This is the famous Chapter House of Ovila – a Spanish Trappist monastery built in the 12th century, rebuilt in the 16th century and with a history so dramatic, it almost belongs in a pulp novel. Originally imported by William Randolph Hearst to be used in a grand estate that never was, the monastery stones were all but abandoned in Golden Gate Park for more than 60 years.
But through the tireless lobbying of Schwan’s predecessor, and a 12-year campaign by the monks to raise $7 million for a painstaking reconstruction, those stones found a home in Vina.
To help raise proceeds for the reconstruction, in 2010 the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico began brewing the Ovila Abbey beers, a series of Belgian Trappist-style ales, in conjunction with the monks.
This spring, the chapter house was finally unveiled. One of only a few medieval sites in all of North America, its ribbed vaults and pointed arches are classic examples of Gothic architecture.