St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of Western Monasticism, was born in the year 480 of the Christian era. Sent to be educated a Rome, he however by the age of 14 had become convinced that the only way of escaping evil in the world was in seclusion and religious exercise.
He withdrew to a cave or grotto near to the town of Suiaco, where he lived for three years. The fame of his piety spread and this led to him being made an Abbot at a somewhat early age. Multitudes sought his guidance over the years and from the most devoted he formed 12 small monastic communities. He ultimately established a monastery on Monte Cassino near Naples. Later, this was to become one of the richest and most famous monasteries in Italy.
In the year 515, Benedict of Nursia is said to have composed his regular monachorum, which became the common rule for all monks. St. Benedict became the patron saint for all Europe in 1964. This was declared by Pope Paul VI.
Mount St. Benedict stands out against the green hillsides and overlooks the central plains of Trinidad from a height of some 800 ft. The Benedictine Abbey was founded on Trinidad's Northern Range at Tunapuna in 1912 by Benedictine monks who came from Brazil at a time when civil unrest compelled them to seek refuge in other lands.
In 1927, the Trinidad community of Benedictine monks accepted affiliation to the Belgian congregation. This was brought as communication with Brazil became almost impossible.
True to its original rule, the order has over the years devoted itself to imparting instruction to youths. Manual labour is as much part of the curriculum as is study in the monastery's library and the usual religious exercises.
The first local vocations for the monastery were Don Placid Ganteaume and Don Maurus Maingot in the early 1920s. Over the next 20 years or so, intense work was carried out and as a result, the monastery was raised to the dignity of an abbey in 1947. The first abbot, Don Adel Best Van Duin, was installed and blessed by Archbishop Count Finbar Ryan. Van Duin served the community for some 25 years.
From a tapia hut, constructed in 1912, the abbey has grown apace. Apart from the apiary and the estate which yield produce for both domestic and local consumption, there emerged an extensive building programme under the guidance of Brother Gabriel, an architect and builder, in 1952. The new abbey church and a greater part of the living quarters of the monks were completed. The creation of guest rooms for visitors as well as a rest house for pilgrim were completed in 1954.
Extensions to the abbey of a school, a library and an auditorium were started and in 1964, work on the tower began. This was completed in 1976. A new road to the abbey was also built in period, as was the St. Bede's Technical. Over the years, the monks have taken a great interest in the development of the seminary. School, college seminary and church shine like a beacon of hope in the hearts of many near to Mount St. Benedict!