—all created in the epoch of Brutalism in architecture.