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Green Things

Introduction: The Ethos of Benedictine Life at Costock

Download the Wildlife Walks Leaflet (with map of the grounds)

Green ActionImplications of Monastic Life for the Ecology & Wildlife at Holy Cross

Benedictine life is one of prayer and praise to God while taking care of the land and living in harmony with the natural world. This requires a degree of solitude in the situation of the monastic house and space for the Sisters to live in an environment of quiet prayerfulness. There is need too for visitors and guests, who come for spiritual refreshment and renewal, to be able to enjoy the space and tranquillity of the countryside surrounding the monastery while also benefiting from the fruits of the Sisters’ contemplative life.

Through the 1,500 years of their history, as well as being scholars, Benedictines have contributed to the ideals of sustainability and self sufficiency by growing their own food and by careful management of the land and its resources.

The Holy Rule of St Benedict

Chapter 66:

‘If it can be done, the monastery should be so established that all the necessary things, such as water, mill, garden and various workshops, may be within the enclosure’.

The Holy Rule of St Benedict teaches care for material things. This applies equally to pots, pans, spades and tractors as well as the holy vessels of the altar. All things are treated with reverence as being part of God’s creation.

Chapter 31:

‘Let him regard all the utensils of the monastery and its whole property as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar’.

Chapter 33:

‘For the care of the monastery’s property in tools, clothing and other articles let the Abbot appoint brothers on whose manner of life and character he can rely; and let him, as he shall judge to be expedient, consign the various articles to them, to be looked after’.

The Design and Setting of the New Convent

The Convent is ideally placed, in the countryside but not too far from a village, a third of a mile off the main road down its own track. The 26 acres of land is such that it can be managed simply in order to maintain and enhance the wildlife and biodiversity. This in itself will create the tranquillity appropriate to the Sisters’ way of life.

The Convent itself has been designed with the three remaining farm buildings at its heart. It follows the traditional monastic pattern of a quadrangle around a Cloister Garth. This echoes the Benedictine Abbeys and Priories of the early foundations in the more isolated areas of historic England. A monastic historian comments in a recent book:
‘Most Abbeys in the early days would have resembled an anonymous but prosperous collection of farm buildings’.
The Architect worked very closely with the Sisters at all stages and the design of the building ensures low running and maintenance costs, using suitable green energy systems and materials wherever possible, thus fulfilling the Benedictine ideal of care of all things. Such things as solar panels boost the hot water system and super insulation ensures maximum heat conservation.

Every stage of construction has been either carried out or overseen by a local building company, expert in the conversion and conservation of old buildings. They have used their own or other local craftsmen on such things as the stone work and roof trusses, window frames and doors for chapel, and for the reclaimed brick laying needed to repair the farm buildings and St Benedict’s House. Our own men are using the stone sets from the cattle sheds to pave the Sisters’ garden.

A New Kitchen Garden has been created containing raised beds for ease of use. These are on a 3 year crop rotation. A poly tunnel provides a suitable environment for salads. There is also an existing 100 year old Orchard and a small orchard in the garden of St Benedict’s House. Thus fresh fruit and vegetables and salads are the mainstay of the menu throughout the year.

The Holy Rule of St Benedict Chapter 39:

We think it sufficient . . . that every table have two cooked dishes . . . so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one may make his meal of the other . . . and if any fruit or fresh vegetables are available, let a third dish be added.

St Benedict’s House, the old Dower House of Bunny Hall and previously the farmhouse, is a building of great character and interest. It has been very rewarding to see its restoration and repair and for it to become the main focus of our ministry of hospitality to those that come to us for spiritual refreshment.

Chapter 53:

Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ,
for He is going to say,
“I came as a guest, and you received Me” (Matt. 25:35).
And to all let due honour be shown, especially to those of the household of the faith and to pilgrims’.

© The Community of the Holy Cross