Monks of Le Barroux go live: Matins at dawn - it's iChants for early risers

French Benedictine abbey streams its daily round of Latin liturgy to a worldwide audience


First you hear muffled footsteps. Then a discreet cough. Moments later, the black-robed monks begin intoning the service that they are broadcasting to the world. In Latin. Forget the Singing Nun. The Benedictine monks of Le Barroux Abbey in the Vaucluse region of south-eastern France don't have a hit record but they do know about podcasts and streaming.

They have taken the unusual step of distributing their religious offices on the internet. The idea came from worshippers from outside the monastery, known as oblates, who wanted to feel connected to the abbey's spiritual life, says Abbot Dom Louis-Marie. "So we looked into broadcasting via the internet. We decided to do it because it didn't involve any extra work for us."

The monks began by podcasting the Prime, the second office of the day, then over the past year or so added others so that the list of services is almost complete. "We've not yet done a Mass, but that may come," said Dom Louis-Marie. "People began writing emails to thank us," he said. "They are so happy they can pray with us. They feel that they are at the abbey." How many of the faithful are downloading the offices? "We don't know exactly. Probably between 150 and 200. Obviously the fact that it's in Latin reduces the number," he said.

Benedictine monasteries in France were destroyed during the French revolution, and the abbey at Le Barroux was founded as recently as 1980. In 1970, a monk called Dom Gérard stopped his moped at the chapel of St Mary Magdalen to fulfil his vows. The next day, a young man showed up and asked to become a monk, but was turned away by Dom Gérard, who said there was no community to join. Eventually their little circle expanded until, with help from the Vatican, the monks purchased the land for the abbey in the hills near the Mont Ventoux. Now, 56 monks live at the abbey, in a building originally built for 40.

As they outgrew the original building, the community launched a new "foundation" or monastery, which now houses 11 monks. Its chapel, completed in 2006, is a former sheepfold. The new monastery, Sainte Marie de la Garde, "now needs to mature," says the abbot. "It's worse than giving birth." The order raised money from donations and by selling goods such as leather sandals and olive oil.

The abbey also welcomes people for spiritual retreats, during which they can attend the liturgical offices. In 2010, the monks invited film cameras inside for a documentary, Veilleurs dans la nuit (Night watchmen) which chronicles a typical day. The first of the religious offices that punctuate their days takes place at 3.30am.

The monks come from a diverse background. In the film, one young man describes himself as "a son of the May '68 revolution" and a former hippy, while another says that the monastery is like "a different planet" compared to his "youthful intoxication". They are shown working in the vineyards, baking bread and singing Gregorian chants in the church.

"Often people say to us, you serve no purpose. Why do you spend your time singing to God for five or six hours?" says a monk over images of hooded Benedictines. "But that's the best compliment anyone could pay us. It's true that there's no point … but we serve somebody, we serve God."

Listen at:

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map