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“INSIDE THE WALLS IS ALL WE NEED” -
THE MONASTERY AS A LIVING ENVIRONMENT

Benedict described the monastery as a place where life could become whole and thrive. For him, the prerequisite was that the monk could find everything that he needed to live within the monastery.

Maintaining the delicate balance between pilgrimage site and business enterprise: the life of a monk at Holy Mountain (Photo: Michael Westermann)

In the 66th chapter of his Rule, Benedict wrote: “If it can be done, the monastery should be so situated that all the necessaries, such as water, the mill, the garden, are enclosed, and the various arts may be plied inside of the monastery, so that there may be no need for the monks to go about outside, because it is not good for their souls.” Thus the places that make up the monastery, from the cloister, cells, choir chapel, refectory, library, chapter room, to the cemetery, correspond to the living spaces and life stages of the monk. He must become committed to them and pass through them in order to attain a fulfilled and purposeful life.

Enclosure – A Protected Space for the Pursuit of God

It logically follows that these spaces require a special method of protection. It is for this reason that they are referred to as cloistered, or enclosed. In addition to the monks' living quarters, areas such as the monastery garden along the outer grounds are also enclosed. These areas are not only private spaces for the monks, but also contribute to what makes them distinct from others: the ongoing pursuit of God and their encounter with Him in all aspects of life.

Benedict did not only consider the church, the communal rooms and the individual cells of the monks, but also recognized the various areas that needed to be integrated in order for monastic life to succeed. This integration of all living and work areas precluded both vagrancy and alienation.

For this reason, the public is unfortunately not permitted to visit the monastery. However, in order to convey an impression of life within, the monks created a film about their spiritual life and work at St. Boniface and Andechs. This is available for purchase at Klosterladen.

In a similar manner, Abbot Johannes takes an in-depth look at the individual spaces of the monastery with regard to the individual's life phases and living spaces in his book, “Wohne bei Dir selbst – der Klosterplan als Lebensmodell.” It is also available at Klosterladen.