Vallombrosa Center in Menlo Park is located on a ten-acre site that was originally the home of E.W. Hopkins, the nephew of Mark Hopkins. The Hopkins home, known as the Old Mansion, was built during the Civil War period. Originally a simple wooden structure, it was later expanded and decorated with its distinctive Italianate touches.
Vallombrosa is graced by trees from all over the world. The gingko tree of Chinese origin, located in front of the Old Mansion, is the largest of its kind in the area. The trees, and the interplay of the sun and shadow throughout the grounds, undoubtedly influenced Mr. Hopkins in naming his estate.
The name “Vallombrosa” means “shady glen,” and refers to a beautiful forested area southeast of Florence, Italy. It was there in 1095 that St. John Gualbert established a monastery of Benedictine monks that survives to this day. At one point in his life, John Milton visited that monastery, and he wrote of the “shady glens of Vallombrosa” in his Paradise Lost.
Vallombrosa was purchased by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1947 to serve as a retreat house for women. Over the years its mission has expanded, and while continuing to serve as a retreat house, the Center also sponsors and hosts a variety of seminars and programs of a spiritual and educational nature. Besides the Old Mansion, the present facility includes the chapel with its warm, prayerful atmosphere, and rooms opening onto patios. Completed in 1964, it reflects the spiritual sensitivity of the late noted architect, Shigenon Iyama.
The Vallombrosa Center is an ideal location for groups seeking a quiet and serene setting, with its beautiful grounds, comfortable accommodations, and friendly, helpful staff. It is also a gathering place for friends and neighbors to rest, to worship, to learn and grow.
If you would like to organize a group retreat, please contact the Conference Coordinator, Jaynie Fedele, at Jaynie@vallombrosa.org, or call (650)325-5614.
Come experience the delights of Vallombrosa!