Meet the nuns building their own monastery

Short of cash and with a long history of moving house, an order of Carmelite nuns in the Czech Republic have been creating ventilation ducts and using heavy machinery to build their new monastery in a village east of Prague.

The nuns told GCR that they had contracted Prague construction company PSP-GDS to build their new home in the village of Drasty, but rising costs and Covid disruptions meant the contract couldn’t cover all the work needed, so they decided to pitch in themselves.

Although work is proceeding, the order still faces a €1.25m funding gap.

The order was founded in Prague with their first monastery built in the city’s northwest Lesser Town district in the 1600s.

The nuns were then banished from the city in 1782, and when they returned 10 years later they discovered their house had been taken. In reparation, they were given another monastery in Prague’s Hradčany Square.

During the Communist era they were banished again, with their monastery being turned into a hotel. They got it back in Czechia’s church restitutions of 1991, but Prague was developing rapidly and as they settled back into the Hradčany Square location, the nuns – who devote themselves to prayer and contemplation – found the garden was too small and offered no protection from the growing noise of the city.

They were also burdened by the costs of maintaining the heritage building to government standards.

So, they began a long search for a quieter and more sustainable spot, which they finally found at a dilapidated homestead in Drasty.

Their new monastery was designed by Michal and Radmila Ibl from architecture studio AV 19 and incorporates an old granary on the site.

The monastery will contain a chapel consecrated to Saint Teresa of Avila. Other buildings include housing units for the tenants, a visitors’ house and a forest park.

Work on the renovation began in 2018 and continued until 2020, with the completion of the visitors’ house, allowing them to move in.

In November 2021, construction started again: foundations were dug in the yard for the new buildings, as were the walls for the chapel and new monastery wings.

To save money, and with help from friends and relatives, the sisters have been creating ventilation ducts.

They also borrowed a 1997 Bobcat 773 skid-steer loader to transport materials and have pitched in with the required archaeological research.

The new monastery wings will join the cloisters to the building of the former granary and create a court for the monastery, while balancing the height level of the sloping courtyard.

The nuns aim to move into part of the monastery in 2023, but they are still short of funds. Visit their website for more information and to donate.

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