Quiet monks log abbey into 21st century

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 1998, 12:00am

A little-known monastery in England which houses a contemplative order of Benedictine monks has leapt from the 13th century into the 21st with a site on the Internet.

St Michael's in Farnborough, Hampshire, home to the mausoleum of Napoleon III and his son, has already had inquiries from one would-be monk.

People who visit the site can hear the monastery bell sounding the start of compline and the crackle of vellum as they turn the pages of a virtual book.

They can see the French Flamboyant Gothic-style church and the crypt's Romanesque architecture. A 3-D page lets them visit the surrounding gardens.

The 12 monks at St Michael's adhere to the Benedictine rule of quiet, eat all meals in total silence and rarely leave the monastery. As they are linked to the French wing of the Benedictine order, they are little-known in England, and that is how they wanted to stay - until now.

The monks say the Internet is ideal for communicating with the outside world as it can be done in virtual silence. Already, e-mails fly between St Michael's, the Vatican and Benedictine communities.

'Access to the Internet is granted with discretion. At its best, the Web is superb. At its worst, it is diabolical,' said the Prior, the Very Reverend Cuthbert Brogan.

The Web site is at www. farnboroughabbey.org