St. Clare Sisters Want to Demolish, Sell Monastery for Developer to Build Townhouses

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The Poor Sisters of St. Clare have filed an application to demolish their monastery at 920 Centre St., and then would sell the property to a developer to build townhouses.

St. Clare Monastery

The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) received an application to demolish the monastery located next to the Arnold Arboretum by Murray Circle, and BLC staff has 10 calendar days to make a determination about historical, architectural, cultural, or urban design significance. If you have input about the significance of this property, please send your feedback to before 5 pm on March 10, 2022.

The application states that the Poor Sisters want to demolish the property, and can do so under the freedom of religion provided to them by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They also state that the rights they're provided by the U.S. and Massachusetts Constitutions supersede the authority of the BLC.

The Poor Sisters plan is to demolish the property and then sell it to Holland Development, which would build 26 townhouses -- 10 duplex townhouses and 2 triplex townhouses. Those plans have not been submitted to the Boston Planning and Development Agency yet because the BLC application and other processes need to occur.

The monastery was built in 1932, and the property consists of 2.88 acres and the monastery is 54,712 sq. ft. which includes a burial chamber/crypt. The crypt is beneath the chapel, and nothing is below ground or buried, according to a Poor Sisters' attorney.

A Boston Public Health Commission spokesperson said that 41 nuns interred in the crypt were moved to Mt. Benedict Cemetery in West Roxbury in 2021 at the request of the Abbess. Permits for the removal and reinterment of each nun were applied for, and issued.

The Poor Sisters' application says they do not want the building to be repurposed and, "Their sincerely held religious beliefs is what brings them to make the request for demolition."

The Poor Sisters of St. Clare live a purposefully secluded life and no person other than the Sisters, except for exceedingly rare and compelling occasion based on a medical reason or another necessity, are permitted to enter any part of the enclosure of the monastery. The Sisters have also rarely left the monastery.

There are currently only 10 Sisters living at the monastery and the maintenance to take care of the property requires a lot of attention and is burdensome. The plan is for the Poor Sisters to reduce the number of monasteries and plan to purchase another property for more of them to live together.

"Their daily lives within the enclosure reflect their devotions and their sincerely held religious beliefs of contemplative prayer," says the application.

The city assessed the property at $8.9 million in 2022.