The MONASTIC LIFE
The FOUR MONASTIC ORDERS of the WESTERN CHURCH
© Stanley Roseman and Ronald Davis - All Rights Reserved
Visual imagery and website content may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever.
''The pictures - splendid and telling all at once - form the stimulating vanguard
towards so original and deep a study of the monastic life.''
- ARA arte religioso actual, Madrid
ARA arte religioso actual, the respected art journal from Madrid, published an enthusiastic reportage entitled ''Stanley Roseman y la Vida Monastica.'' Praising Roseman's work, ARA states:
The portrait Dom Sylvester Mooney, Abbot Emeritus, entered the British Museum in 1996 with the artist's portrait drawing of Abbess Mary Imelda of the Trappist Abbey of Glencairn, Ireland, and a drawing of Paris Opéra star dancer Kader Belarbi from Roseman's extensive oeuvre of drawings on the dance at the Paris Opéra.
5. Frère Olivier in Prayer, 1998
Abbey of Solesmes, France
Chalks on paper, 50 x 35 cm
Private collection, France
7. Dom Sylvester Mooney,
1984, Douai Abbey, England
Chalks on paper, 50 x 35 cm
British Museum, London
6. Portrait of Padre Ramón
1998, Abbey of Silos, Spain
Chalks on paper, 50 x 35 cm
Private collection, Switzerland
''I am directed by the Trustees to convey to you this expression of their best thanks
for these most welcome additions to their collections.''
- Jean Rankine, Deputy Director
British Museum, London
The Deputy Director of the British Museum, Jean Rankine, acknowledging the acquisition of Roseman's drawings on behalf of the Trustees, writes in her cordial letter to the artist: ''At their last meeting the Trustees of the British Museum had before them a report of your gift to the Department of Prints and Drawings of three drawings by yourself: Mother Mary Imelda, Abbess of Glencairn, Ireland (1978); Dom Sylvester Mooney, Abbot Emeritus, Douai Abbey, Reading (1984); and Kader Belarbi, Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris, 'Petrouchka' (1994).
The Oldest Living Monk in the twentieth-century Western Church
Roseman was invited in 1984 to the Benedictine Abbey of Douai, in Upper Woolhampton, Reading, where he drew Abbot Emeritus Dom Sylvester Mooney, whose magnificent portrait, acquired by the British Museum, is presented below, (Fig. 7).
Although Dom Sylvester was advanced in years, the erudite, English abbot was lucid of mind and still a vital presence in the Community. He participated in the Divine Office in choir and took his meals with the monks in the refectory. Dom Sylvester spoke highly of Roseman's talents as a draughtsman and the artist's deep understanding of monastic life. In a gracious gesture, the Abbot Emeritus honored Roseman by seating the artist next to him at his table in the refectory.
One of the most revered churchmen in Great Britain, Dom Sylvester was Abbot of Douai for forty years: through the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the post war years, until his retirement in 1969. When Roseman drew Dom Sylvester, he was ninety-eight years old and the oldest living monk in the Western Church.
Dom Sylvester invited Roseman to draw him in his room, and over a number of memorable days, the artist drew several impressive portraits of the Abbot Emeritus.
"We collected the drawing of Fr Sylvester yesterday afternoon and are delighted with it.
I'd not seen the drawing before and was struck by its power. It is very hard to thank you adequately for such a noble gift which will be a treasured possession of the community
through succeeding generations."
- Dom Geoffrey Scott, OSB
Abbot of Douai (1998 - )
At the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, Castile
From Roseman's series of drawings at the Abbey of Silos is the impressive Portrait of Padre Ramón, (fig. 6).
In early November 1998, Abbot Clemente Serna González warmly welcomed Roseman and his colleague Ronald Davis to the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, in the Tabladillo Valley in Castile. The origin of the Benedictine monastery is traditionally dated from the seventh century. By the eleventh century, Silos had become an important spiritual center whose flourishing scriptorium produced some of the finest examples of Spanish illuminated manuscripts. Silos today is a member of the international Congregation of Solesmes.
Portraiture holds an important place in Roseman's oeuvre and accounts for a major part of his work in monasteries. Portrait of Padre Ramón is a striking composition with bold diagonals of black chalk in the rendering of the monk's hood and scapula. Painterly strokes of black, bistre, and white chalks on gray paper define the strong facial features of the Spanish Benedictine monk.
