Bonnevaux: In the Steps of the Present Past

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At Bonnevaux we have a cloister that runs along the front of the Abbaye. This cloister is the last remaining section of what was once four sections of cloister. Before the French Revolution, there were three further sections of building that formed a square with the cloister running along its inside walls. This last remaining section of cloister is quite precious, being a direct and physical link to the monastery that Bonnevaux once was – right back to the first half of the twelfth century.


It’s a short walk from the chapel to the cloister. After prayers and mediation (each morning, midday, and evening) I walk from the chapel and into the cloister, walking up it to breakfast, lunch, and supper. This is a deliberate act, walking mindfully into and through history.


All who walk this cloister walk in the way of our fellow contemplatives and monastics, all those who, over the course of centuries, practiced their way and our legacy. It is wonderful to be in this space and hold them in the heart.


As physical beings, embodied spirits, we need spaces like this that help us make direct links into a still present past, links that live in our bodies, links that we can directly experience without having to think of them or imagine them.


The time is coming when this cloister too will be renewed, just as the building it sides has been. It will be good to see the cloister in its original glory, although it does feel like we will be losing something: the physicality of centuries past.


The cloister walk after prayers is a wonderful way to enter into the spirit of Bonnevaux. If you ever do it, do it gently and mindfully, being as present as you can to it as you do it. Leave thoughts behind, just look and be with whatever rises as you walk.



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