"At midnight I rise to praise you, O Lord," states the Prophet in the Book of Psalms. Psalmody is the foundation of the Divine Office, which is central to the monastic life. Vigils, or the Night Office, is the first and the longest of the canonical hours. Roseman drew at Vigils in monasteries of the Benedictine, Cistercian, Trappist, and Carthusian Orders, the four monastic Orders of the Western Church.
"The desert settlement of Qumran, near the Dead Sea, was a center of monastic life in Judaism from the second century BC to the first century AD. The Dead Sea Scrolls include the Rule of the Community and accompanying texts that relate the communal life at Qumran: adherence to obedience, celibacy, and self-denial, the solemn ritual of the common meal taken in silence, the daily round of worship with the singing of the Psalms, and the lengthy vigil in the night.
"The Therapeutae, Jewish eremites contemporary with the Qumran community, are the subject of Philo of Alexandria's treatise The Contemplative Life. The Therapeutae, whose main settlement was near Alexandria, lived in solitude in hermitages and observed a regime of prayer and reading and studying the Holy Scriptures. On the Sabbath, the hermits met in a sanctuary for a sermon given by an elder. Every seven weeks, as seven was regarded as a sacred number, the hermits assembled for a discourse and common meal followed by a vigil with prayers and singing until dawn.
''The Prophet affirms in the Book of Psalms, 'At midnight I rise to praise you, O Lord' and 'Seven times a day I praise you.' This Biblical call to prayer from Psalm 119, 'In Praise of the divine Law,' gives monastic life its definitive form and structure. The monastery bell tolls the Night Office, or Vigils, and the daytime Offices of Lauds and Prime in the early morning, Terce at mid-morning, Sext at midday, None in the early afternoon, Vespers in the early evening, and Compline at the close of the day.
Roseman drew at Vigils when the hermit monks gathered in choir to chant the Psalms, read from the Holy Scriptures, and prayed in silence during the long Night Office of two and a half to three hours. Presented here is A Carthusian Monk at Vigils, 1982, (fig. 4), conserved in the Musée Ingres, Montauban. The museum's renowned collection grew from a bequest by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), whose well-quoted maxim asserts: "Drawing is the integrity of art.''
In this deeply felt drawing of Brother Louis in prayer at Vigils, the artist has rendered the standing figure in bistre chalk on beige paper, which suggests the color of the Carthusian habit of undyed wool. The subtle gradations of the single chalk range from the fine description of the hermit's face and beard to bold strokes that define shadows from the fall of light on the hood, down the shoulder and arm, and under the sleeve of the habit. With an economy of line, Roseman has created a drawing of spiritual intensity in the depiction of the hermit monk in prayer in the night.
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University, conserves a related drawing of Brother Louis, A Carthusian Monk Asleep in his Cell, 1982. The artist drew the hermit monk taking a siesta. In letter of acquisition Dr. Kenneth Garlick, Keeper of Western Art, Ashmolean Museum, writes to Ronald Davis and praises "that fine drawing of the Carthusian monk asleep in his cell by Stanley Roseman." (The drawing is presented on the website stanleyroseman-monasticlife.com. See "Benedictines, Cistercians, Trappists, and Carthusians," Page 5 - "Carthusians." See also correspondence from Brother Louis to Roseman and Davis on the page "Correspondence from the Monasteries.")
"The Book of Psalms, or Psalter, consists of 150 Psalms organized into five books, as with the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. Psalm 119, the longest Psalm, is divided into twenty-two stanzas. Each stanza has eight verses, of which the first verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
1. The Oxford scholar and Benedictine monk Dom Bernard Green read a draft of Roseman's manuscript and wrote in a gracious letter
to the artist: "You portray the background and the aims of life in monasteries so well, showing such a deep understanding of the monastic life.''
2. The Psalter is comprised of one hundred and fifty Psalms. Psalms 10 to 148 in the Hebrew Bible are one number ahead of the Greek
Septuagint and Latin Vulgate Bibles. The Greek and the Vulgate combine Psalms 9 and 10 as well as Psalms 114 and 115,
while separating into two parts each Psalm 116 and Psalm 148.
3. Klaus Seybold, Introducing the Psalms (Scotland: T&T Clark, 1990), pp. 16-23.
4. The Rule of St. Benedict uses the numbering of the Psalms in the Vulgate Bible.
5. The Rule of St. Benedict, trans. Abbot David Parry, O.S.B., Households of God (London: Darton, Longman &Todd, 1980), and
Abbot Patrick Barry, O.S.B., St. Benedict's Rule (Ampleforth Abbey Press, 1997).
6. C. H. Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1962),
The Community Rule, pp. 97-123.
