N. D. DU BEC, NORMANDY
down the old Route Rationale south-west of Rouen and after half an hour
or so turn right onto the D39. After a couple of kilometres, the road takes a
sudden rise, and you find yourself looking down upon the splendid 18th-c.
abbatial buildings (1742-50). Turn in through the gateway, and you may share
with the writer the feeling of coming home. Bee is just that sort of place.
The 15th-c. stone
bell-tower has some flint flushwork motifs that would not be out of place in
East Anglia, but the rest of the large abbey church shared the fate of Cluny. In
the Middle Ages, Bee was a powerhouse of learning, renowned through Europe.
Michael Ramsey regarded St Anselm, one of three monks from Bee to hold the
Revived in the 17th
century under the congregation of Saint-Maur, the Abbey fell victim to the
Revolution, becoming an army depot. The monastic life returned to Bee in 1948,
with the Benedictines of the congregation of Mont-Olivet, in their distinctive
white habits; a parallel community of nuns has their monastery in a modern
convent, right by where you turned off the main road. Active ecumenically, the
Abbey has offered a welcome to many Anglicans. A unity candle burns every
At his Inauguration
Mass, Pope Benedict XVI said, 'Let us do all we can to pursue the path toward
the unity.' We dare to go on praying the impossible dream: 'Ut
omnes unum sint.'
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