Abbey Virtual Tour
Between Webster Avenue and N. Broadway in De Pere, Wisconsin, are 160 acres of both natural and landscaped beauty, at the center of which stands St. Norbert Abbey—not only a distinguished landmark, but also home to the Norbertine community and a welcoming environment to those who wish to enhance their relationship with God.
The building is constructed of Wisconsin limestone, quarried in Fond du Lac. The stone trim is Indiana limestone. The roof is covered with slate, quarried in Pennsylvania and Vermont.
Read more about the unique design of the abbey in the Spring 2009 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 3).
On June 16, 1959, the long-awaited dedication and consecration of the “new” St. Norbert Abbey began. Two more days of festive celebrations were to follow. Finally the Norbertines of De Pere had a home where the full canonical life could be lived out.
The St. Norbert Abbey church is a wonder, majestic and sacred. Guests are always welcome to join the Norbertines as we gather for prayer.
The most important area of the abbey, the church is built in a cruciform floor plan (i.e., there are three distinct areas: choir, sanctuary, and nave).
- At the head of the choir is the abbot’s chair, designated by a hand-painted plaque of the abbatial shield of Abbot Gary Neville, O. Praem.
- In the center of the sanctuary stands the altar, made of Botticino marble with Red Levanto supports.
- In the south transept is the Marian Shrine with a mosaic of Mary and the Christ Child.
- In the north transept is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel with a crucifix by Jean Lambert-Rucki.
The stalls of the choir and the pews in the nave are fashioned of black walnut. The interior walls of the church are faced with a variety of types of marble: the lower walls are veneered with Loredo Chiro in a matchbook pattern, the columns are faced with Red Levanto, and the upper walls are surfaced with unfinished Winona Travertine. The floors of the church’s nave and vestibule are slate. The floors of the sanctuary and choir are Verde Issorie marble.
On the south side of the church stands the bell tower, housing six matched bells. Each bell has an appropriate name, a fitting inscription, and bears the crest of the person in whose memory it is dedicated, as well as the coat of arms of St. Norbert Abbey.
Together the main stained glass windows in the church summarize the Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, including the Liturgy of the Eucharist; the Liturgy of the Hours. The four evangelists, the four major Doctors of the Western Church, the cult of the Virgin Mary, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist are also symbolically depicted in stained glass throughout the church.
The abbey also hosts multiple musical offerings throughout the year, which the public is welcome to attend. Well known for its excellent acoustics and considered one of the best venues for concerts in the Midwest, the church with its towering vaulted ceilings houses an impressive Casavant organ—one of the finest in the state—that is highly regarded among organists throughout the world.
Beyond the church at St. Norbert Abbey is the Norbertine community’s chapter room—a common meeting place for abbey members to deliberate and discuss ideas and issues that are important to the community and its apostolates. The room also functions as the daily Mass chapel during Ordinary Time. The stained glass windows in the chapter room represent events of Salvation History from the Old and New Testaments.
For Norbertines, the dining room (refectory) at St. Norbert Abbey is not only a perfect place to nourish one’s body, but also foster a sense of community. It is at common table that many stories are shared of the day and years past. Hand-carved wooden statues of saints and blesseds of the Norbertine Order grace the walls.
Cloister Walks and Gardens
St. Norbert Abbey is designed so that the “spine” or center of the building (containing the church, chapter room, and dining room) is surrounded L-shaped corridors (cloister walks) and four cloister gardens. The cloister walks are illuminated by floor-to-ceiling windows. The cloister gardens—beautiful, quiet, and restful—are places of constant contact with God’s creation during all seasons of the year.
In front of the church of St. Norbert Abbey, to the west, lies the cemetery for deceased Norbertine confreres—the community of the dead who ever make intercession for the living members.
Crypt, Museum, and Chapel
On the lower level of St. Norbert Abbey is a crypt that serves as the final resting place of Abbot Bernard Pennings, O. Praem., who permanently established the Norbertine Order in the United States, and Abbot Sylvester Killeen, O. Praem., the second abbot and builder of the present St. Norbert Abbey.
The stained glass windows in the crypt honor Norbertine devotion to St. Joseph.
Also in this area is a museum of Norbertine memorabilia, including religious and abbatial artifacts, mementos, vestments, and church furnishings from various eras of Norbertine history.
Behind wrought iron gates lies a pre-Vatican II chapel in which Mass is occasionally celebrated for retreats held at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality.
Norbertine Center for Spirituality
For more than 35 years, the Norbertine Center for Spirituality at St. Norbert Abbey has served as an ecumenical haven for those seeking the sacred. A wide variety of inspiring presentations and retreats are offered throughout the year. For those looking for a more personal experience, individual spiritual direction along with private retreats can be scheduled. If you are simply looking for a place to reflect and pray, tranquil prayer spaces are available.
Named in memory of Abbot Sylvester Killeen, O. Praem., the second abbot of St. Norbert Abbey, the Killeen Room is a gathering place for many programs and presentations at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, as well as a quiet space for retreatants.
Spiritual Direction Room
Spiritual direction is a one-to-one meeting with a trained spiritual director providing the opportunity to grow in an awareness of God’s movements within yourself. The Norbertine Center for Spirituality offers spiritual direction with faithful men and women who have received extensive training and are certified in spiritual direction.
Hildegard of Bingen Reading Room
Located within the Norbertine Center for Spirituality is a lovely reading room named in honor of this great saint. A small library and artifacts are housed here, with sacred art on display. Views of a cloister garden and the abbey’s front lawn make this a perfect place for retreatants to read and reflect.