In southern Maine, St. Anthony's Monastery aka Friary is situated about four miles from the town of Kennebunk on the western side of the Kennebunk river which issues into the Atlantic at lovely Kennebunk Beach.
Kennebunk - probably the name of a Native American chief; the name may be formed by the union of three words: KEN - meaning long, NEB - meaning water at rest, and UNK - meaning land or place; some indian linguists think Kennebunk means, "The place where he thanked Him."
The area was recognized by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain in the year 1604. The first European settlers, arrived in 1614, and were repelled by the Native Americans in 1689-90. Later on, the Native Americans were vanquished by the famous Lieutenant General Sir William Pepperrell who repossessed the land. In 1740, he sold 200 acres of it to John Mitchell, a professor of the Christian religion and a seaman of liberal education who loved God, people, and the wide ocean. His family controlled the estate until 1900 when it was purchased by William A. Rogers, Esq., a Buffalo industrialist. He commissioned Green and Wicks, architects, a Buffalo firm to have built upon the property a splendid house in Tudor style. This fine estate was sold in 1937 to William N. Campbell, a gentleman of entrepreneurial fortune, who was pleased to keep a home also in Fisher Hill and in Brookline, MA, in Bal Harbor and in Miami Beach, Florida.
On September 8, 1947, the estate was purchased by Lithuanian Franciscans. In 1952, the house was embellished with the Shrine of St. Anthony. In 1953, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, an imposing and unique shrine, was constructed on the estate grounds and, in 1959, the graceful Chapel of the Stations of the Cross. Both of these shrines, monuments of Lithuanian architectural art, were designed by Jonas Mulokas, winner of the First Prize of the American Architects Association. For the Chapel of the Stations of the Cross, individual stations and two angels were sculptured by Vytautas Kasuba who was decorated with the Gold Medal for art at the 1937 Paris World's Fair.
The new St. Anthony's Chapel was constructed between 1965-66. It combines the old tradition with modern expression in a very beautiful way. The chapel's architect was Dr. Alfred Kulpa of Toronto, Canada. The interior decorations, including the bas-relief, the altars, the stained glass windows, the candlesticks and chandeliers, were magnificently designed, produced, and arranged by Professor Vytautas Jonynas, master of graphic arts, who has been honored with Gold Medals for his achievements at various international art competitions. He is the same artist who decorated the Vatican Pavillion at the 1964 New York World's Fair with a very meaningful sculpture of the Militant, Suffering, and TriumphantChurch. For the enjoyment of visitors, this monument now ornaments the grounds of St. Anthony's Monastery.
Passing through the stone gate, you enter the gracious English park, embellished with gardens. In a refreshing view of sweeping lawns, you are pleasantly greeted by magnificent and unique shrines of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Way of the Cross, both in Lithuanian style. In the background, you behold the monastery itself, a fine Tudor edifice.
Scanning right, your gaze is arrested by the imposing white Vatican Pavillion Monument of the Militant, Suffering and Triumphant Church, from the New York World's Fair, 1964, that currently needs some restoration work.
Thousands come to enjoy these peaceful and expansive grounds every year, especially in summer. Everybody is most welcome to visit, to rest, to meditate, and to pray.
In 2017, St. Anthony Franciscan Friary celebrated its 70th anniversary. For more information about the origin and history of the Monastery, click here.