Slowing down

August 16, 2010

This post is my contribution to  the new photography  challenge assigned by Scott Thomas,; its theme is related  to Travel Photography. On the following link you will find  the necessary information if you want to join us. Everyone is welcome ! Photos are to be posted until September 8, 2010.

For me, Hauterive is not  a faraway place to travel to, 15kms at the most from my home near Fribourg, Switzerland (South of Berne). More than a travel in the usual sense of the word, I would call it an “inner journey”. As soon as you leave the main road leading to the Abbey of Hauterive, you enter a small domain where peace, silence and nature help you slowing down. You don´t even realize it but the way you walk down the path leading to the Abbey is definitely more slow.

I did not meet many people as I strolled under the forest archway. It was a weekday; on Sundays the monastery welcomes many visitors coming to the 10am mass celebrated by the Cistercian monks  in the Abbey founded in 1138.The community of Hauterive is a haven of peace. Whenever I  need some quietness or just a little time for myself , I love to go and sit in the garden in front of the Abbey. Parts of this garden are closed to the public and reserved to the monks. Pilgrims on their long way to St- Jacques de Compostelle in Spain may stop there for the night.Between light and shade, some benches welcome people who come there for a pause in their day. Some – for their own particular reasons at a period of their life – can stay for a longer time at the Abbey and live with the monks according to their rhythm and spirit.  I cannot speak for them but personally I always feel a great inner peace as I stay there, outside or inside the church, also when walking along the river.

This is a view of the Abbey (at the back) and the farm (in front). The monks´s monastic life is essential  (“ora et labora” – pray, work and also fraternal life). The monks also cultivate a certain form of relationship with the exterior world.  Over the centuries they have valorised agricultural land  so  that they can sell their various products which bring the necessary revenues for their subsistence.Silence is appreciated in the areas where the monks are praying, meditating.

Hauterive Abbey (which means “high banks”) is located near a river, the Sarine. It flows quietly; people like to come and spend the day at the edge of the water.  I saw fishermen trying to catch  trouts. Cistercian monasteries  were often built near a river in rather secluded areas. Maybe they used rivers as a way of transportation for their goods to be sold in the towns nearby ? It was often done so in the Middle Age when roads were  unsafe.

To reach the Abbey you can either walk down a peaceful forest path or use  those  old wooden stairs. They have been restored of course and if they could talk, they would tell of all the people and the countless  steps up and down over the centuries. The walls are original with an occasional patch of new cement and paint here and there. No  straight lines for them but slight curves,  a sort of imbalance as if they carried the weight of time and events.Let´s  enter the Abbey itself through the  main porch decorated by a fresco.  I visited Hauterive several times over the years; for this photo assignement I came on a sunny morning which soon turned out to be a rainy one. The colours would have normally been much brighter.

I never took any pictures inside the Abbey but the monk I asked about it said it was all right. Those  are the stained glass windows on the South side of the church, their bright colours subdued under the cloudy sky.  The “rosace” (rose window) is very striking.

Rose windows are particularly characteristic of Gothic architecture and may be seen in all the major Gothic Cathedrals of Northern France. Their origins are much earlier and rose windows may be seen in various forms throughout the Medieval period (Wikipedia).

There were very few people inside the Abbey. I sat for while on the chair on the left. On Sundays and special  celebrations the nave and the lateral aisles are all taken up. The monks are reunited behind the choir-screen for the celebration. Their Gregorian chant fills the  Abbey. Moments of spirituality and sharing. I feel like saying a sharing beyond all religions,  a sheer spirituality that the site inspires and transcends.  The monks´chant is bringing life to the ancient walls.Leaving the Abbey by the quiet forest path, I was surprised by a bird flying right in front of me ! I still don´t know how I managed to take a picture. But here it is, a graceful bird dashing to the purple flower bush. A lovely ending of my travel with you.  I hope you enjoyed this quiet journey near Fribourg, Switzerland. Thanks to Scott for another interesting photography challenge.

For more information on the Abbey of Hauterive, here is a link to its  site. An English translation is available too.


