Day Trip: A Visit to Mount Angel Abbey

Mount Angel Abbey is located in Mount Angel, Oregon in the beautiful Willamette Valley.  My daughter is studying architecture and was on an assignment following her summer internship, “you must visit the library at Mount Angel Abbey!”  The library was designed by a world-renown Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto.  The architect is well known for his modern style. The library was completed in 1970 and itself is a well known theological library.

Visiting the Abbey, one must respect that it is a working monastery and seminary, and not a public park.  Visitors should be respectful. 

The Abbey sits atop a hill with outstanding views on 3 sides.  They have benches set in perfect spots for viewing.  DSCF5194I could have sat on one of those benches for hours, but we continued on to tour the library.  Voices are kept at low levels, as this is a working library, and you will find monks doing research while there.  The library has some Aalto furniture pieces on display, and copies of Aalto’s famous glass vase design, as well as posters available for purchase.  The library’s architecture is modern in a circular, curving format with good natural lighting, and consistent style using vertical light wood pieces – even covering the panel holding the emergency fire hose.  The design takes advantage of the library’s position on the edge of the hill and has a stair-step 3 level design.


Adjoining the library is a room of rare books which fascinated even my two teenagers and is worth a look. DSCF5185

After leaving the library we headed for the church to take a peek.  It was closed due to construction but we could still peek inside at its unusual design.  It is perhaps an homage to the Monastery’s roots based in Switzerland.DSCF5199

Around the corner and below the Monastery rooms, is a basement entrance with a small sign “museum” that I’m sure is missed by many.  But don’t miss it!  I have no doubt my kids were “ugh…a church museum?” but as I overheard a monk explain, it is like the Abbey’s attic.  And what an attic.  The last thing I expected to see as I walked in the door was a still life taxidermy scene of a cougar pouncing on a black-tailed deer. Then a full size moose.  And a goat.  And a polar bear. And an eagle. And a bison.  And so much more.  Tiny preserved birds in tubes.  Insects large and small.  Other cases contained a wild variety of items loosely displayed by region – the Pacific Islands, European, and the Holy Land ranging from 1,000 BC to a can of Coleman’s Mustard in the vintage case.DSCF5201

It is a small, free museum and well worth the visit!

Our last stop was a lovely little coffee and gift shop called “The Press” with is definitely worth a visit.DSCF5209



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