In 1925, newspaper publisher and collector William Randolph Hearst (1863 –1951) purchased the Cloisters and outbuildings of the twelfth-century monastery in Sacramenia, Spain, named after Bernard of Clairvaux. Traveling as ocean-freight from Rotterdam to the States (at a cost of $3005!), the buildings had been neatly crated by Hearst’s contractors to be re-assembled in America. Two things happened when they arrived in New York: the packing straw in the crates was thought to contain infectious disease and so the crates were emptied and the straw burned; then, due to the deterioration of Hearst’s finances, the crates sat in a warehouse in Brooklyn for twenty-six years. As careful as Hearst’s shippers were in packing the stones for transport and reconstuction, their labeling had been undone as the crates were emptied and the straw was burned; when the stones finally sold at auction, Time magazine (1953) could describe them as “the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history.”
The stones were brought to Miami to become a tourist attraction; after an incredible feat of masonry construction, the tourist venture failed in the early 1960s. Ownership transferred to the Episcopal Church in 1965.
Unused stones had been left on the grounds of the Church in Miami and when Professor François Bucher visited the “Ancient Spanish Monastery” in 1979, he took note of the leftover material. A medievalist and enthusiastic architectural scholar, Bucher was given some of the unused stones comprising the greater part of an arch; he and a team of his students, along with faculty artist Charles Hook, installed the arch in 1981.