When Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 it dealt a blow to abbeys, priories and friaries from which they never truly recovered. It also marked one of the greatest changes in land ownership in English history. Although they returned during the 18th century, their numbers never really recovered. Today, whilst there are still many monastic houses in Britain, they tend to be occupied by aging and increasingly shrinking communities.
Nestling in the Leicestershire countryside near Coalville, Mount St Bernard Abbey is the only Trappist house in England and the first permanent monastery to be founded in the country since the Reformation. However, the Cistercian monastic community is down to just 25 monks, half of whom are over 80. Nick Hamer’s documentary Outside the City follows the men as they face up to their place in the modern world.
Outside the City is a quiet and contemplative film which captures the ebbs and flows of cloistered life within an abbey. Instead of pushing an agenda, Hamer allows the monks to share their thoughts and feelings. Many of which are around mortality, community and how they can continue to survive. How their shunning of materialism and the outside world can be married-up with the need to financially support themselves. Outside the City is a thoughtful, measured and engaging documentary about life, death and everything after.
Outside the City is released by Verve Pictures and available on DVD and on Digital from 8 June.