Fr. Thomas on Monastic Fountains: “Fountains and pools are popular these days during intense heat where there is no access to ocean beaches. Sacred Scriptures propose water as a source of life and a means of renewal. A powerful symbol in a Cistercian cloister quadrangle was the splashing fountain, giving a sense of peace, abundance, and refreshment. The monastic fountain was not only an earthly symbol of the font of life and a source of spiritual refreshment. It also served an eminently practical purpose: a source of clean, pure water inside of the abbey in days before indoor plumbing became so common.
Archeology suggests Cistercians used two types of fountains. There was the free-standing type or centralized variety with water cascading from a higher basin to a lower one, and usually sheltered by a semi-detached house that projected into the cloister garden. The shelter could be round, square, octagonal, or polylobed, designed to allow access by the brothers all around it, for washing up from work and before meals. The water falling from one basin into a lower one allowed for easier access to the water for several people simultaneously.
The second type of fountain was in the form of a long basin. This type of fountain was usually built into the walls of the cloister itself on either side of the dining room door. These fountains would have large spigots giving easy access to clean and pure water.
Here at New Clairvaux, we are content with a large pond and its fountain reminding us of our baptismal water. The koi, swimming in the pond are humble reminders of the Koine Greek for ‘fish’, an acronym translating into “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.””
Cascading blessings to all our friends from your brothers of New Clairvaux!
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