Ever since I was a little girl, I remembered going to mass “on the mount” (as is the customary local name for the monastery). It is one of my favourite spots in Trinidad, not just for the amazing church service, but it also a great place to take the family if you’re looking for a cozy spot to relax and enjoy a breathtaking from the capital as far as Central Trinidad.
Mount Saint Benedict, or the Abbey of Our Lady of Exile, is a Benedictine abbey located in north Trinidad. It was founded in October 1912 by an order of monks from Brazil, after the Order of St Benedict of Italy.
The monastery can be accessed via the St. John’s Road in St. Augustine. You can use your own vehicle or take one of the well kept minibus shuttles provided by the monastery. On my way up the meandering road, I felt myself slowly disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of the towns below, my mind was becoming at ease. I wasn’t surprised to see the compound had quite a handful of families already there in the morning – some enjoying the view, others shopping at the church’s gift shop or feasting on the famous Mount St. Benedict Yogurt at the adjacent cafeteria. The monastery is famous for its yogurt and also produces jams and jellies from fruits grown on the sprawling mountain top compound, which encompasses some 600 acres – much of it rain forest.
After an hour of prayer and reflection at the church, I walked about the grounds taking in everything that the mount had to offer. As I am addicted to gift shops, it was the first place I entered. From jewelry to statues of saints, candles, Christian novels, and biblical paintings, the gift shoppe is ideal to pick up items for loved ones. Next to the gift shop is the cafeteria where I picked up a some of the yogurt and some local sweets.
The abbey complex consists of several buildings, among them a church, a monastery, a seminary, a yogurt factory, a drug rehab centre, and Pax Guest House. The whole complex is situated high in the Northern Range, north of St. Augustine/Tunapuna. It is visible for miles around, with its landmark tower and distinctive red-roofed buildings.
I urge everyone to visit Mount St. Benedict whether for a spiritual visit, or just to relax and take in the views of the mountains or the scenery. One cannot help but sense the atmosphere of utter peace and freedom on the ascent to Mount St Benedict.
Interesting fact: Mount St. Benedict is the home of the Benedictine monks who live and work in Trinidad and Tobago. They follow the way of life that traces it roots to St. Benedict of Norcia who was born in Italy in the year 480.