Roseman accompanied Frère Olivier to a chapel in the monastery where the monk meditated and prayed while the artist drew him. The artist writes in the text to accompany his work:
For the occasion of Dom Sylvester's 100th birthday on June 11, 1986, Roseman and Davis made a gift of a portrait drawing by the artist of the Abbot Emeritus to Douai Abbey. In letter of appreciation, Dom Geoffrey Scott, librarian and archivist, who was to be elected Abbot of Douai in 1998, writes "on behalf of Fr Sylvester, Fr Abbot and the Community:
Frère Olivier was introduced to Roseman by Dom Jean Prou, the revered Abbot of Solesmes, who was greatly encouraging to the artist in his work from his first sojourn at Solesmes in 1979, kept in correspondence with Roseman and Davis over the years, and graciously welcomed them back on returns to the monastery.
The portrait Frère Olivier in Prayer is drawn with a sculptural application of the chalks and fine modeling of the monk's face, with head turned upwards and eyes closed. Here, Roseman effectively conveys the fervor of the young man as he prepares to make a solemn commitment to the monastic life.
Here, the artist has created a work expressing a deep interiority in this portrait of a man dedicating his life to contemplation and prayer.
With a painterly use of the chalks on gray paper, the artist complements warm and cool tones and shimmering white highlights in depicting the expressive face of the elderly abbot. Several strokes of black chalk define the monk's black scapula with its hood lowered. Roseman has masterly rendered the head and shoulders portrait with an immediacy of lively expression as Dom Sylvester looks directly out at the viewer.
The eminent Abbot of Silos, greatly encouraging of Roseman's work, had introduced the artist to members of the Community, including Padre Ramón, an amiable man in his early forties with whom the artist shared an interest in Romanesque architecture as well as in books. The monk thoughtfully showed the artist a number of rare volumes in the library and spoke about the history of Silos.
Page 2 - Benedictines
On the bottom of this page are links to the other pages on the Monastic Orders.
Roseman's work brought him to the Abbey of Fleury in the spring of 1979. The Benedictine abbey was founded in the mid-seventh century along the banks of the Loire. By the ninth century, Fleury was an important spiritual center and place of pilgrimage as the monastery had come to possess the relics of St. Benedict, safeguarded today in the crypt of the Romanesque church. Drawings from Fleury and a photograph of the columns of the tower porch of the abbey church are presented on the website page "Ora et Labora, Prayer and Work."
3. The splendid eleventh-century cloister of the
Benedictine Abbey of Silos, Spain, is exemplary
of the Romanesque style of architecture.
Two Monks Bowing in Prayer, 1979
Abbaye de Solesmes, France
Chalks on paper, 35 x 50 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Stanley Roseman began his work on the monastic life in spring of 1978 in a Benedictine monastery, St. Augustine's Abbey, on the coast of Kent, as related on the website page "From the Artist's Memoirs." The historic breadth and geographic scope of the artist's work encompass Benedictine monasteries throughout the British Isles and Continental Europe, including the Abbey of Subiaco, founded in the Latium region of central Italy in the sixth century by Benedict of Nursia (c.480-547), after whom the Order of St. Benedict, also known as the Benedictine Order, derives its name. The Rule of St. Benedict, a document that gives spiritual counsel and regulations for communal life in a monastery, is the basis of monastic observance in the Western Church.
2. Abbot Egidio Gavazzi, 1978
Abbey of Subiaco, Italy
Chalks on paper, 48 x 33 cm
The website page "The Monastic Life," Page 5 - "South to Italy and the Abbey of Subiaco" provides information on the Rule of St. Benedict and relates Roseman's sojourn at Subiaco.
The invitation to Roseman to draw at the Abbey of Subiaco in December 1978 was of great historic significance in bringing to a close the artist's first year of his work on the monastic life. Moreover, the revered Abbot Don Egidio Gavazzi, who had been a Councillor Father at the Second Vatican Council, invited the artist to draw him in his cell. As Roseman recounts:
"Sharing a private time with the Abbot of Subiaco and his giving me the opportunity to draw him in the intimacy of his cell was for me an enriching experience. I am deeply grateful to him, for drawing Abbot Egidio Gavazzi gives my oeuvre on the monastic life a spiritual lineage directly back to St. Benedict, the first Abbot of Subiaco and the Father of Western monasticism.''
