Sandra and I went on holiday last week.
We stayed at the community of Taizé in the south of France. The community was founded 75 years ago by brother Roger. There are over a hundred brothers of Taizé, coming from various Catholic and Protestant backgrounds and different parts of the world.
One of the great things about Taizé is the open spirit that inhibits the place. People from all places and religions are invited to visit. They don’t look at the differences, but try to find a common ground. The brothers don’t act as spiritual or intellectual masters, but get into contact with others, listening and learning.
Life at Taizé is simple, but beautiful. You flow along with the pace of the monastery. Three prayer services a day, moments of rest, silence, prayer and meditation, some work, lectures and meeting others.
At the middle of the terrain we find the “Church or reconciliation”. Flowing along the side of the hill. The core is formed by a concrete building, made around 1960. Over the years it has been altered and enlarged. It’s made with whatever they had at hand. Wooden boards that were rejects at the saw mill now line the walls. Metal rolldown shutters alter the space to accommodate the number of visitors, almost like the sliding walls in the Rietveld-Schröder house. I love the architecture, because it’s very different from most modern ideas. It goes along with the landscape, instead of suppressing it. There is a natural, human quality to it. It’s not made to make you feel small, in awe of a ruling god, like some cathedrals do. Invites to welcome people in a beautiful environement, fitting like a nice warm jacket.
The brothers of the community accepts no gifts or other money. They live of the things they produce themselves. Pottery, art, books and music (the new album is made by Deutsche Grammophon). The pottery reminds somewhat of the Japanese ‘Raku’ stoneware. Humble and simple, but at the same time very beautiful and sophisticated. It makes you think about what we really need as humans. What do we value?
The goal is bringing people together, to encourage dialogue and understanding. The theme for 2012-2015 was “Towards a new solidarity”. It’s done in all languages known to man; words but also art and music. Last year an art project, ARTtogether started, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the community.
It’s hard to describe a week at Taizé. You just have to go there yourself. As you have seen in earlier blogs I have had some problems with religion in my life. A lot of Christian communities and have proven to be an insult to any form of intellect. But the community of Taizé is different, in a way that they don’t assume they know everything. They don’t claim they have a monopoly in the truth. The more you know, the more you realize that there is a lot you don’t know. Instead of suppressing this curiosity they encourage it. By promoting mutual understanding and dialogue between people. To learn from each other, and to see that differences enrich the world, making it more colorful.