BBC – Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery (2017) 1of3 Downside Abbey

BBC Retreat Meditations from a Monastery 1of3 Downside Abbey

Series which goes in search of inner peace in three Benedictine monasteries around Britain, and provides a welcome retreat from the hectic pace of our daily lives. The monks live largely in silence, and in the tradition of Slow TV the programmes have no commentary or background music to interfere with the peace.

Part 1: Downside Abbey
The first film is set in Downside, a spectacular neo-gothic monastery set in the beautiful valleys of Somerset. It is home to fourteen Benedictine monks who live according to the 6th-century Rule of St Benedict. We follow two of the monks over the course of a typical, quiet monastic day, as they engage with carpentry and baking, religious services and moments of private prayer in the monastery gardens.


Part 2: Pluscarden Abbey
Pluscarden Abbey is a remote Benedictine monastery on the edge of the Scottish Highlands in Moray and is home to 21 monks. It is the oldest practising monastery in the United Kingdom, dating back to the medieval era. The monks live by the 6th-century Rule of St Benedict and life has changed little in hundreds of years. Given its isolated position, the abbey is almost entirely self-sufficient. The monks grow their own crops, make their own clothes and have little contact with the outside world. Unlike most Benedictine monks who wear a black habit, the monks at Pluscarden Abbey wear white, a symbol of their austerity and strict interpretation of monastic life. We follow a typical day in the life at the abbey – from the time one monk knocks on the doors of the brethren and chants in Latin to wake them up for the first service of the day at 4.15am right up to compline, the final service of the day.


Part 3: Belmont Abbey
Belmont Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Herefordshire on the Welsh border. The monastery itself has a warm and inviting feel which is amplified by the colourful, 19th-century decor inside the building. We follow renowned iconographer Father Alex who travels to Belmont from his native Peru every year to teach his skills. He is the superior of Belmont Abbey’s sister monastery in Peru. He uses centuries-old techniques – mixing his own egg tempera paints, using pigments made from semi-precious stones and burnishing gold leaf – to create a striking icon of Archangel Michael, the patron saint of Belmont Abbey. We also meet Brother Bernard who makes rosaries – a devotional string of beads used in prayer. He uses pliers to link the beads, intricately threading them together to form the set of rosary beads which he then uses in private prayer.

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