Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Cistercian Europe: Architecture of Contemplation

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Cistercian Europe: Architecture of Contemplation

Article excerpt

Cistercian Europe: Architecture of Contemplation. By Tertyl N. Kinder. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans; Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 2002. 407pp. $ 70.00 (cloth).

Thirty-five years ago I stumbled by accident on the Cistercian Abbey of Senanque, in Provence, hidden in a deep valley and surrounded by lavender fields. I have never fully recovered. If you should want to know how such houses of prayer came to be built, looking as they did, and located where they were, Terryl Kinder's book will tell you, and delight you in the process. The beauty of these Cistercian holy places "leaps out at us and sweeps us away. . . . It is difficult to catch a first glimpse without being moved" (p. 26).

The Cistercian Order specialized in self-effacement, withdrawing from privileged positions to secluded valleys, embracing silence and austerity, dignifying manual labor, reducing everything to basic essentials, and expressing the whole in a new architecture which, with a minimal palette of colors, eschewed the visual verbosity of the day to celebrate a radical simplicity of line and form, with stunning effect. Founded in 1098, by the end of the thirteenth century it had 500 Houses spread throughout Europe.

If all this sounds unlikely or uninteresting, Kinder's book will make a convert of you. Kinder, a world authority on Cistercian studies, has produced a book that is, above all, simply beautiful, and thereby proclaims its subject not just in word hut also in deed. It is not, however, merely a coffee-table book full of breathtaking photographs, but a comprehensive guide to every aspect of the early development of Cistercian life. …

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