Rolf Müller, via Wikimedia Commons
A man stormed into the Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, North Miami Beach, and threatened to shoot the rector and congregation during the Prayers of the People. The incident followed the beheading of an almost 900-year-old statue of King Alphonso VII, as well as other mischief, on the church’s grounds.
“He said he was going to shoot me and anyone who stayed in the church,” said the Rev. Gregory Mansfield, rector at St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church, which meets in North Miami Beach’s Ancient Spanish Monastery. “The fact that this man came in right on the heels of Orlando was scary.”
Though scary, his presence wasn’t a surprise. Three days before his church service disruption — which ended in his arrest — police say he destroyed the church sign in the front of the monastery and the next day decapitated an 875-year-old statue.
Mansfield said Arizamendoza — who was known by staff as receiving assistance for the homeless — told the monastery manager that he’d be there Sunday. Police officers were waiting.
Arizamendoza, 33, of Maryland, was being held Monday in the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on a $75,000 bond. He faces charges including aggravated assault at a religious institution, disturbing religious assembly, two counts of criminal mischief at a place of worship and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling.
Owned by the Diocese of Southeast Florida, the monastery was completed in 1141 near Segovia, Spain, and was originally named the Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, according to the parish website. Upon the canonization of Bernard of Clairvaux in 1174, the monastery was renamed in his honor. The monastery’s cloisters were seized, sold, and converted into a granary and stable after a social revolution in the 1830s.
William Randolph Hearst paid for moving the building stone by stone to North Miami Beach in 1925. Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr., purchased the monastery in 1964 and donated it to the diocese. Services are held on Sundays and weekdays in both English and Spanish.