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Gregorian Chant and the essence of Victorian England… stay at this monastery for a voluntary contribution

Friday, May 7th, 2010

The Abbey was the subject of one of the Canterbury Tales. See page 169 in LODGING IN BRITAIN'S MONASTERIES.

Overlooking the sea from a hill, the Abbey is an oasis of peace and tranquility. The Abbey was the subject of one of the Canterbury Tales as well as a song of Dryden and an ode by one of the popes. Some of the nuns live in seclusion and are renown for Gregorian chant that accompanies daily mass. The origins of Gregorian chant can be traced to early Christian times and seem to have derived from musical practice in the Jewish synagogue and Greek musical theory. Named for Pope Gregory I, it is also known as plainsong or plainchant and refers to early unharmonized melody in free rhythm but is usually synonymous with the liturgical music of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Western church there were four main dialects of plainsong but only two have survived. Ambrosian Chant was introduced by St. Ambrose into the cathedral of Milan and is still used in that diocese. In the 19th century, the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes undertook many years of research to restore the Gregorian Chant to its original form and establish its proper rhythm. In 1903 Pope Pius X decreed the use of the chant in the Solesmes version as the official music of the Catholic Church.

The Abbey is situated on the Isle of Wight, a place famous for The Needles, three towers of rock jutting out of the sea and admired for their multi-colored cliffs and sand. Quaint villages, a lovely coastline and the fact that Queen Victoria made Osborne House her summer home all contributed to the island’s popularity as a holiday resort attracting fashionable Victorians and members of European royalty.

The lovely Isle of Wight is diamond in shape with a remarkable diverse landscape leading to its oft-quoted description of “England in Miniature.” The island is also noted as an important area for finding dinosaur fossils.

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