It’s been three dozen years since Saint Vincent Bread, a once regionally-famous bread baked by Benedictine monks, has been available to the general public. Now, it will be once more, with the special Monastery Bread Mix ingredients available in a ready-to-bake package.
“All you need to do is add water and follow the instructions on the back of the jar,” said Father Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., one of the developers of the bread mix idea.
The bread has been a tradition at Saint Vincent since Boniface Wimmer, the Benedictine community’s first archabbot, established a bakery shortly after the gristmill was constructed in 1854. However, when fire struck the Latrobe campus on January 28, 1963, the bakery was so badly damaged that it could not be restored. In the rebuilding process which followed the fire, constructing an oven large enough to bake 100 loaves at a time, as the old one did, was not a high priority.
Since the fire, the Benedictines have continued to bake the heavy, hearty bread with a hard crust, on a much smaller scale, primarily for their own consumption.
“People from outside of Saint Vincent would come from miles around to get a loaf, such was the reputation of Saint Vincent Bread,” said Br. Joseph Adams, O.S.B., the miller at the Gristmill. “It had no preservatives or shortening, so it would not stay fresh for long, but it was always quickly consumed.”
The bread mix in a jar will be available at the Saint Vincent Gristmill and at the Basilica Gift Shop for $4.95 per jar. Or, traditionalists can still purchase flour ground at the Gristmill and modify it with a number of different recipes provided by the Benedictines. The labels on the jars feature a reproduction of a painting of the recently-restored Gristmill by Latrobe artist Jo Pallow.
Gristmill hours are from 1:30 – 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Gift shop hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays. The gift shop is located on the first floor of the Saint Vincent Parish Center, which is adjacent to the Archabbey Basilica.