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60+ Years of Design + Innovation
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60+ Years of Design + Innovation

An Iconic Church for Benedictine Monks
1962

An Iconic Church for Benedictine Monks

Gyo Obata’s design of the Priory Chapel at Saint Louis Abbey celebrates pure structure and light.

Located in suburban St. Louis, the church has an iconic circular facade featuring three tiers of whitewashed, thin-shell, concrete parabolic arches. This exemplar of thin-shell structure shows Gyo’s gift for designing serene, beautiful spaces, and his mastery of Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi’s structural principles.

On top of the graceful central lantern is the slenderest of crosses. Says Joseph Cardinal Ritter, Archbishop of St. Louis: “It is an outstanding demonstration of the ingenuity of man in honoring almighty God.”

A 1962 issue of Time magazine calls it, “The newest and perhaps most striking round church in the US.” Today, it remains an active church and popular site. A 2014 Architectural Digest post names the Priory Chapel “one of America’s greatest hidden treasures.”

Watch a video about the conception and construction of the church.