White Monks: A Life in Shadows

A notice put up by the abbot at Monasterio de San Pedro de Cardeña :

A photographer, Francesca, at some time in the past obtained authorisation from Father Abbot
to continue the work in San Isidro that she had already begun in La Oliva and Cardeña.

It´s a question of taking photographs in black and white, on the life of the Cistercian monks,
in their surroundings and everyday life, with an artistic sensibility that will convey a message.

She doesn´t use lights. She assures us that she will move around with the maximum discretion,
so as not to disturb the life of the community.

22nd May 2009.


For over 1,700 years the Roman Catholic order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, otherwise known as the Trappists, have chosen a life of seclusion and private contemplation that is rarely
seen by others.

Made on black and white film and photographed over a period of three years, these photographs
offer an intimate glimpse into an ancient way of life that is slowly disappearing, a testament to
lives devoted to spiritual service, in extraordinary counterpoint to the modern world.


Photographs and Text



Handmade Book, White Monks: A Life in Shadows

Printed in a limited edition of fifty. With selected quotes by Henry David Thoreau, James Thurber, Robert Browning and others. In English and Spanish.

Held in the collections of the Herron Art Library at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and The University of Washington.




Sound design by Francesca Phillips
Listen here (9 mins, looped) :

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Silver gelatin prints by Robin Bell, London
Archival pigment prints by FotoArte, Las Palmas




A three and a half minute audio-visual piece on the enclosed monastic order of the Trappists.
A glimpse into an ancient way of life; of lives devoted to spiritual service.

Edited by Francesca Phillips
Music by Stephen Daltry