PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) – An out-of-the way hilltop in rural Oregon is home to one of the West’s best collections of medieval and early Renaissance books.
The ancient tomes – overflowing with calligraphy, color and shining illumination made by hand in a different era – are worth millions of dollars. But no one at Mount Angel Abbey in nearby St. Benedict is counting riches. What matters to the monks is a legacy of faith and culture.
“Monasticism and books go together like macaroni and cheese,” says Benedictine Brother Christopher Walch, a 30-year-old novice monk from southern Oregon who is being trained in the craft of book preservation.
“The two are good alone, but not as good as they are together.” He thinks of the library as the monks’ communal preaching.
“Books have been monks’ way to engage the world,” he says. “We create a library and say, ‘This is what we think is important. You are welcome to use it.’ ”
The Benedictines have a history of appreciation for older books. Some of the original monks brought books from their mother abbey, Engelberg in Switzerland, when they settled in Oregon in 1882. Other books have been acquired over the years.