BBC 4 yesterday transmitted the first in a series called Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery. The subject of this first episode was Downside Abbey:
The first film is set in Downside, a spectacular neo-gothic monastery set in the beautiful valleys of Somerset. It is home to fourteen Benedictine monks who live according to the 6th-century Rule of St Benedict. We follow two of the monks over the course of a typical, quiet monastic day, as they engage with carpentry and baking, religious services and moments of private prayer in the monastery gardens.
There was no organized audio narrative or interviews. The program relied on its visual images to tell the story and was edited in a way that made this work quite effectively.
There was no mention of Evelyn Waugh or his association with the Abbey and its residents. He attended numerous retreats and services at the Abbey and formed a friendship with Dom Hubert Van Zeller, one of its residents. Van Zeller was also confessor and confidant of Ronald Knox, who spent his final years in nearby Mells. Nor was the adjacent school, also called Downside, mentioned. Waugh sent his son Auberon there, and that was the occasion for additional visits. The school also recently hosted a conference of the Evelyn Waugh Society. The school buildings and grounds are visible in several exterior scenes of the film.
The program is available to watch on the internet via BBC iPlayer. A UK internet connection is required.