This is a record in pictures and words of contemporary monastic life in rural northern Virginia. On land bordered to the east by the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains, and to the north by West Virginia, the twenty-five monks of Holy Cross Abbey follow the sixth-century Rule of Saint Benedict as it has been lived in the Cistercian tradition since the eleventh century.

This portrait brings wider recognition to the life and work of the Abbey, supporting the values embodied there.

The pages of Conversatio: Cistercian Monastic Life offer a moment of stillness and silence that our twentieth-century selves – harried and bombarded by the media – desperately long for. It is an occasion for eyes, hands and soul to pause and contemplate.  Readers are led to meditate upon the meaning of monastic life through Carolyn Coman’s interviews with six monks from Holy Cross Abbey, Lance Hidy’s remarkable photographs of the life and setting of the community, and the beautifully designed and letterpress-printed pages of Michael and Winifred Bixler. Even more, Conversatio is a rare occasion for personal reflection.

Anne Anninger, former Philip Hofer Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts, The Houghton Library, Harvard University