With all the beautiful Maine coastline, the Bush compound at Walker’s Point, kayaking, lighthouses, great dining, shopping, and galleries of the Kennebunks, it’s almost hard to believe one of the most visited attractions of the area is a monastery – but then, monasteries aren’t exactly typical in the U.S. … and Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery isn’t your typical monastery!
Though the land along the Kennebunk River was first developed as farmland in 1742, it did not gain its signature, beautiful Tudor mansion until the early 1900’s, the same period that the famous Olmstead Brothers landscaped the acreage surrounding the home. The Olmsteads are responsible for a number of other landscaped grounds you may have heard of, places like the White House, The Capitol Building, Central Park, and The Boston Commons.
At this particular time in its history, the land was owned by William A. Rogers, The Pig Iron King of Buffalo, N.Y., who developed it as “Fairfields” – his summer home. Once the mansion and landscaping were completed, the Rogers family moved in, staying at Fairfields until 1936, when they sold it to the daughter of a textile tycoon named Mildred V. Campbell. When her husband passed eleven years later, in 1947, Mildred signed Fairfields over to The Society of Franciscan Fathers of Greene, Maine, for $150,000.
And that is how a Latvian born, Franciscan Father named Justinas Vaskys ended up overseeing a Franciscan Monastery in the Kennebunks, featuring a lush Tudor mansion, surrounded by grounds landscaped by one of the most famous landscape design firms to ever practice in the United States.
Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery is much more than just an interesting story, however. As I mentioned before, it’s one of the top 5 most visited attractions in the Kennebunks.
While Saint Anthony’s is still an active monastery, its 66-plus acres of lush gardens and walking paths attract much more than just the devout. Art fans, too, come to see a stunning collection of statuary, shrines, and other works, including stained glass pieces in the chapel, created by Lithuanian architect and artist Vytautas K. Jonynas.
By far, however, the biggest attraction has to be the the quiet beauty of the lush and peaceful grounds – designed by Frederick Law Olmsted!
The paved walking paths wend through English-style gardens, quiet woodlands, and along the Kennebunk river alike, with the occasional bench and outdoor chapel or shrine to rest, reflect, and meditate at. Most popular in summer, the grounds of St. Anthony’s remain an attraction even in late fall and winter. Rhodondendrons, daffodils, azalea, trillium and more flourish here in season and the stunning view of the Kennebunkport harbor and surrounding scenery from the monastery grounds has to be seen to be appreciated.
The grounds of Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery are open to the public, from sunrise to sunset, year ’round and a gift shop under the chapel from 10 to noon and 1 to 4pm, daily between March 1st and December 31st. A truly wonderful place in the Kennebunks, visit Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery to relax, refresh, and soak in the beauty.
Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery
28 Beach Ave, Kennebunk, ME
For more information about Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery: www.framon.net
Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery Lodging
The Inn at English Meadows is less than 15 minutes walk from Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery – or you could drive there in under five minutes. Not only does this mean that The Inn at English Meadows is conveniently located right here in the Kennebunks but also that much of what makes Saint Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery attractive applies to our inn, too: lush grounds, beautiful appointments, and the perfect combination of modern and classic amenities. Book your stay at The Inn at English Meadows now!