Roseman further recounts:
4. Brother Ole
kneeling in Prayer, 1997
St. Adelbert Abbey, The Netherlands
Chalks on paper, 50 x 35 cm
Collection St. Adelbert Abbey
Benedictine monks and nuns who are the subjects of Roseman's artwork include abbots and abbesses, priors and prioresses, and those assigned administrative positions of guestmaster, novice master, bursar, and cellarer. Roseman drew monks who were teachers in monastery schools as teaching is a centuries-old Benedictine tradition. The artist drew sacristans, librarians, archivists, organists, choirmasters, bookbinders, tailors, gardeners, and cooks.
''This is, as far as I know, the first time any artist of note has undertaken such a project.
Roseman's work has greatly impressed those of us in the monastic world
who have been fortunate enough to see it. His pictures are technically of the highest quality,
and he has succeeded in a remarkable way in conveying the spiritual dimension of his subjects.''
- Dom Victor Dammertz, OSB
Abbot Primate of the Order of St. Benedict (1977-1992)
The Benedictines portrayed in Roseman's work range in age from senior members of a community to young novices and those having taken their first vows in making a first committment to a contemplative life of prayer, work, and study. Frère Olivier at the Abbey of Solesmes was preparing to take his final vows when in March 1998 Roseman drew the superb portrait of the young Frenchman in prayer, presented here, (fig. 5).
With a painterly use of the chalks and chiaroscuro modeling of light and shade, Roseman has beautifully rendered the face of Don Egidio and conveys a spiritual intensity in this deeply felt portrait of the Abbot of Subiaco.
Roseman drew the Benedictine monks at the Abbey of Silos, in the ancient province of Castile, in northern Spain. Silos preserves a splendid eleventh-century Romanesque cloister, an architectural style that spread throughout Europe with the building of monasteries during the High Middle Ages, (fig. 3). (See the drawing fig. 6 below and the page "Monastic Journey Continued,'' Page 6 - "Monasteries in Old Castile.")
In the Alps of Central Switzerland, Roseman drew at the Abbey of Engelberg, whose library houses an outstanding collection of illuminated manuscripts and incunabula, which are a testimony to book production, scholarship, and literary work associated with Benedictine monasticism. (See the sections on the Abbey of Solesmes and the Abbey of Engelberg on the website page "Ora et Labora, Prayer and Work.")
In the Department of the Sarthe, in western France, Roseman drew at the Abbey of Solesmes, renowned for the study and restoration of Gregorian chant, the reverential musical expression that had developed mainly within the context of monastic life in the early Benedictine centuries. Reproduced at the top of the page is the magnificent drawing Two Monks Bowing in Prayer, 1979, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (See also from the Abbey of Solesmes fig. 5 below.)
8. Benedictine Nun
Bowing in Prayer, 1982
Vor Frue Kloster, Denmark
Chalks on paper, 50 x 35 cm
Collection Vor Frue Kloster
At the Benedictine convent of Vor Frue Kloster, in Birkerod, Denmark, in the summer of 1982, the Prioress Margarita Schmidt and the Community graciously welcomed Roseman and Davis.
Following their sojourn and in appreciation for the invitation for Roseman to draw at Vor Frue Kloster, the artist and his colleague presented the monastery with the drawing of a nun bowing in prayer as she recites the Gloria Patri at the Divine Office. Presented here, (fig. 10), is the beautiful drawing rendered in a harmony of expressive lines and transparent tones of black and bistre chalks on gray paper.
Roseman asked the Prioress if, at a later time, she could please have a slide taken of the drawing for the artist's archives. In a cordial letter, Mother Margarita writes to Roseman, "Thank you for your visit" and thoughtfully adds, "you and Ronald are welcome back." Enclosing a slide of the drawing, the Prioress writes:
"Surely you are looking forward to have your wonderful 'Bowing Nun.' I hope it (the slide) is as you have expected.
"We still remember your nice visit. Really you have opened for us an aspect of our monastic life that can only be given in a drawing having something of life in it, which cannot be explained in words, - a life that God gives.
