English Heritage introduces ‘hour of contemplation’ at its former monasteries
English Heritage has launched an ‘hour of contemplation’ at its monasteries in a month-long trial this autumn, including Tynemouth Priory, Brinkburn Priory and Lindisfarne Priory.
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, enabling them to experience these spiritual buildings as they were intended.
Actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry, a tireless campaigner and advocate for mental health, has worked with English Heritage to record an audio introduction to the ‘hour of contemplation’.
The recording, available from the English Heritage website, invites visitors to seek peace and inspiration at the monasteries in the charity’s care this autumn and includes an evocative reading from Saint Aelred, 12th century abbot of the magnificent Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire.
Dr Michael Carter, senior properties historian at English Heritage, explains, “For those who lived there, these monastic buildings offered an opportunity to live the heavenly life here on earth, and discover a spiritual inner peace.
"Throughout the centuries, people have turned to the monasteries now in the care of English Heritage as havens of contemplation and places of spiritual and physical renewal.
"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.
“In a modern world, where people are constantly rushing and expected to be at the end of a phone 24/7, we often find silence disconcerting. It’s important sometimes to take a step back, centre yourself and focus on appreciating the peace and tranquillity that is unique to these historic buildings – monuments to the human spirit and the divine, our ongoing quest for inner peace and fulfilment.”
The hour of contemplation will take place during the final hour of opening, the exact time of which will vary by site. To find out opening hours for a particular monastic property, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/plan-your-visit/.