Tradition Meets Technology at the New Monastery of the Carmelites of Wyoming

Adherence to tradition needn't mean utter avoidance of modernity and technology and in this particular story we learn of how the Carmelites of Wyoming (famed for their Mystic Monk Coffee) have learned and utilized technology in a way that is helping bring traditional design and noble materials to their new monastery that might not have otherwise have been possible -- in this instance, through computer designed and machine carved stone.

This may, of course, raise some eyebrows. After all, is not traditional craftsmanship always to be preferred? It may well be the case that it is always to be preferred, at least as an ideal and as a heritage in its own right, but that does not mean that it is the only valid or worthy option. By way of analogy, the illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages are treasures, of this there can be no debate; but recognizing this needn't mean rejecting the development of the printing press and the merits it brought, nor of the beauty inherent to good typography and the book illustration arts that are likewise associated to that technological development. Far from it; those have become worthy developments in their own right. Who, after all, can imagine a world where we disparage the likes of William Morris and his Kelmscott Press?

Here is a bit of the story, coming from Stone World:
“We wanted to build a monastery that would last for many generations of monks,” explained Brother Gabriel Marie. “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.”

When the decision was made to build a new monastery, the monks embraced it whole-heartedly. Natural stone was the perfect complement to the Gothic-style of architecture that was chosen for the monastery.

“We wanted to use a stone that was nearby, and researched and visited many quarries in the surrounding states to find the right stone that would be both lasting and beautiful,” said Brother Gabriel Marie, adding that after their extensive search a final decision was made to use Kansas Silverdale limestone for all of the cut stone and Colorado Buff sandstone for the field stone. “We were mainly interested in the longevity and structural capabilities of the stone, as well as its natural beauty. We also wanted to make sure we could get large enough stone for the pieces we would carve. We have been working with Pray Stone for the Kansas Silverdale limestone and Arkins Park for the Colorado Buff sandstone. Both have fulfilled our needs admirably.

“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,”


The majority of the pieces carved for the new monastery are very ornate and complex. “There are only two real options for them — carving by hand or using CNC machines,” said Brother Gabriel Marie. “CNC machines are significantly faster than hand carving. They also allow us to carve incredible three-dimensional pieces.”
Here are just a few examples of what they are accomplishing through their devotion to tradition and openness to technology.

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