This beautiful and unique women’s monastery in the Napa Valley is located just a few blocks off the main street through Calistoga, California. The nuns make the most of their limited land through terraced and raised gardens, and have created an absolutely beautiful haven for pilgrims and visitors.
A large koi pond is a favorite with the town’s schoolchildren (and with guests), but it’s when one enters the chapel that one encounters the divine heart of the monastery, which includes a miraculous, self-renewing icon of St Nicholas, and a wood-carved icon of St Peter the Aleut which was revealed to a friend of the monastery as she walked along the Pacific coast, and saw it floating to the shore bathed in light.
A well-stocked bookstore and gift shop with unique items made by the nuns is also available. Scroll down (below the photo gallery) for a brief history of the monastery…
- Visit the monastery page at the OCA website here. (Includes contact and schedule info for pilgrims.)
From the OCA page for Holy Assumption:
The Holy Assumption Monastery has been a living testament to the legacy and spirit of the Orthodox Christian faith for nearly 70 years. From its home on the banks of the Napa River in Calistoga, CA, the monastery welcomes faithful pilgrims and visitors of all backgrounds. It stands as the heart of a strong, multi-cultural community in northern California, upholding the vision of Orthodox Christianity in America and reflecting the rich fullness of Christian life in the daily worship of God.
Holy Assumption Monastery was founded in 1941 by a small group of nuns who fled from Russia and China in search of freedom to practice their faith. Originally settling in San Francisco, they soon discovered the quiet town of Calistoga 80 miles north of the city and, with the blessing of the local church hierarchy, purchased an old two-story property by the Napa River.
They were given permission to establish their new monastery and spiritual haven on the condition that they would finance and administer the community on their own and would dedicate themselves to the service of God with faith that He would take care of them. At first, the old building had to serve as both chapel and living quarters, but soon the nuns, with their own hands, built a separate small wooden chapel as their place of worship. They adorned it with their own icons and embroidered cloths and began to hold services, to which all those inside and outside their gates were welcome.
To this day, the monastery has relied solely on donations and charitable contributions for her support and financial livelihood. Her vision is to create the means for self-sufficiency and to become revitalized as a strong monastic community. Every part of this vision is to serve the faithful and to reflect the essence of Orthodox Christian spirituality.
An ambitious restoration of the entire property began in 1998 through the efforts of Igumen Sergious Gerken, the priest of the monastery. Through his vision and hard work (and the labor and sacrificial financial support of a small community of dedicated monastery friends), the grounds have been transformed into a beautiful garden renowned in the area ÃÂ± a tranquil place ideal for reflection and contemplation. Much needed retaining walls were built to hold back the annual flooding of the Napa River.
The historic chapel has undergone extensive renovation and improvements. The main historical building has been beautifully rebuilt as a refectory and living quarters for the nuns. The grounds have been graced with church bells and a koi pond, among other things. All was nearly ready and the local community was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the nuns.
The Nuns Arrive!
While the finishing touches were still being put on the main building, the long-expected arrival of the nuns was announced, but in the most unexpected way. In the morning of October 8, 2009, the community of St. Barbara in Santa Paula, CA was informed that they had 30 days to remove the RVs in which over half the community was living while trying to build a wing to house the sisters. By that evening, Abbess Victoria had contacted Bishop Benjamin and received his enthusiastic blessing to relocate ten of the sisters to Calistoga. Two weeks later, on October 22, the sisters, under the leadership of Mother Melania, arrived at their new home to a gracious welcome from Fr. Sergious. Soon thereafter, various members of the local community and the outlying areas started arriving with good wishes, food, and practical help of various kinds. The sisters have been overwhelmed by such kindness and are looking forward to what God has in store.
Day visitors are welcome. Due to space limitations, the monastery currently has no overnight accommodations. However, a few local bed and breakfasts with reasonable rates are located close by.
The life of the monastery revolves around the daily cycle of services (see below). In between, the sisters do their obediences of cooking, cleaning, showing guests around the grounds, and activities for supporting themselves. Currently, these are focusing on baked goods, candies, and certain crafts (prayer ropes, icon rocks, cross bracelets, etc.). Down the line, the sisters also hope to start sewing vestments and to produce communion wine.