Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ampleforth Abbey

Ampleforth Abbey is a Benedictine community nestled in the Yorkshire countryside. Founded in 1802, the community has a variety of activities that keep the monks busy. There is a college where the monks teach. The 2000 acres of land include an orchard from which they produce a variety of foods and drinks. A cider mill and a sports centre and a pub are also located on the grounds. A visitor's centre explains their history and activities. And of course the Abbey Church has daily Mass and the Divine Office chanted throughout the day.
Main building with Sarah, Lucy, and Prior

Our time there started with the Visitor Centre. We were greeted by one of the monks who gave us a brief overview. Then he told the children an exciting story and asked for their help. He needed to find a special code word that lets the monks go into the church in times of trouble. The letters to the code word are hidden around the centre, usually next to cute little mice. If we decoded the right word, we could take it over to the shop and get a special treat. Jacob and Lucy diligently searched for letters while the rest of us looked at the displays about life at the abbey.

Some important figures in the Abbey's history

Monk fashion

A typical day described

The centre also had plenty of other activities for the kids, including a display on calligraphy.

Calligraphy is easy with a stamp!

Jacob leaves his mark

The children slowly began to discover letters. The first three were P, R, and R. We wondered if the code word was "Prior" since he was with us. Soon A, Y, and E proved us wrong. With all the letters in hand, we put them together into the word "PRAYER." We took our little slips of paper to the monk who had to confirm that we had decoded it properly. He reached into the pocket of his robes and pulled out a Sonic Screwdriver, just like Doctor Who uses! (For those who care, I believe it was the Tenth Doctor's screwdriver, the blue one) He signed their sheets and sent us off to the main building where the shop is located.

Along the way we admired the grounds. Prior mooed at the cows. The cows mooed back!

Pleasant countryside

Loud cows

Back at the main building, we discovered the stairs up also had ramps, which makes it more accessible and more fun for the kids. They loved running up the ramps.

Hey, wait for me!

The main building houses the shop and the tea room. First we went to the shop to collect our goodies as well as make other purchases. The children turned in their sheets. The monk behind the desk asked what tool Brother so-and-so used to check their answers. Luckily, we adults were there and could prompt the children appropriately. They received their prizes--a couple of pencils. We also did some shopping and bought the recently published children's missal with the new Mass translation, a bottle of Damson gin (made at the Abbey), and a few bottles of the new Ampleforth Abbey Beer.


The beer is quite delightful, made in the Belgium Trappist style. It has a nutty, bready flavor that I really like. It is a double, meaning it's double fermented and thus 7% alcohol, which is high for a beer. The bottle is 330 ml, smaller than the typical 500 ml for local brews. I guess the higher alcohol content, the less volume they give you. That's fine with me. Here's the write up on the beer:
In 1608 a community of Benedictine monks fled England for the safety of France. Determined to make a living for themselves, they began brewing their native beer- 'la biere anglaise'. It was made with hops and barley, then double fermented for strength and a 'champagne-like' sparkle. In 1793, escaping the French Revolution, they fled back to England and eventually settled in at Ampleforth in 1802, and built the Abbey. And today the beer, to a similar recipe, is being brewed and poured again.
Then we had a delightful lunch at the tea shop. My wife and I ordered the tea time for two, which meant a pot of tea and a tower of food. I really should have taken a picture of it, because it was quite beautiful. The top plate had two scones with cream and jam. The middle plate had a variety of sandwiches. The bottom plate had chocolate cake and apple pie made from the Abbey's apples. It was scrumptious.

We headed out to see the church and hear the noon prayer, which will be described in the next post!

Lucy tries to get the monk's book on the way to the church

No comments:

Post a Comment