30 Responses to “Slowing down”

  1. tracyhsays said

    This was a very peaceful read, and so informative. The photo journey was beautiful…Thank You 🙂

  2. What a beautiful place! Really makes me miss Europe. LOVE the first photo.

  3. giiid said

    Thank you for a nice trip to Hauterive, and for a peaceful post once again. It looks like a place worth visiting, to enjoy the silence. I love the sign, what a nice idea, I could use such signs here.
    Walking around at a place from 1138 would certainly feed my imagination with pictures and histories about the people who have been using the place since then, and make me an interesting contrast to our time.

    • I am glad you enjoyed this peaceful journey of mine and thought you might well let your imagination travel back to the medieval age and further… Such a contrast in life stories indeed and yet some people nowadays seem to like this type of “retreat” and spiritual atmosphere.

  4. truels said

    That was a nice travel to a nice place! I really like your idea about travel in this post – slowing down and finding a peaceful place in your area. Opposite the travel many of us do in holiday: Rushing to a place far away for a week or two….

    • Thanks truels for stopping by and commenting. I suppose that every travel has its own beautiful and peaceful places; I am sure you are one who knows how to appreciate it all as long as there is peace in your heart. Crête must be so special to visit !

  5. This was a delight to see and read. You took us on a wonderful photo journey and I loved your description of the surroundings and especially the monks chanting. I felt it no surprise and in fact a synchronicity that you caught that bird in the very next photo. Lovely!

    • Nice to read you, Tammy and to know you liked my journey… just around the corner. I smiled at your comment about the synchronicity of the bird photography. Indeed, it was a lovely ending of my visit in Hauterive.

  6. Kathy said

    What a lovely inner and outer journey, Isa. You can feel the peace pulsating between your words. The space of silence and divinity between your words and pictures. My heartbeat slowed reading this. Thank you for taking us with you on this sacred quest.

    • Kathy, I am really happy if my words and images could give you this feeling of peace that I felt myself as I walked around and in this ancient abbey.
      Thank you very much for your visit and thoughts.

  7. Carsten said

    Thanks for taking us on this tour.
    I really enjoyed it and would like if I could go there and feel the history and the quiet atmosphere invading my mind.

    • Hello Carsten, history and quiet atmosphere would surely fill your mind as it did for me. Who knows ? maybe someday you will travel this way as I feel like visiting Scandinavia. The only country I have been to in your area is Finland. Thanks for your visits always.

  8. Love the abbey tucked away in the trees! Despite the cloudy light, I still think the stained glass windows look beautiful.

  9. yesbuts said

    So much to look at – great photographs.

    • What a compliment ! I visited your blog and am fascinated by the many portraits (faces) and the expressions you captured there! This is really something I have to learn to do. Great inspiration in both of your blogs.

  10. These photographs and your lyrical words call to my soul. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Karma said

    Very nice peaceful post! Religious or not, it is always good to take the time to slow down and give thanks for what is good in life.

  12. ancientcloth said

    How beautiful! I immediately thought of the book
    The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coehlo. The story of people on the road to Santiago de Compestela.
    Fabulous pictures. It was seems like you had a special pilgrimage. I sense the peace you must have felt.

    • Thank you Marie. This abbey is close to the ancient road that leads pilgrims to Compostelle and you can meet some of them now and then walking to Santiago, a scallop-shell hanging from their rucksack. Every time I go to Hauterive I feel at peace. I am glad you enjoyed the visit too 🙂

  13. Nye said

    This is such a beautiful place, I absolutely love the second photo, it looks so peaceful. Your essay is a nice read, I think I would like visiting this place also.

  14. I have often wondered what it would be like to live in a monastery; your photos make it sound so serene.

    • Joumana, the place itself is serene. If spiritual life is essential for the monks, their daily activities keep them busy although they have their particular times in the day dedicated to prayer, meditation. Thanks for your visit.

  15. […] takes us in the life of the monks who live in an abbey in Hauterive.  Her essay called Slowing Down shows us the beauty,  history and spiritually of a the place and how it relates to the community […]

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