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Convent of St John in Müstair

Life in a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Life behind the monastery walls told by former prioress Sr. Domenica Dethomas.

The life in a convent

A convent life is a community life, a structured life, with a balanced mix of prayer, work and spiritual reading Since its foundation in the 8th century the convent of St. John has always been lived in. The Benedictine spirituality is clearly present. With his Rule St. Benedict laid the foundation for a religious order in which the brothers and sisters treat one another with respect an humility, provide mutual encouragement and support, look after the good of the community, and seek the way to God together as well as individually, responding to His call.

A life dedicated to God

If you ask the sisters in Müstair what made them choose to enter the convent, each of them will have a different story to tell - but all of them have the common desire to come closer to God. The way into the convent is, however, not accomplished in one step; it is something one grows into, a constant learning process. Benedict likens monastic life to "a school in the Lord's service" (RB, Prologue). He says himself that at the beginning the way of salvation cannot but be narrow: "But… we shall run the way of God's commandments with expanded hearts…" (RB, Prologue).

Today there are nine women whose daily lives are imbued with the Benedictine spirituality in the convent of St. John in Müstair. Since October 2019 the convent community is led by Sr. Aloisia Steiner. Her open and balanced way of leading radiates also beyond the convent walls.

A clearly structured daily life

Between morning prayer, Matins, at 5:30, and Compline, at 19:30, there are 14 hours of structured convent life: prayer, worship in the form of psalms and hymns, work, meditation, reading, meals, silence; day by day, year by year, over decades and over centuries. The daily life of the Benedictine nuns today is the same as 1500 years ago, when St. Benedict set down his Rule; it centres on faith, the search for and worship of God. A structured routine helps us in our daily life, providing an atmosphere of calm.

Don’t think, though, that time stands still in the convent and that modern life stops at the convent walls! On the contrary, computers and emails have found their way into the over 1200-year-old monastic enclosure. Appointments, meetings, discussions and worldly duties are just as much a part of the nuns’ daily life as the Liturgy of the Hours.

At first glance one might think that the convent’s close collaboration with non-religious institutions would disturb the peaceful daily rhythm of the nuns. But Benedictine spirituality does not merely rely on spiritual meditation out of touch with the real world – no, it is closely linked to the everyday life of the convent where today’s multimedia, global activity and our modern accelerated world also have their place.