The Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach, Florida is beautiful, and it is also considered the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history!

The Ancient Spanish Monastery In North Miami Beach, Florida

The Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach, Florida is beautiful, and it is also considered the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history!

Ancient Spanish Monastery In Miami

Unless you’re living in Spain, what are the odds of you having a Spanish Monastery in your own backyard? But that’s exactly what I had for pretty much my whole life.

The sad part is that I never paid it any mind. I grew up in North Miami Beach, Florida just minutes away from this beautiful monastery. I visited friends that lived blocks away. My dad played tennis at the courts next to the monastery. But like most people, I didn’t appreciate what was in my own city. I wanted to travel and see the world! That meant venturing out, not looking at what was right in front of me.

It took years of living away from Miami and returning home for me to appreciate how much more there is to my hometown than just beaches and partying.

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Visiting The Ancient Spanish Monastery

It was a lovely morning to explore the grounds; the sun was shining and there was a slight breeze. The manicured lawns and brightly colored flowers only added to the picturesque scene in front of me as I walked up to the cloisters.

I could have spent hours walking around the grounds. It was very peaceful considering we were surrounded by neighborhoods and busy streets. There was even a small group at the far end of the property doing yoga. But what I found the most surprising about the monastery, was the monastery itself. It was a giant jigsaw puzzle. Literally.

manicured lawn and front wall of the Ancient Spanish Monastery

Brief History Of The Monastery

Originally, the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux was built in northern Spain from 1133 to 1141 AD. Monks lived in the monastery for almost 700 years until a revolution occurred in the 1830s and the cloisters were seized and converted into a granary and stable. Then, in 1925 William Randolph Hearst purchased the buildings and had them taken apart stone by stone, packed in about 11,000 numbered wooden crates, and shipped to the US. Unfortunately, Hearst had some financial difficulties, and the crates ended up being sold at an auction and remained in a warehouse in New York for 26 years.

Then in 1952, one year after Hearst’s death, two entrepreneurs purchased the stones to create a tourist attraction. After 19 months and about $1.5 million dollars (today that would be about $20 million dollars!), the monastery was put back together. In 1953 the monastery was called “the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history” by Time magazine. In 1964, the cloisters were purchased by Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr, a philanthropist who presented them to the Bishop of Florida. Since then, it has been an active church with services on Sundays and throughout the week.

As I entered the cloisters, I marveled at the fact that these incredible buildings had been taken apart and put back together. It must have been a very frustrating and satisfying project, all at the same time.

The patio of the monastery
coat of arms

Spanish Monastery Hours And Admission

The cost of admission can be found below:

  • Adults – $10
  • Children & Youth (ages 5-18) – $5
  • Kids under 5 years old – FREE
  • Students (any age with valid I.D.) – $5
  • Seniors (age 62 and up) – $5
  • Military &/or their families (with I.D.) – FREE

The Ancient Spanish Monastery is always closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday to Friday the monastery is usually open from 10 AM to 4 PM. Saturday and Sunday hours vary, so it’s best to check their website for current hours or give them a call at 305-945-1461.

Ancient Spanish Monastery Weddings, Events, And Filming

Besides religious services, the monastery often has private events like weddings, concerts, and even film and photo shoots. Did you know Catherine Zeta-Jones filmed a dance number for Rock of Ages in the chapel? And remember the movie Ace Ventura? Some scenes were shot on the grounds of the monastery. So, again, I would recommend calling ahead to make sure they are open.

inside the Ancient Spanish Monastery

Pro Tip: Are you sticking around Miami? You should! It’s one of the best cities in Florida! You can go kayaking with manatees, visit a lighthouse, check out a few breweries, or do one of the many free things in Miami!

Final Thoughts On The Ancient Spanish Monastery

So next time you’re in Miami, or even if you’re from Miami, consider spending a few hours at the Ancient Spanish Monastery. It’s a peaceful and beautiful place with an incredible history.

Have you been to the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach?

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The Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach, Florida is beautiful, and it is also considered the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history!

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  1. Wow, stunning location and architecture. What an amazing way to preserve and place it in such a lush environment. I would love to see this some day.

    1. Hi Noel! It really is stunning. I hope you are able to visit! Next time you’re in Miami, let me know 🙂

  2. This looks amazing Vicky! Imagine flat packing all the stones and shipping them all over like an ancient monastery is Ikea furniture! It’s so true though, you never know what’s in your backyard, it’s always fun to be a tourist in your own home 🙂 x

    1. Haha!Like Ikea furniture!! You’re hilarious Mel!

  3. It looks really stunning, wow! I would love to go there!

    I went to Florida once, but I only went to Orlando for Disneyland and Wizardly World of Harry Potter in Treasure Islands, haha. I certainly want to visit Miami one day, and I gotta stop by this beautiful place!

  4. I never knew about this, and I’ve been to Miami 3 times! Too bad, I would have liked to check it out. This post had a lot of interesting info! Hearst was a really busy man! I only know of his Castle in California

    1. Oh wow, I didn’t know he had a castle in California. I guess we both learned something from this! 😉

  5. WOW! How lucky are you!? BEAUTIFUL! I understand though..sometimes we need to tour our own city as a tourist rather than a local! I love how you write as well! You are great at capturing the readers attention!

    1. Hi Bobbi! I’m glad you understand. And thank you for the kind words 🙂

  6. I honestly never think of history when I think of Miami and clearly I’m wrong about this – what an amazing find!

    1. Hi Vanessa! Miami actually has a very interesting history, you just have to look beyond the beaches.

  7. What a hidden gem! I just recently discovered a monastery in Washington DC as well – a similarly beautiful space.

    1. Wow, so cool! Isn’t it crazy how much we can continue to find?

  8. wow this is so cool! i can’t imagine the work to put it back together! after reading Pillars of the Earth i can appreciate the difficulty in this undertaking! pretty cool that it is in Florida!

    1. Thanks Lindsay, I hadn’t heard of that book 🙂

  9. Hi, V! This is so beautiful. And so true, sometimes we forget to look at what’s right in front of us. Amazing that it was brought back in pieces & rebuilt… Lovely pics. Un abrazote 🙂

  10. What a cool place! Love history, especially Spanish heritage sites in the U.S. Hopefully we can get there sometime. Enjoyed your blog on this and the photos

  11. How cool that we now have a very old building in the United States from somewhere else! I’ve heard of other buildings being taken apart, moved,and then reassembled. Sounds like so much work! Can you imagine finding the right stone to put in the right place? Also, isn’t it wonderful to find treasures in your own backyard?!

    1. It does sound like so much work! I’d love to see other buildings that were put together the same way; I think that would be really cool.

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