When the monks from Maredsous arrived in Glenstal in 1927, one of their priorities was to erect a church in which they could celebrate the Divine Office worthily.
However, financial restraints forced them to make do with a simple chapel, which was completed in 1932 and sufficed for their needs until the 1950s. The foundation-stone of the new church, designed by Dom Sebastian Braun, was laid on 14 October 1951, during the priorship of Fr Bernard O’Dea. The church was completed and blessed by Archbishop Kinane, on 24 June 1956, during the priorship of Fr Placid Murray. Soon after this, the monastery was made an abbey, and the first abbot, Fr Joseph Dowdall, was elected on 11 April 1957.
The church has undergone several adaptations since the post-Vatican II reform of the liturgy. With the introduction of concelebration at the daily Conventual Mass, the ten side chapels became redundant, while the main Altar was placed in a more prominent position. Under the direction of architect Jeremy Williams, the interior of the church was painted and given a new look, including a dramatic new colour scheme.
A major renovation of the church took place in 2016, under the direction of Seán Ó Laoire. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the refurbishment is the brightness of the interior. New clear glass clerestory windows have opened the church to natural light which streams in abundantly, flooding the freshly painted walls of the nave and choir and reflecting on the white ceramic tiling on the floor. The sanctuary area has been remodelled and extended on either side. The High Altar was replaced with the marble altar from the Blessed Sacrament chapel and this means that Br Benedict Tutty’s copper repoussé panel depicting the Lamb of God surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists is now displayed more prominently. The monastic choir has been simplified and reduced, providing more space for monks who attend community prayer in a wheelchair.
The floor level throughout the church was raised to facilitate the installation of underfloor heating. This is powered by a geothermal system and the combination of this, better insulation and double-glazing has transformed the environment, particularly during the winter months. A building that was once cold and damp is now warm and comfortable.