Paule Amblard: “Time dies every day”

I have just returned from Maulbronn. As a troubled year looms, I would like to share with you what I have received on this trip, may his memory be remembered for us when our days are gloomy.

There is in Maulbronn an ancient perfume so powerful, so peaceful, so gracious that whoever breathes it is suddenly accompanied by a presence which draws him elsewhere, further, higher or deeper into himself. Is it a quality of silence, is it the impregnation of stone, was it a happy day because there was a bride in the cloister garden?

I come back from a unique place, Maulbronn. The name stretches, purrs, brrrr! When I announce where I have been, I have the impression of having discovered a new continent as it is ignored. There are still hidden lands that hold treasures!

Survival from the Middle Ages

In southern Germany, there is a timeless place, a monastery that remains the beating heart of the small town. The latter was built around, so modestly that nothing interferes with the legacy of the past.

This is how a holy place which welcomed monks, lay brothers but also lay workers to assist them continues, in the present, its life, another life. People meet there, cross its main square, work there, study there, get married there.

If one had to reconstruct the life of a monastery in the Middle Ages, I would choose Maulbronn. The decor is intact and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its forge, its press, its cooperage, its stables, its attics, its mill, it constitutes an immense ensemble surrounded by walls which opens with a large door surmounted by a fortified tower.

All around, the vines, the ponds and the network of irrigation canals date from our ingenious Cistercian brothers of the 12the century. Entering through the porch of paradise, I entered the sacred space.

Cultivate in life

I visited alone the chapter room where the rule was discussed and the vaulted refectory decorated with painted foliage. In this space, I felt like I was hearing the voices of the past etched in stone. In the church, I walked through the three long vessels of the nave. My slow steps echoed on the ground, meditatively, as if I were telling a rosary.

Along a pillar, a dark wooden figure awaited me, that of a Virgin with a full face and body. From the statue emanated a life that sometimes exhales from certain icons. I entrusted my loved ones and all of humanity to her before leaving her with difficulty.

When I left the church to rediscover our time, I promised myself to be more attentive to this limited time that is given to us and that we spend too often unconsciously. Time is running out, he dies every day, according to Seneca.

This tragedy of existence, I understood it at Maulbronn, could find a remedy. It was necessary to focus on cultivating life, the life that has no end, the life that I had encountered in a forgotten monastery.

Paule Amblard is an art historian, specializing in medieval art and Christian symbolism. She is the author ofAn inner pilgrimage (Albin Michel) and the Apocalypse of Saint John, illustrated by the tapestry of Angers (Editions Diane de Selliers). She has also published a novel, the Children of Notre Dame (Salvator).

Paule Amblard: “Time dies every day”