Our Lady of Dallas Abbey Church is a genuine but contemporary example of Cistercian architecture, reflecting the Order’s traditional commitment to simplicity, poverty, and seclusion as well as its willingness to formulate its message for the modern world. It uses a medieval design and both traditional and modern materials to meet the contemporary needs of abbey, school, and community.
Because it is built on a hill, its facade, facing southwest, is clearly visible from Highway 114. The monastic church rises 40 feet high and covers an area of approximately 5,800 square feet. It is constructed of 427 huge blocks of Texas limestone, each weighing approximately 4000-5000 pounds. The stone blocks, held in place by thick mortar and the compression of their own weight, recall the weighty appearance of many medieval structures, but make an even bolder and more primitive impact in their modern surroundings.
Neither the color nor the texture of the stone has been altered; instead, the natural irregular patterns and contours maintain the character of the stone and reveal the quarry process. The hardness of the stones’ surface creates splendid acoustics for singing and chanting. A sophisticated sound system has been installed for preaching, and an organ at the back provides opportunity for musical accompaniment.
The Marian statue above the tabernacle dates from 1902 and is carved from ash wood by Gyorgy Kiss, a recognized sculptor of the turn of the century. The three pieces symbolizing the Trinity are all 200-250 years old and are made of painted polychrome wood relief. They come from private donors. The door of the tabernacle, created by artist Billy Hassell, a Cistercian alumnus (Class ’74), incorporates ancient Eucharistic symbols—pelican, cross, peacock, anchor, key—into its design.
**This text has been taken from Dr. Tom Pruit’s article in the 1998 book, Cistercians in Texas.