Notebook

Limpid Freshness

When Patrick Leigh Fermor visited the abbey of Saint Wandrille in the mid-50s, he was, after an initial spell of restlessness, overcome by a need for sleep ‘so profound that I might have been under the influence of some hypnotic drug’. Then, after some days, a transformation began. Weariness gave way to limpid freshness. How come? ‘The explanation’, he wrote, ‘is simple enough: the desire for talk, movement and nervous expression that I had transported from Paris found, in this silent place, no response or foil, evoked no single echo; after miserably gesticulating for a while in a vacuum, it languished and finally died for lack of any stimulus or nourishment. Then the tremendous accumulation of tiredness, which must be the common property of all our contemporaries, broke loose and swamped everything.’

Since the year of grace 649 the monastic life has been lived in this place, providing rest for the weary, silence for the talked-out, hope for the hopeless.