Chances are you’ve never heard of the “Castle” in Dubois County or the Sisters of St. Benedict. But if you read their write-ups in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, or saw their segments on “Entertainment Tonight” or “Nightline,” you know these are no ordinary nuns, and the Monastery Immaculate Conception no ordinary convent. With slogans like “We’re a monastery, not a mortuary,” the community bucks the trend of declining population in religious orders.
The sisters welcome visitors to explore the monastery, church and grounds on tours, and –- especially during the holiday season –- it’s an experience most won’t soon forget.
The dome of the magnificent convent church perched atop a steep hill rises 87 feet, visible for miles around and nicknamed “Castle on the Hill.” From the exterior colonnade, visitors can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Ferdinand. Other walkways wind through the gently rolling landscape past shrines, statues, a Lourdes Grotto, an outdoor Stations of the Cross, and a grass labyrinth for walking prayer and meditation.
(Photo: Bill Sheets)
Visitors often stop in at the monastery gift shop “For Heaven’s Sake,” where they can find hand-crafted soaps, essential oils, special occasion gifts, rosaries, medals and other and religious items.
This time of year, the monastery’s Simply Divine bakery operates in high-gear turning out the sisters’ signature hand-made springerles -- traditional anise-flavored cookies made from antique German molds –- and other baked goods. Orders for the treats come from all over the world.
If you really want to inspire some love, send an assortment box, including springerles, almerles (like springerles, only almond flavored), spicy Hildegard cookies, buttermint cookies, and angel cookies. You can order directly from the monastery’s online gift shop: http://www.forheavensake.org/
The sisters welcome all to the recently restored church for Christmas services, beginning Dec. 24 with a program of carols at 9:30 p.m. followed by Christmas Eve Mass at 10 p.m. Christmas Mass takes place at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 25. Christmas lights on the monastery grounds will be lit through January 6.
Guided tours of the church and grounds are offered year round, Tuesday-Sunday. Visit www.thedome.org for more information, or call 812-367-1411.
About Hidden Gems Indiana
Each week Indiana Landmarks uses insider knowledge to highlight historic places worth a visit, from the quirky to the sublime: small towns, neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, parks, cemeteries, scenic drives, museums -- you get the idea. Learn more about Indiana Landmarks at www.indianalandmarks.org.