I think we can all agree, there is an inherent beauty to natural stone that most people find desirable for both residential and commercial designs. During my tenor here at Stone World, I have interviewed numerous architects, designers and homeowners about various projects featuring stone, and I always ask them to explain some reasons for selecting the materials they did. Timelessness, permanence and durability are usually among the explanations I receive. Of course, for the majority of the projects I have written about budget comes into play during the material selection process. But with so many varieties of natural stone available, those working on the design more often than not can find a way to incorporate stone one way or another.

In this issue of Stone World, I am excited to share an incredible story about how the Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Meeteetse, WY, are building their own monastery out of Kansas Silverdale limestone and Colorado Buff sandstone. Their story truly exemplifies the saying: “Where there is a will there is a way.”

“We wanted to build a monastery that would last for many generations of monks,” Brother Gabriel Marie explains in the article, which begins on page 56. “Stone was the obvious choice since all of the monasteries and churches of Europe are built of stone and have been standing for a thousand years. Natural stone also has a beauty that lasts for centuries, unlike many other forms of architecture.”

While the monks desired natural stone for their new mountain retreat, the cost of fabricating the stone presented an obstacle. “After we realized the astronomical cost of paying a company to carve and install the stone on our monastery, we knew that was not an option,” Brother Gabriel Marie went on to say. “As monks, we are not wealthy. We are supported by our own coffee roasting industry, Mystic Monk Coffee (www.mysticmonkcoffee.com), and the donations of generous people who believe in our way of life. We could not in good conscience spend the money given to us in paying someone else to build a monastery. The carving and installation of the stone was the most costly line item, so we decided to tackle that ourselves.”

After extensive research, the monks decided to purchase a Champion Plus 1300 CNC machine from Prussiani, and later on went on to buy two Champion Plus 700s to aid in the stone carving. Brother Gabriel Marie explained a team from the monastery spent about a year learning how to operate the machinery.

As you will learn when reading the article, the monks have been working tirelessly for the past four years to carve the intricate stone pieces for their monastery. It is an amazing accomplishment and truly inspiring to see the lengths they went to in order to build their home out of natural stone. 

While this story is certainly unique, each stone project out there has its own tale – whether it was an ongoing search for just the right type of stone or a complicated fabrication or installation process. I look forward to sharing many more interesting projects in future issues.