Why make it beautiful when you can make it ugly?

Welcome to the Beehive:
St. John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville, MN

(image: Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0)

Today we would like to introduce you to a gem of Brutalist architecture, the famed church associated with St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

The architect who committed this eyesore is Marcel Breuer (1902-81), who is also responsible for St. Francis de Sales church in Norton Shores, Michigan.

Design and construction of this church began in the 1950s, so one can see how deeply the spirit of Modernism and the subsequent Vatican II religion was alive and well during that time. Vatican II did not take place in a vacuum.

Back in the first decade of the 1900s, Pope St. Pius X warned that the Modernists “are to be sought not only among the Church’s open enemies; but, what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom, and are the more mischievous the less they keep in the open” (Encyclical Pascendi, n. 2). He went on to point out that “they put into operation their designs for [the Church’s] undoing, not from without but from within. Hence, the danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain from the very fact that their knowledge of her is more intimate” (n. 3).

The abbey church was built from 1958 until 1961. A 1955 newspaper clipping showing a model of the interior of the abbey church can be viewed here. The prior abbey church, on the other hand, was genuinely Catholic and absolutely gorgeous.

What follows below is a series of pictures of the exterior and interior of the church, as well as its spooky crypt chapel.

In case you can’t tell: This is supposed to be St. John the Baptist, the abbey’s patron

The “Blessed Sacrament Chapel”

Here we see the immensely edifying crypt chapel — straight out of a horror movie

The property on which the abbey sits is also the home of Liturgical Press, one of the nation’s foremost Modernist publishers.

Early on, St. John’s was one of the avant-garde institutions for liturgical revolution and experimentation, so the architectural style matches that perfectly.

It is easy to see why it has been nicknamed “the beehive”.

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