They still tool around these gently rolling green hills in the same sturdy Chevys. They still wear their same black robes. Their rooms are spartan as ever and are still called cells.

And the soothing Gregorian chants echo deep from these sandstone walls, just as they have for 150 years.

For the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, life follows immutable rhythms: Bells peal crisply from Romanesque towers, noontime prayers are read from white oak choir stalls, breakfast and dinner are eaten in silence.

Not much can change this brotherhood of holy men who have taken a vow of poverty. Not war, not peace, and certainly not money.

Not even a gift of nearly $27 million.

At Saint Meinrad's, there are many rules and one inescapable reality:

Monks live by needs, not wants. Money is not coveted, not even considered in many everyday decisions.

So when the Rev. Lambert Reilly, leader of the archabbey, recently announced that two longtime benefactors -- both elderly women -- had willed Saint Meinrad's nearly $27 million, the monks were grateful and surprised, but not inclined to celebrate.

"We're guys, first of all," the Rev. Tobias Colgan, Saint Meinrad's prior, explains with a laugh. "And we're guys who are monks . . . we lean more toward the introverted."

The exception is Reilly, 71, the archabbot who blends a wry wit (one of his talks is titled, "To Live Is to Annoy") with a gift for gab. It has fallen to him to explain to outsiders two facts: The monks don't get the millions, and, behind these walls, a lottery-size windfall is not a temptation.

"I still will wear my black wash pants," Reilly said, showing off his modest wardrobe of a half-dozen or so pairs of indistinguishable pants, jackets and robes. "In the airport, I'm not going to buy a newspaper; I'll pick up one from an empty seat. It doesn't change my life."

"As St. Paul said, you have it or you don't have it," he said, "and you learn to live with it either way."

For 150 years, the men of Saint Meinrad have chosen to live without.

The Benedictine monastery is a one-for-all society where everything is shared, from the chocolates Reilly received as a gift to the television in the recreation room. (TVs in individual rooms are taboo.)

Even spare clothes sent by family and friends are pooled in a "rags rack" that are anyone's for the taking.

And virtually every need or request, whether it is a new pair of shoes or using one of the fleet of Chevys for an excursion, must be approved by the prior. He is Saint Meinrad's No. 2 man, who acts as a business manager.

If this kind of environment seems stifling, the monks say it is just the opposite.

"There are so many things other people have to worry about and I don't: job security, paying the bills, how to support the family," said the Rev. Mark O'Keefe, president-rector of the school of theology. "And style? I certainly don't have to worry about style."

"It's very freeing," he added. "That's how it should be. Monks need to have a freedom to be contemplative."

The monks pray together three times a day -- novices have the 5:30 a.m. bell-ringing duty -- and attend morning Mass in a century-old church where sunlight streams in through German-crafted stained-glass windows.

But monks do not live by faith and prayer alone.

Saint Meinrad feeds and clothes 114 monks (their black habits are sewn here) and runs a seminary with 82 priests in training and a theology school with 100 students. The archabbey also grapples with routine bills: insurance, utilities and other costs of running a 250-acre monastery.

The monks range in age from 21 to 103, and most work here as tailors, carpenters, cooks, landscapers, composers, writers and teachers. Several have studied in Europe, and one is fluent in 16 languages. Others live and have jobs outside the monastery.

Saint Meinrad owns and operates two businesses: the Abbey Press, which sells books, cards and religious items through a mail-order company and employs more than 300 people; and a casket-making factory in a nearby town.

Last fall, Saint Meinrad announced a five-year project to raise $40 million to secure the archabbey's future and, O'Keefe said, the huge bequest surely "will take some pressure off us."

When the $27 million gift was announced this spring, pleas for help soon followed. Reilly heard from one monastery in Vietnam needing money to add a wing and another in Iowa planning to build an infirmary.

This money, however, will be used for Saint Meinrad: scholarships, teacher salaries, dormitory renovations and other improvements, including a new $5.2 million retreat center.

It was the center that was the inspiration for Saint Meinrad's gift.

Two wealthy women -- Virginia Basso and Bernice Davey -- were regulars here for decades, making the trip from Indianapolis. They grew attached to the monastery and the monks.

Both were widowed and childless, and, Reilly said, "We became their family." When they became too sick to make the trip, the monks visited them.

Reilly said the monastery knew both women had included Saint Meinrad in their wills, but he was stunned by the size of the bequest -- each left more than $13 million.

Basso, who died last summer at 91, was an opera and symphony devotee who enjoyed reminiscing about her days in Italy, France and England when her husband, Raymond, worked in Europe for Eli Lilly and Co.

"Virginia was sophisticated, but she wasn't stuffy," Reilly said. "She was fun."

Basso also was deeply religious, the archabbot said, and she and her husband dreamed of having a son who would become a priest. Now some of their money will be used to train priests.

Davey, who died in January at 90, first visited the retreat in the early 1970s with her husband, William, who was in the insurance business.

"Bernice was one who become a mother to the younger monks," Reilly said.

They were among more than 10,000 visitors who make the pilgrimage each year to this tranquil corner of southeastern Indiana, where there are lush canopies of oak and holly trees, a garden waterfall and buildings made from hand-chiseled sandstone, the rock mined from a quarry on the grounds.

Saint Meinrad's future depends on recruiting more young men who reject material riches. About half the novices who come here decide to leave.

"I think the world and society and all that offers a lot more allurements these days," O'Keefe said. "It makes our way of life even more important."

And he said he thinks the two benefactors appreciated that.

"They knew," O'Keefe said, "by giving to men who have taken a vow of poverty, it would not be used for selfish purposes."

And, he said, they probably saw the incongruity, too, of leaving a fortune to monks.

"It's ironic, isn't it?" he said. "In that sense, it's kind of comical. At the same time, I don't think that irony was lost on these ladies."

For the monks at the Saint Meinrad Archabby in Indiana, a Benedictine monastery, life has been pretty much the same for the past century and a half.The Rev. Jonah Ponder works as a carpenter. Others are cooks, tailors, writers, teachers, composers. Some are employed outside the monastery.The archabby sits on 250 acres in southeastern Indiana. Within the walls, there are prayers three times a day. Monks say the atmosphere gives them freedom to contemplate.The monastery is home to 114 monks. It operates a seminary with 82 priests in training and a theology school with 100 students. It also publishes books and manufactures caskets.