In the late 1890’s, a small band of courageous Benedictine Nuns (the same order in “The Sound of Music”), exiled by religious persecution from their native France, had just eighty cents when they settled down in Louisiana in the small logging town of Ramsey, just North of Covington.
Unable to speak a word of English, led by Mother Gertrude, their task was before them. The first Abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey at St. Benedict, Louisiana, needed the service of the Nuns in the work he was undertaking, and hearing of their plight, he requested that they take care of the seminary’s culinary department. They accepted the Abbot’s offer and set up residence in a small home a short distance from the priory.
However, misfortune followed them from their native homeland, when about a month later a fire destroyed both the seminary and their little convent house nearby. The ever hospitable Ursuline Nuns of New Orleans offered shelter to the homeless Benedictines, and along with a few priests reconstruction work began.
With the kindness of charitable women in Covington, they were able to commence the building of a large convent, named St. Gertrude in honor of the Mother foundress. It eventually covered 104 acres, which provided schooling and religious education for most of the poverty stricken areas extending into rural parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. They also earned money by doing laundry and sewing for the seminarians at St. Joseph’s Abbey nearby.
The present owners renovated the chapel in 1996 preserving the mission style architecture.
The bell tower remains unchanged on the exterior, as well as the Italian marble throughout the interior. A raised French Quarter style dining terrace overlooks the original limestone Grotto and grounds abundant with ancient live oaks, azaleas and native landscape, all providing a perfect Grand Southern atmosphere.