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Monday, September 21, 1998 Published at 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK


Monks get Internet habit

The Internet allows monks to communicate in silence

A monastery in Hampshire is offering a virtual tour of its church, crypt and gardens hoping to attract would-be recruits.

The little known St Michael's Abbey in Farnborough houses the mausoleum of French Emperor Napolean III and was founded by his wife Eugenie in the last century.

[ image: The French Gothic style church is now open to public scrutiny]
The French Gothic style church is now open to public scrutiny
Now visitors to its website are able to see the abbey and crypt and get a taste of the life of a Benedictine monk.

The 12 monks living there adhere to the Benedictine order's rules of quiet, eating meals in silence and rarely leaving the monastery.

Days are spent in prayer, work and the studying of scripture. The computer shared by the monks is surrounded by medieval manuscripts.

Virtual silence

The Internet, the monks believe, is an ideal way for them to communicate with the outside world without breaking their rules as it can be done in virtual silence.

The site though is not entirely quiet as when visitors arrive they can hear the monastery bell ringing and the rustling of virtual pages as one clicks on a virtual book to discover more about the little known order and their way of life.

[ image: Dom Cuthbert:
Dom Cuthbert: "We are leading the way"
The prior, The Very Rev Cuthbert Brogan said the aim of their website was to educate people in the ancient monastic tradition and to illustrate the attractions of their way of life to potential recruits.

"Our website is perfectly in keeping with everything we have always done," Dom Brogan said.

"The Benedictines who wrote medieval manuscripts were among the leaders of those involved with information and its dissemination.

"The Benedictine order keeps up to date with its communications. We are not following anyone, we are leading the way."

And an appeal on the site asks for would be monks to contact them.

"Young men interested in our way of life should write to the Novice Master, giving a brief account of themselves."

There are guided tours to visit the Monastery every Saturday with special appointments needed at other times.

Now with one click you can have a virtual tour at any time.

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