The Abbey Church

The architecture of the church reflects an interior reality. The church is the most obvious symbol of man's relation to the Divinity, symbolic and actual locus for prayer and celebration; and the external centrality of this building reflects the basic orientation of the life being led here.

Architecture reflects lifestyle. It also furthers a particular lifestyle, a fact realized centuries ago by monks. One modern scholar of architecture has noted that monks were actually among the first groups consciously to form their environment in order to further their chosen mode of life. Cistercians were especially gifted in this regard and were conscious of this function of art and architecture. Thus, it will prove helpful to the visitor interested in grasping the nature of the Cistercian mode of life to consider in some detail the particulars of this church.

Cistercian spirituality has always centered in the reality of divine love, a love that could, and would, lead the monk to his ultimate aim of the union of the soul with God. Contemplative prayer was the monk's task, and his physical environment (especially the monastery church) should further this task -- should be a workshop where meditation could proceed unhampered. The key to such an environment was simplicity. The architecture was to be clean, stripped of unnecessary distractions. One of the main functions of Cistercian art and architecture has always been to discourage emotional, irrational reactions and to encourage a sense of composure, necessary predisposition to contemplative prayer.

At its foundation, the Conyers' monastery was being formed precisely during the period of increasing recognition of the significance of the original Cistercian ideals as a workable basis for monastic life in the twentieth century. The construction of the church illustrates especially clearly that attitude basic to the whole development of the monastery of the Holy Spirit -- the willingness to adapt tradition to meet new circumstances. As it now exists, this church is a successful blend of tradition and modernity, crystallization of the on-going tradition that is the vital force in modern Cistercian life. ...MORE on the church.

For more read "The complete text" by Dewey Weiss Kramer, Copyright 1986.