Perched atop the hills of St. John’s road stands in full splendour and tranquil silence, buffered by unending steep mountains roundabout and a bird’s-eye view of all of Trinidad’s low-lying lands and distant sea, is none other than Mount St. Benedict’s Abbey and Our Lady of Exile mission.
Its inception was in 1911 with the visit of Dom Mayeul de Caigny, Abbot of San Sebastian and first Conventional Prior of Mount St. Benedict, to discuss with the then archbishop, His Grace John Pius Dowling, the foundations of a Benedictine abbey in Trinidad. This came about not only because of missionary zeal but also due to unrest in Brazil where they were first located.
After a site had been selected by 1912, the monks came across to Trinidad to begin their mission. Dom Mayeul de Caigny became a resident priest and was stationed at the old capital, St. Joseph’s Parish. After Holy Mass on the Feast of St. Anthony, a hermit, an elderly man of Spanish descent by the name of Mr. Andrew Conrad Gomez, approached the abbot in the church’s sacristy. He was the owner of the estate where the intended site of the abbey would be located. Father was indeed overjoyed by this visit and Gomez agreed to carry him there.
Half an hour’s drive from the Parish to the village of St. John brought their buggy to the end of the road where they were greeted by the high hills and so the ascent began. After a steep climb, they came upon a small mud and thatched roof ajoupa which would later be used as the first abbey. Much later, once transactions were made, the monks moved into the quarters, aided by villagers, and using minimalist furniture, village produce and live poultry, living true to their vocation.
It would mean that the later addition of rooms and rebuilding of the edifice and chapel and most importantly, the roadway to the abbey, were all done mainly by the work of human hands and not much advanced technology, if any at all. The first mass was celebrated on 10th August, 1913. The title of ‘Mount St. Benedict’ was suggested by Archbishop Dowling and the Abbot Dom Mayeul dedicated it to Our Lady of Exile in remembrance of them fleeing Brazil, likened to the Holy Family fleeing Herod’s terror.
Now hundreds of people of different religions and nationalities flock to the Mount to sightsee, bask in the serenity and/or for devotions. Truly a beauty sometimes overlooked.
We hope you enjoyed this article. Have you been to the Mount? What do you enjoy doing there most? Let us know in the comments below.