- Prioress Margarita Schmidt, OSB
Vor Frue Kloster, Denmark
Monks and nuns of the Roman Catholic faith account for the greater number of those following a monastic life in the Western Church. Roseman's interest in fostering ecumenicism, also brought the artist to communities of Anglican Benedictines in England and Lutheran Benedictines in Sweden. (See "Monastic Journey Continued," Page 4 - "Returning to England" and Page 6 - "Travels to Sweden and Denmark.")
"The Abbot opened his breviary and read and prayed in silence, and I took up my paper and chalks and began drawing. . . ."
"In monasteries today, a monk or nun makes first, or simple vows, and after three to six years, makes a reaffirmation with final vows in a solemn ceremony in the church. Chapter 58 in the Rule of St. Benedict specifies three vows: 'stability,' the vow that binds a monk or nun to a specific monastic community and is unique to the monastic orders; 'reformation of one's life,' that is, embracing the monastic ideal; and 'obedience,' to the Rule and to the superior in obedience to God."
8. Sister Paola at Vespers, 1998
Casa Emmaus, Italy
Chalks on paper, 50 x 35 cm
Collection of the artist
The website page "Monastic Journey Continued," Page 7 - "Convents in Piedmont and Tuscany" presents a selection of Roseman's drawings of the Camaldolese nuns of Casa Emmaus.
The nuns of Emmaus, Casa di Preghiera (House of Prayer), in Tuscany, are members of the Camaldolese Congregation of the Order of St. Benedict, which evolved from the ascetic ideals of the eleventh-century reformer St. Romuald, who founded the Hermitage and Monastery of Camaldoli in the Tuscan-Romagna range of the Apennines. As related on the previous website page, Roseman began the second year of his work on the monastic life at Camaldoli in January of 1979, and he and Davis returned to Camaldoli in the summer of 1998. That summer, the Prioress of Casa Emmaus, Mother Domenica, invited the artist and his colleague to sojourn at the convent so that Roseman would have the opportunity to include Camaldolese nuns in his work.
With his drawing book and chalks, Roseman attended the Divine Office with the Community in the chapel, a stone building dating from the eleventh century and situated next to the main house of the monastery. In the chapel, Roseman created a series of impressive drawings of the five nuns of Casa Emmaus as they prayed and chanted the Psalms. Psalmody, the singing or chanting of the Psalms, is the foundation of the Divine Office, the daily round of prayer that is central to the monastic life.
At Casa Emmaus, Roseman and Davis were given accommodations in the guesthouse, a modest but comfortable two-storied, stone dwelling with a nicely furnished living room and modern kitchen on the ground floor. The two Americans were the sole guests that week in early September. On behalf of the Community, Sister Paola thoughtfully brought her two guests fresh fruit and vegetables from the monastery garden, which she cultivated.
On the day before Roseman and Davis departed the monastery, Mother Domenica cordially invited them to join the Community in the refectory at noon for dinner. Sister Francesca, who cooked for the Community, prepared a delicious meal in the wonderful Italian tradition. In appreciation to the nuns for their gracious hospitality, the artist and his colleague presented the Community with a beautiful portrait drawing of the Prioress, Mother Domenica, whom Roseman had drawn in meditation and prayer in the chapel.
Sr. Maria Domenica, Sr. Patricia, Sr. Graziana,
Sr. Paola, Sr. M. Francesca
9. Postcard from the Camaldolese nuns
of Casa Emmaus, Tuscany,
to Stanley Roseman and Ronald Davis, 1999.
On the front of the postcard is a photograph
of the loggia with Romanesque arches.
"Emmaus'' Casa di Preghiera
We all thank you for your wishes for the Easter
and for your precious friendship.
We are near to you and always remember you in our prayers.
Roseman and Davis kept in correspondence with the nuns, who responded in kind, as with the thoughtful card shown here, (fig. 9).
On a return to the Netherlands, in 1984, Roseman and Davis were invited to St. Lioba Klooster, a community of Benedictine nuns in Egmond-Binnen, near the coast of North Holland. Drawings from St. Lioba Klooster, as well as drawings of monks from the Benedictine Abbey of St. Adelbert and the Trappist Abbey of Sion are presented on the page "Monastic Journey Continued," Page 2 - "Returning to the Netherlands."
