New Melleray Abbey Monastery

Built: 1867 – 1870

Located in Peosta, Iowa at 6632 Melleray Circle

New Melleray Abbey Peosta

Corner view of the pointed windows and detailed stone work

Architect John Mullany is credited with the design of New Melleray Abbey. The New Melleray Abbey began with the Trappist monks who had left their home at the Mount Melleray Abbey in Ireland.  The monks left Ireland in the midst of the Great Famine in the late 1840s. Sailing to North America in search of a monastic site, they eventually came to the Iowa frontier, east of Dubuque where Bishop Loras offered them six hundred acres of land to settle. John Mullany’s brother, Patrick also emigrated to the United States and the Dubuque area. Patrick entered the Trappists, taking the name Brother Stanislaus. He was one of the original monks who founded the New Melleray Monastery at Peosta.

New Melleray Abbey Peosta 2

North Tower of the Abbey

Mullany’s plans called for four buildings of stone to be erected in the form of a square surrounding a court one hundred feet long by one hundred feet wide.  An 1871 Dubuque Daily Times article noted that “the stupendous monastery at New Melleray will be gazed upon, written about and pondered over by generations yet unborn. It is, in reality a gigantic pile of stone and mortar, tower and pinnacle, and when fully completed, according to the programme laid out by the projectors, will cover not less than three acres of ground, and with the exception of its twin brother in Nelson County, Kentucky, will be the largest institution of the kind in the world.”

The southern wing was intended to be the location of an imposing abbey church.  However, only the north and east buildings were constructed according to Mullany’s plans.  The north wing was originally intended to be the refectory, but became the Abbey church.  It remains a stunning example of Gothic Revival design with its stone construction and pointed arch windows.