In the beautiful landscape of Tautra Island in Nord-Trøndelag County, a spectacular building of religious dimensions is located. In 2006, the new Tautra Mariakloster opened, but the island’s long history dates back to 1207 AD when the original monastery was built. Today, visitors can experience the ancient abbey ruins and the new monastery which proves centuries of religious activity. Many people who come to Tautra are searching for peace and a deeper relationship with God.
At the present Mariakloster, seven nuns live in a monastic lifestyle according to the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the Cistercian constitutions. Their life is based on prayer, silence, solitude, community life, manual work and hospitality. The nuns at Tautra aim to earn a living through alms and the production of herbal soaps, skin creams and ointments. This work represents prayers for peace.
Cistercians are the only order in the Catholic Church where both monks and nuns follow the same constitution. Today, it consists of more than 2100 monks in 100 monasteries, and about 1,800 nuns in 70 monasteries. The nuns at Tautra are not allowed to communicate with visitors. Only the prioress and a press officer are permitted.
Recently, ThorNews visited Tautra Mariakloster where we got to participate in the prayer Sext, a ten-minute long sermon. The ceremony was marked by deep concentration and dedication to God where we could almost feel the spiritual connection with our hands.
Their prophecy say: Seven times a day I praise you. The nuns fulfill this through seven daily worship services: Lauds, prime, tierce, sext, none, vespers and compline.
Centuries of Religious Activity
The first monastery on Tautra was inaugurated on March 25th 1207 AD. It was a solemn celebration which today is called the Annunciation of the Lord. Cistercians devote their monasteries to the Virgin Mary and to the location, and therefore called the monastery Sancta Maria de Tuta Insula, the Monastery of Our Lady of the safe island.
About thirty monks lived in the original monastery. They cultivated the earth, and had extensive knowledge of fruit trees and herbs – which is the reason why you today can find exotic plants all around the island. Many monks also had their own breweries.
In the Medieval Ages, the number of Cistercians grew rapidly. The first monastery at Tautra was number 552 in their present 109 years history. In Norway, both Lyse Abbey in Bergen and Hovedøya in Oslo belonged to the Cistercian Order.
During the Reformation, monasticism was weakened, and in 1531, the Cistercian community at Tautra ceased. Six years later, the Abbey was sold to a local buyer.
The Modern Monastery
For many years, Tautra was without a monastery and monks, but in 1999, seven nuns from Mississippi Abbey arrived. The Catholic bishop of Trondheim, Georg Müller, had recently bought a plot of land on the island where the permanent monastery would be located.
In the beginning, the nuns had to build and furnish three small houses with essential rooms: Chapel, refectory (dining room), chapter room (meeting room where a chapter of Benedict’s Rule is read each morning) and scriptorium (reading room). There was no room for a scriptorium, so the nuns used their cells (bedroom) for spiritual reading.
In 2000, the nuns began to plan the future permanent monastery – a time-consuming process in which many considerations should be taken: How a monastery is run, what the Rule demands, why the rooms had to be built a certain way, what values had to be preserved through the architecture. Five years later, the construction began, and on July 10th 2006, the new monastery was handed to the nuns.
The monastery was designed by Jensen and Skodvin Arkitektkontor. It has won several awards, including Mies van de Rohe and MARMOMACC International Stone Award in Italy. The construction consists primarily of wood and slate from Otta, Oppland County.
The symmetrical wood patterns create a spectacular atmosphere inside the chapel. Large glass surfaces light up the chapel and the beautiful natural surroundings acts as an enormous art piece.
Manual Work is Salvation
The nuns at Tautra Mariakloster have brought knowledge and traditions from the United States, and produce a wide variety of herbal soaps, skin creams and ointments. They use the finest ingredients and plenty of oil to make healthy and all vegetable products.
To learn more, visit: Tautra Mariakloster Homepage
Text and photos by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Source: Tautra Mariakloster, Tautra Mariakloster Visitor Center.