Visits to historic ruins to include ‘hour of contemplation’

Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire (Wikipedia/Rob Bendall, Highfields)

Tourists in England will be invited to embrace the contemplative life, with the introduction of an “hour of contemplation” in monastic buildings and ruins around the country. Source: The Tablet.

English Heritage is a charity that manages more than 400 historic monuments, buildings and places throughout the country. For a month until October 22, English Heritage will be encouraging visitors to turn off notifications on their phones, finish up their conversations and enjoy the final hour of public access to its abbeys and priories in contemplative quiet, restoring in that moment the atmosphere and sensibility of the medieval monastery.

In encouraging silence in the final hour of people’s visit to the monastery, English Heritage is recalling not only the general contemplative silence of the monastery, but also the stricter “Great Silence” whereby monks desisted from speech altogether after praying Compline.

The scheme is being done with the help of actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry, a campaigner and advocate for mental health, who has worked with English Heritage to record an audio introduction to the hour of contemplation.

Michael Carter, senior properties historian at English Heritage, said: “With many people having experienced a very difficult past 18 months, we’re inviting visitors to escape from their cares for a short time, using the quiet, the sound of the bird song, the rustle of the wind in the trees to contemplate and free their minds and spirits of the busy, noisy, demanding distractions of contemporary life.”

Dr Carter cited St Aelred of Rievaulx, who when describing the majestic Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire, wrote: “Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world.”

Dr Carter said: “We hope to offer this feeling of serenity to our visitors.”


English Heritage embraces contemplative life (By Sebastian Milbank, The Tablet)

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