So, I spent about a week in Bourgogne and the Lyonnais in eastern France, four days of which I spent in the small village of Taizé which is home to an ecumenical monastic fraternity which developed into a sort of hotspot for Christianity in Europe over the last decades. Taizé is best known for the hundreds of thousands of young people who make pilgrimage there every year and the Taizé prayer songs.
Capturing the spirit of Taizé is very hard and photos can not really do the place justice. I’ve decided to try it anyway in my style: I’ve chosen to take black and white photos of places and people (as I’ve done in other travels before) but edit them to a warm colour scheme to reflect the warmth and openness of Taizé.
A typical day in Taizé is structured by three prayers, in the morning, before lunch and in the evening – and the church and prayers are central to Taizé. It is deeply touching to see so many young people from different christian churches coming together and praying together.
Besides the three daily prayers, everyone who spends a week in Taizé will also be part of a bible study group. Every day, the bible study groups receive some input (thoughtful yet lighthearted) and inspiration for discussion from one of the brothers of the Taizé Community. This reflection on one’s own faith is a big part of the experience of Taizé. What makes it special is that Taizé doesn’t judge – because there are so many different people from different christian denominations, discussions in Taizé are more open than I’ve ever experienced elsewhere.
The community aspect of Taizé is also very strong: daily life is organised by all people who are there together, from cleaning over cooking to the choir. And all symbols of belonging to a certain group or nation are disencouraged: Taizé is supposed to be one big community of equals (up to 5000 at a time). When our group from Salzburg was there, Taizé was relatively empty: less than half of it’s capacity of pilgrims was there so it was relatively calm (which I enjoyed).
Speaking about calm: before I left, I read on one blog that Taizé feels like getting out of the rat race and competition of daily life for a moment and having time to step back and rethink the purpose of life. This might be one of the best descriptions of the spirit of Taizé. Everything in Taizé is simple (to a point that brought me to the limits of my own comfort zone – but he, it was cleaner than I expected. 😉 ) but in a good way that helps to retune that inner compass.