In Canon City, CO, on over 200 acres of land, there stands an impressive, historic monastery now known as The Abbey – an event complex and winery that hosts events nearly every weekend.
With Gothic towers, graceful arches and gorgeous stained-glass windows, it is a sight to behold. But perhaps there is much more to The Abbey than what guests normally see at a wedding, car show or class reunion.
Construction of the Abbey began in 1924, after Benedictine monks who traveled from Pennsylvania made their way to Breckenridge, Colorado for missionary work in 1886.
Monks from other locales followed, and they eventually settled in Canon City in the early 1920s. Through the help of an intermediary, the 90 acres of land once known as Fruitmere Orchards was purchased for the Roman Catholic Church.
At the time of the sale, the owner did not want to sell because the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan did not approve of such a transaction as they were opposed Catholics as well as any and all immigrants; which is why Simon Peter Smith, who along with seven priests and monks posing as his sons, made the purchase on behalf of the church.
Originally named Holy Cross, the Abbey was completed in 1925 and ended up costing three times the original estimate, for a total of $600,000.00, which was absorbed by other Benedictine Abbeys across the United States.
The first abbot, Father Cyprian Bradley, was responsible for the creation of the boys’ school, but due to the Depression, the monastery encountered financial distress and Abbott Cyprian retired in 1933. Father Leonard Schwinn became the administrator and was able to overcome the Abbey’s financial woes.
He was made abbot in 1937 and remained so for more than 26 years. Eventually the town grew up around the monastery and over time, many additions were made to the original Gothic Revival structure and other buildings were added to the campus, including a gymnasium, residence halls, classroom buildings, a field house and a dining hall.
There were three separate functions of the Abbey that were carried out by the monks: a boys’ school, Holy Cross College and Seminary, and Camp Holy Cross for boys aged 8 to 14.
The boys’ preparatory high school was in operation from 1926 until 1985, beginning with just 35 students. By 1928, the monastery was housing 150 enrollees. Boys and young men from the area, and from all over the world, came to the Abbey School, and by 1972 there were about 250 students in attendance.
However, in 1985, declining enrollment forced the closure of the school. The monastery remained open with approximately 20 elderly monks until it, too, closed in 2005 and the complex was sold in 2007.
Today, every Halloween, the Boy Scouts hold a haunted house in the basement of the Abbey, providing thrills and chills to those who like that kind of thing.
But considering the complex history of the building of the monastery and the development of the schools, perhaps there are real ghosts who reside here, still taking care of the place they called home.
In the decaying, shadow-filled halls of the monks’ living quarters, perhaps the some of the guardians can still be seen and heard?
Come explore and experience this grand building and investigate with us where others have never been permitted and see what secrets we can uncover…
Walk through the maze of dark corridors and feel the residual energy still lingering in this historic monastery. Investigate with us to uncover the secrets within these hallowed walls and try to communicate with persistent spirits who may still call The Abbey home.