top of page

Ancient Spanish Monastery: Miami, Florida

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

The Ancient Spanish Monastery, at 889 years old, now resides in North Miami Beach. This 35,000 stone Cloister/Monastery is a Florida Heritage site and was originally built in northern Spain. Construction began in 1133 AD and took eight years to complete.

Although the Monastery was completed in 1141 AD, making its cloister the oldest building in the western hemisphere, it changed ownership for many years after. When the Cistercian monk, Bernard of Clairvaux, was canonized in 1174, the monastery was named after him and played home to Cistercian monks for almost 700 years after. Social revolution in the 1830s led to the seizure of the monastery’s cloisters.

Fast-forward to 1925, when businessman and media tycoon William Randolph Hearst purchased the cloisters and the monastery's outbuildings with plans to bring them to the United States. I think he wanted to use the structure to encase a pool at his home. The process wasn’t easy, but with some innovation and patience, Hearst brought it to fruition.

To move the building to the United States, each wall and structure was taken apart stone by stone, bound with a protective hay, and packed in more than 11,000 wooden crates. Unfortunately, while the crates were being shipped to America, a hoof-and-mouth disease epidemic broke out in Spain, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture was concerned that the protective hay carried the disease. To combat that problem, 23 men spent three months opening all of the boxes, sorting through seven tons of nails, burning the hay, and then repacking the stones into the crates. While each crate was numbered for identification when the stones were packed in Spain, the stones weren’t repacked in the right boxes in America, and many were lost.

Because of the depression, Hearst soon faced financial problems that could only be remedied by selling most of the monastery in an auction. Whatever wasn’t sold was left in a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, and didn’t come out again until two Miami businessmen—William Edgemon and Raymond Moss—bought the Monastery’s remains in 1952 with plans to turn it into a tourist attraction.

Resulting in a project that Time Magazine called “the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history” in 1953, the final construction of the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami today took 19 months and nearly $20-million to complete. In 1964, it was sold to multimillionaire and banker Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr., who gave the monastery to the Bishop of Florida. Today, it is owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.

Today it is a tourist attraction and they hold several masses each week. It is also a bridal and quinceañera destination for pictures and I actually got to see a bride this morning getting her pictures taken. In that same building, there is also a gift shop with souvenirs available for purchase.

The Ancient Spanish Monastery is located at 16711 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach, FL 33160. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Operating hours vary on the weekends. The latest any visitor is allowed to come on property, unless they have special permission, is 4:00 p.m. Walking tours are available during operating hours, unless the property is hosting a special event, a wedding, or filming.

Masses are held every Sunday at 8:00 a.m., 10:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Both the 8:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. masses are conducted in English, and the 12:15 p.m. mass is conducted in Spanish.

Admission is priced at $10 per adult and $5 per student or senior. Parking is free for all who visit.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page