Silent monks go fast forward into the modern world

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The Independent Online
The monks of Caldy, a tiny island two miles off the west Wales coast, are moving into the electronic age.

They're putting together a bid for Lottery cash to set up a video centre where at the press of a button the hundreds of summer visitors who make the 20-minute crossing from Tenby can see on screen life behind the monastery walls. Copies of the 20-minute video will also be on sale.

Brother Gildas, the monks' chief contact with the outside world, said yesterday: "We hear that many people have video machines and decided that this was the best way of explaining Caldy - better perhaps than pamphlets."

The 15 monks, aged between 45 and 80, are members of the Cistercian Order, a silent brotherhood where speech is restricted to essentials. They lead an austere existence, rising at 3am for the first of seven daily services, or Offices as they are properly called. They retire at 8pm. Some of the monks work on the monastery farm which provides much of their vegetarian diet, while others produce perfumes made from the wild flowers carpeting the island. Tours of the monastery are strictly for men only.