Who would believe that less than 60 miles away from the daily chaos of Washington D.C. lies a place where visitors can find a place of quiet reflection and serenity? Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA offers just such an opportunity. The monastery, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Shenandoah River, is open to visitors of all denominations.
Established in 1950, the Abbey is home to approximately 24 Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance (Trappist) Monks. The monks are members of the Roman Catholic religious order who follow the Rule of St. Benedict. Members of the monastery live separated from day to day society in order to spend their days focusing on meditation, prayer and service. Contrary to popular belief, the monks do not take a vow of silence. They do, however, make a vow of personal poverty and live with limited possessions in a dormitory like setting.
Though they live separately, they are not totally isolated from the community as guests are welcomed to visit the monastery for quiet reflection in the chapel any time from 3:15AM to 8:00PM or to attend any of the services. You are even welcome to come to the 3:30AM service if you are so inclined. If visitors prefer to spend more time in retreat, reservations can be made at the guest house. The only restriction for visitors is that in order to respect their privacy, the actual living quarters for the monks is strictly off limits to the public.
Trappist monks believe strongly in “living from the work of their hands”. Monks at the Holy Cross Abbey support themselves through the sale of fruit cake made from an old fashioned recipe, as well as fraters (fruit cake slices dipped in dark chocolate). They also sell processed clover honey in 4 varieties: natural, cinnamon, brandy, and almond. (We tried the brandy honey and it is delicious.). Visitors can also purchase products made at other monasteries as well as books, CDs and cards at the gift shop located at the Abbey. Many visitors come just to purchase products and make an annual visit to the Abbey to purchase special items during the holiday season.
We chose to visit Holy Cross Abbey on a foggy Saturday morning in early December. As we traveled down the country road winding along the Shenandoah River, several deer decided to cross the road in front of us, providing a reminder of how close we really are to nature every day but chose not to acknowledge it. It was still dark as we pulled in front of the chapel. We were surprised to find many visitors attending the 7:00AM service. Afterwards, as we watched the daybreak and the fog lift from the surrounding mountains, all the cares and stresses of daily life seemed much further than the actual 30 – 40 miles away. It became very easy to understand why visitors seek out this retreat. It is nice to know that whenever we need it, a welcoming place of peace and rejuvenation is only a short distance away.
Hours: Services held 3:15
Gift Shop Hours: Mon – Sat 9 – 12 & 1:30 – 5:00PM, Sunday 1:30 – 5:00 PM
Location: 901 Cool Spring Lane, Berryville, VA 22611
Directions: Rt. 7 to Rt. 603 (Castleman’s Road), turn right on Cool Spring Lane