12th Century Spanish Church Rebuilt in Tehama County

The church was disassembled block by block and brought over from Spain in the 1930s.

Posted: Jul. 5, 2018 11:12 PM

A decade's-old project to rebuild a 12th century church is now complete and open to the public in Tehama County.

The church was disassembled block by block and brought over from Spain in the 1930s.

But it wasn't until recently that efforts to rebuild the church were finally completed.

Tucked away just northwest of Chico in Vina, the church at the Abbey of New Clairveaux is home to a spectacular representation of early European architecture and history.

The church includes a 12th century chapter house that was originally part of the Santa Maria De Ovila cistercian abbey in Spain.

But the story of how it ended up in the North State dates back to the 1930s when media mogul William Randolph Hearst purchased the structure, disassembled it and brought it to the United States block by block.

“And he brought the stones over in the hopes of restoring and building up at the Hurst family compound near McCloud,” Father Paul Mark Schwan said.

But that never happened.

During the recession, Hearst traded the stones to the city of San Francisco for cancellation of debts.

“The city put them into the Golden Gate park in the hopes of rebuilding the stones, restoring them in the park,” Schwan said. “And again, that never happened.”

They remained in the park until they were gifted to the monastery in the early 1990s but they still required testing the make sure they were structurally sound to build with.

“The stones had been sitting outside unprotected,” Schwan said. “And with the rain and the fog had greatly damaged a number of the stones.”

With the help of a Spanish architect who was an expert on the original structure, the church was reconstructed piece by piece.

It was a long process, but Father Schwan said he's extremely happy with the final product.

“We feel they're at home,” he said. “They've come home at long last almost 100 years after they were dismantled in 1931.”

The church is open for self-guided tours Monday through Saturday 2:30 to 5PM.

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