Category Archives: St Benedict’s Abbey

Subiaco, Polokwane
Monastery and Mission


ST. BENEDICT'S ABBEY, also known as Subiaco Mission, is located in Ga-Mothapo Village (outskirts of Polokwane City [Pietersburg]), Farm No. 1052, Portion 1 of Laastehoop Farm, in Limpopo Province of the Republic of South Africa. This location neighbors Zion City. Zion City is the headquarters for Zion Christian Church (ZCC). ZCC is the largest initiated Church in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Abbey is approached by roughly 7 km gravel roads (dirt roads) across a plain studded with kopjes.  The Abbey has a beautiful location at the foot of a range of mountains which form the end of the Drakensberg chain.  Drakensberg (now also known as “Drakens Mountain” or “Mountain of the Dragons”) is the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment. Behind the monastery there is a steep hill which used to have traces of bushman rock paintings.
Within the 100 km radius of the abbey is the Sunland Big Baobab- the largest and oldest Baobab tree [adansonia digitata] on Earth, measuring 47m in circumference and 22m high. According to carbon dating, the tree is way more than 1000 years. Evidence of Bushmen and Voortrekker visitors were found in its internal hollow. Carbon investigations in its hollow testify to fires from 1650s to 1990s AD.  The Right Reverends, Abbot President Guillermo Arboleda-OSB, Abbot Philip Lawrence-OSB and Abbot Gerald-OSB visited the site in February 2017. On the 13th of April of 2017, it was sadly announced that the largest and oldest on the planet had toppled over at 04H00.
St. Benedict’s Abbey is in the climatic belt of the Tropic of Capricorn. Tropic of Capricorn, one of the 5 Great Circles of Latitude (Artic Circle [66˚33'38"N], Antarctic Circle [66˚33'38"S], Tropic of Cancer [23˚26'22"N], Tropic of Capricorn [23˚26'22"N] and the Equator [0˚ Latitude]), play a major role in the Abbey’s climate and weather patterns.
According to Köppen climate classification system, The Abbey’s area has a semi-arid climate, an intermediate between desert climates and humid climates. Generally, the Abbey falls under a dry climate with average annual rainfall of 495 mm.
Agricultural activities are a fundamental part of Benedictine history. In his 1964 apostolic letter Pacis Nuntius, Pope Paul VI highlighted,

it was he [St. Benedict] and his sons, who with the cross, the book and the plow, carried Christian progress to scattered peoples from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from Ireland to the plans of Poland; the Cross that is the Law of Christ, the book that is knowledge and the plow that is the cultivation of fields with other similar initiatives.

The challenges of weather patterns and vegetation for agricultural activities greatly challenges the aspect of the plow. Based on this aspect some of our pioneers hesitated erecting a monastery.
The Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) is higher than precipitation. This means that if there was more water in this area then there would have been more plants. In this area, irrigation is a necessity for positive agricultural results.
Today, the sons of St. Benedict in St. Benedict’s Abbey, like their forefathers, are trying their best to spread civilization and development in the surrounding villages with the Cross, the books and the plow. Perhaps one may rightly argue that most spaces on the face of our planet are civilized and developed yet one may also rightly respond that there are few spaces on this planet which need development and civilization, especially in areas with extremely high unemployment rate due to lack of stable institutions and companies in the area. It is in a such kind of an area that St. Benedict’s Abbey is located.
The South African government is evidently working hard to bring about development in the area. Pace and capacity of progress and development presents themselves problems needing various individuals and institutions to come together. Development and progress of the surrounding residents cannot be left to the government alone. Historically, St. Benedict’s Abbey has had a leading role in the developmental adventures and has enjoyed partnership with institutions with similar objectives and vision.
St. Benedict’s Abbey is the center of Religion, Education and Agricultural activities in the area. She has the greatest impact on the surrounding resident in terms of access to employment, education, agricultural activities, moral regeneration, religion, et cetera.
Over the last few years, St. Benedict’s Abbey lost her strength in making a positive difference to the surrounding residents. The New Abbey’s Administration led by The Very Rev. Fr. Ghislain Maluvu-OSB, Prior Administrator of St. Benedict’s Abbey, and Rev. Fr. Gregory Vu-OS, Sub-Prior of St. Benedict’s Abbey, have completed evaluating the Abbey by establishing policies to guide and guard various Abbey sectors. 2018 will witness the implementation of these policies.
It is our prayer and hope that these policies bring about a positive impact to the sons of St. Benedict and to residents surrounding them. May the divine assistance always remain with them in order to bring to fruition their vision.

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