In 2004 I visited the Trappist monastery of La Oliva in Navarre, Northern Spain. With me on that trip was the book ´ Roads to Santiago; Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain´ , by Cees Nooteboom, which I was loosely using as a guide. Whilst standing in the courtyard looking up at the Romanesque 12th century church, which along with the cloisters and the surrounding gardens we, as visitors, were allowed to visit, a monk fleetingly appeared from a door that led to who knows where. As he disappeared again, I wanted to know where he went. And that was the simple initial reason for the research that I then began for this project.
La Oliva was the first monastery that I contacted to ask for permission to make photographs, and as time went by I approached convents too. Under the umbrella of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance each Trappist community is autonomous; the abbots and abbesses have absolute authority over what goes on in each of their own monasteries. Permission therefore came from each individual house.
All of them were extraordinarily welcoming and kind, generously allowing me into many, but by no means all, aspects of their life. Eventually after my first visits, criss-crossing Spain and spending time in a total of nine monasteries and convents, I felt that the project should be divided separately between them. The photographs of the life of Trappist monks is now complete. This is a small selection of photographs of the nuns of the order.