Accepted paper:

Reimagining monastic utopia through a new gaze: what is it and what does it mean to visit a Catholic monastery today?


Anna Clot Garrell (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

Monasticism is experiencing an unexpected popularity in the Western world. According to this evidence, the paper explores the vitality of a feminine Benedictine Monastery’s guest quarters by looking at the heterogeneous visitors and the creatively ways they relate to monastic heritage.

Paper long abstract:

Although traditional modes of belonging and participating in traditional religious institutions have declined in contemporary societies, monasteries show an unexpected popularity. Some works have underlined how parallel to vocations’ decline, monasticism is experiencing a period of innovation and experimentation in the Western world (Jonveaux et al., 2014). The attraction and the wish to visit Catholic monasteries has increased (Groot et al., 2014) and, despite traditional hospitality, monastic communities have had to redefine the contact and relationship to the external world. This is the case of a feminine Catholic Benedictine monastery in Catalonia, which has seen how beyond the traditional Catholic visitors, a wide range of people visit the monastery’s guest quarters. Holistic practices enter silently to the monastery, and converge in the guest quarters' spaces and church with the traditional monastic practices and rituals. On the basis of an ethnographic research in the guest quarters of this Benedictine monastery which represents an exception in the Catalan context due to its intergenerational community, the paper explores the following issues: who are these contemporary visitors? Why do they go to monastery? What do they do in the guest quarters? How do they perceive and relate to the Christian heritage that the monastery represents? By addressing these questions the paper shows how the monastery becomes a strategic context to study the complex transformations and intersections of contemporary religiosity in plural and post-parochial societies (Hervieu-Léger, 2011).

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