QUARR ABBEY VISITORS CENTRE
For many years now, the community has witnessed increasing numbers of visitors coming to the Abbey. And for just as long, we have desired, in some way, to communicate more of what monastic life is all about, and why Quarr Abbey is a living community and not a dead institution. The recently opened Visitors Centre seeks to satisfy that long felt desire.
What will the visitor see? On entering the principal exhibition space we find a large wall-mounted clock, a replica of the cloister clock which has told the time for the monks since 1914. As the hands turn they point out the various activities with which the community is involved at the time, whether in church, in the refectory, or in the cell. Monk and visitor alike are made aware of the passing time and the stages on our way to eternity.
The main part of the exhibition is made up of a series of large panels which, by word and image, tell the story of Quarr and its Abbey. In the centre of the room is a small area enclosed by panels. This chapel-like space refers the visitor to the heart of the monastic enterprise, to the person of Christ and to his call to the individual monk. St Benedict is also there, that Father of western monasticism whom the monks of Quarr follow even today, by seeking to live out his little rule for beginners in the monastic life.
Outside of this central space further panels present the nature of life in community and the various activities of the monastic day, whether singing Gregorian Chant, bookbinding or bee-keeping. And because the monks share their enclosure with creatures of many kinds, mention is made of the rich wildlife inhabiting the woods and fields roundabout, the birds and animals which together with the monks, praise God, in their own quite particular way.
Tucked away in one corner of the room is a small book, containing postcards showing the Abbey in its early days. We can see the Church rising from its foundations, the vegetable garden being laid out, and the first monk to die on the Island being laid to rest.
The stunning architecture of the Abbey has a panel all to itself with photographs showing some of the details which visitors are unlikely to spot by themselves. And for the children, though not just for the children, there is an opportunity to create a stained glass window on a light sheet interactive device.
The second room of the Visitors Centre is empty except for two benches and a large flat screen television. Here can be seen a short film introducing the history of Quarr and the daily life of the community. We can watch the monks at their daily round, rising to praise God in the Abbey Church, listening for his voice in the silence of their hearts, working with their hands to provide for their daily needs and welcoming guests and one another as Christ himself. You can view the film here.
The Visitors Centre is a small attempt to communicate the life of Quarr to the many people who come each year.