St. Benedict's sister St. Scholastica, a pious woman regarded as the first Benedictine nun, believed strongly in the power of prayer, as related by Pope Gregory the Great in his Dialogues, Book II, an account of the life of St. Benedict. From the early Benedictine centuries, women religious occupied an important place both spiritually and intellectually in monastic life. Today, Benedictine nuns continue to be a vital presence in the centuries-old contemplative tradition in the Church.
Sister Paola at Vespers, (fig. 8), is exemplary of Roseman's masterly use of the medium of chalk. Here the artist combines black, white, and bistre chalks on gray paper. The chiaroscuro rendering of cool highlights and warm shading on the face of the nun, seen in three-quarter profile, is complemented by fluent strokes of black chalk describing the veil and habit and giving the work a lyrical quality.
In this superb drawing, Roseman conveys a sensitivity and inner calm of a middle-aged woman who has devoted herself to the contemplative life. A peaceful countenance illuminates the face of the Benedictine nun, her head inclined, and her eyes lowered as she prays.
The Bibliothèque Nationale de France in a biographical essay on Roseman commends the artist for his "great talents as a draughstman" and praises his work in monasteries as "profoundly expressive of the individual and the interior life.''
Brother Ole, the gardener at St. Adelbert Abbey, near the coast of North Holland, is seen here in choir in the powerfully expressive drawing Brother Ole kneeling in Prayer, (fig. 4). The Benedictine monk, born and raised in Norway, where he worked on his family's farm, came to the Dutch abbey to follow a contemplative life.
In the present drawing, employing the compositional element of the triangle, with its Christian symbolism, Roseman's broad, vigorous strokes of black chalk describe the monk's scapula and hood in contrast to nuanced lines that define the tunic. Blended passages of black and bistre chalks and reserved areas of the gray paper give tone and sheen to the monk's black Benedictine habit. The face of Brother Ole, in profile, is finely rendered with the addition of white chalk to the black and bistre chalks, complementing cool highlights and warm shading and adding texture to the monk's closely cropped beard.
''No one, I believe, in 1,500 years of Christian monachism has catalogued, defined
and described so clearly or so beautifully the business of the monastic life.
No writer, no sculptor, no painter, no architect has refined a distillation so pure,
so accurate, so breathtakingly clear as Roseman has done.''
The drawing of Brother Ole, who kneels in a gesture of supplication, head inclined and eyes cast downward, conveys a strong impression of a monk absorbed in prayer. This eloquent drawing is exemplary of Roseman's extensive and comprehensive oeuvre on the contemplative life.
"With my best wishes, Yours sincerely,"
In the 15th Centenary Year of the Birth of St. Benedict
In the year 1980 that commemorated the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Benedict, The Times, London, published a laudatory review of Stanley Roseman's work on the monastic life.
The drawing Two Monks Bowing in Prayer, Abbey of Solesmes, in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and presented at the top of the page, was featured in the review in The Times. The review also presents Abbot Egidio Gavazzi, Abbey of Subiaco, (fig. 2, above); and Brother Alberto, the Cook, a drawing that depicts the monk at work in the kitchen at the Cistercian Abbey of Poblet, in Spain, in the summer of 1979. (See the website page "Ora et Labora, Prayer and Work.")
1. J.-M. Berland, Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, (Paris: Nouvelle Editions Latines), pp. 6-7.
2. Throughout the website are quotes from a text Roseman wrote on monastic life and his work in monasteries to accompany his paintings and
drawings. The Oxford scholar and Benedictine monk Dom Bernard Green kindly read a draft of Roseman's manuscript and wrote in a gracious
letter to the artist: "You portray the background and the aims of life in monasteries so well, showing such a deep understanding of the monastic life.''
3. The Rule of St. Benedict and explanations on the text in Households of God, translated by Abbot David Parry, O.S.B., (London: Darton, Longman
&Todd, 1980), pp. 158, 159.
4. Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris - Drawings on the Dance at the Paris Opéra, (text in French and English), (Paris:
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1996), p.10.
5. See entry on St. Scholastica in The Book of Saints, edited by the Benedictine monks of St. Augustine's Abbey, (London: Cassell, 1989), p.499;
Pope Gregory the Great, Dialogues, Book Two (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press) pp. 67-70.