Taizé, a special place one does not forget any time soon

“‘Say, Elou, do you want to come to the monastery with me?’ My best friend’s question a few years ago was spontaneous. And so was my response. Without further reflection I said yes. It was one of the best decisions in my life at the time.”

This is how an experience from Elouise Rodriguez Garcia, called Elou, starts. She is 25 years old, lives in Dorsten in Germany and is a preschool teacher. Since her eighteenth birthday she has been going to the Taizé Community for a week every summer, a Christian ecumenical monastic order.

Taizé, a small village with strong appeal

Taizé is a small idyllic village in the south of Burgundy in France. The nearest larger city, Lyon, is a hundred kilometres to the south. In summer visitors are immersed in a dazzling world of colourful blooms. The world-famous monastery of the Taizé Community is located on a hill. A small road leads up to it. Roger Schutz founded this ecumenical monastic community here in the 1940s. His idea—a life in fellowship and at peace with God—still attracts many today, especially young adults.

Today the community is run by Brother Alois. He and his fellow brothers earn their livelihood solely through the products they make and sell. There is a small shop in which visitors can buy chains, CDs with the well-known songs from Taizé, works of art, scores, and similar things. To be able to live in Taizé for a while, visitors pay a contribution: for young adults from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, and Switzerland, for example, this amounts to between 7.50 euros and 10.50 per day.

Daily rituals

What impresses Elouise the most is the routine and the daily rituals. Every day begins with a common prayer in the morning, which is followed by breakfast. At ten o’clock there is a Bible reading, led by one of the brothers of the community. This is followed by a small group discussion of the Bible text. “What makes this place so exciting is that you meet so many interesting people from around the globe,” Elouise says. The noon prayer is followed by lunch. The afternoon is either spent in discussion groups or helping with the work in the community. Supper is at 7 p.m. and the day is closed in prayer at 8.30 p.m.

Meditation, discussion, and singing

Many of the youth then meet at Oyak, a small café in the middle of the village, where they sing and dance to the strains of a guitar or just talk—this is a meeting place for young people from many different countries. At 11.30 p.m. the lights are switched off. The so-called night guards make their rounds and ask everybody to go back to their barracks or tents. Only the Church of Reconciliation remains open. At almost any time of the day, you will find people worshipping and singing the soothing Taizé songs there.

Elouise says: “Taizé is so peaceful and so beautiful. The atmosphere is very special. There is time and space to find yourself, but also God.” According to Elouise, the point of such meditations is to clear your mind and let go of your worries. “Taizé is really a special place. A place you don’t forget any time soon.”

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Peter Johanning
Congregational life