7. Philo of Alexandria, The Contemplative Life and selected writings, trans. David Winston (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), pp. 41-57.
8. The Lives of the Desert Fathers, trans. Norman Russell (London & Oxford: Mowbray, 1981), pp. 13, 15.
9. Psalm 51 in the Hebrew Bible is numbered Psalm 50 in the Vulgate.
10. The Rule of St. Benedict, trans. Abbot David Parry, O.S.B., Households of God.
11. Psalm 95 in the Hebrew Bible is numbered Psalm 94 in the Vulgate.
During the following two centuries, other Cistercian abbeys took up the regime at La Trappe, and in 1892, at a special chapter in Rome, a separate branch of the Cistercian Order was formed, acquiring the name Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, also known as the Trappist Order.
Roseman recounts: "On the afternoon of June 4th, with the dates for our sojourn confirmed, Ronald and I arrived at the Abbey of La Trappe, situated in the rural countryside of Normandy. The tall, neo-Gothic church tower rose above the complex of living quarters, workshops, guest house, gatehouse, and numerous farm buildings that accommodated a large dairy herd, a main source of the monastery's income.
The Cistercian Order dates from 1098 with the founding of the Abbey of Cîteaux in Burgundy. In the seventeenth century the Abbey of La Trappe in Normandy was the center of a growing movement of rigorous, spiritual asceticism. The hours that the monks of La Trappe devoted to chanting of the Psalms and reading from the Scriptures at the Divine Office in choir were supplemented by extensive private prayer, meditation, and manual labor. The monks maintained an abstemious diet, practiced penitence, and observed strict silence within the cloister.
In ongoing correspondence, Frère Elie writes in autumn 1982, "Dear Stan and Ron, I read with pleasure that you intend to visit La Trappe again in the near future. All of us will welcome you heartily and in the meantime, send you our very best wishes. Affectionately Frère Elie.'' Roseman and Davis returned to La Trappe in December, and the artist resumed drawing the monks at prayer, work, and study.
"As was my custom for drawing at Vigils in monasteries, I prepared my folios of drawing paper and box of chalks before I went to bed and set my alarm clock. At La Trappe, I rose at 3:15 A.M., washed, dressed, and - being that it was December in Normandy - put on my parka, gathered my drawing materials, and went to the church.
"I took a seat in one of the pews, opened my drawing book and box of chalks, selected a stick of chalk, and began drawing. In the dimly lit church, several monks stood or knelt in side chapels, others came to sit or kneel in the pews or choir stalls to pray and meditate. Despite the cold, it was inspiring to be there in the night with the monks, whose encouragement of my work on the monastic life I sincerely appreciated.
"At the tolling of the monastery bell at 4:15 A.M., the monks came forth from the side chapels and nave of the church and in from the monastery and took their places in choir. When all had assembled, Abbot Gérard tapped his ring signaling the cantor to begin the invocation from Psalm 51: 'Seigneur, ouvre mes lèvres,' ('Lord, open my lips,'). And the monks responded in unison, 'et ma bouche publiera ta louange' ('and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.')''
The drawing Père Robert at Vigils, (fig. 7, above), in the collection of the Graphische Sammlung Albertina was included in the museum's exhibition Stanley Roseman-Zeichnungen aus Klöstern (Drawings from the Monasteries), 1983. Roseman is the first American artist to be given a one-man exhibition at the Albertina, which conserves nine drawings by the artist. The museum's eminent Director Dr. Walter Koschatzky, making his first acquisition of Roseman's drawings for the Albertina in 1978, writes in a cordial letter to Ronald Davis:
"After the last Psalms were sung; the Psalters, closed; and the candles on the altar, extinguished, the monks remained for an additional half hour for personal prayer and meditation in the darkened church. Some of the monks dispersed from choir to the side chapels, while others went to sit on the benches in the rear of the church or in the pews. I closed my drawing book and box of chalks, placed them by my side, and like the monks, I immersed myself in meditation and prayer."
In his text to accompany his work in monasteries, Roseman writes: "The Rule of St. Benedict contains four chapters on Vigils: Chapter 8, 'On the Divine Office During the Night;' Chapter 9, 'The Number of Psalms to be Said at the Night Office;' Chapter 10, 'The Arrangement of the Night Office in Summer;' and Chapter 11, 'The Celebration of Vigils on Sundays.' Winter was calculated from the first of November to Easter, and summer, from Easter to November. In Chapter 10, St. Benedict instructs that due to the shorter nights in summer, the three readings from the Scriptures and other spiritual writings are to be replaced by one reading. 'Instead of these three readings, one from the Old Testament is to be recited by heart, followed by a short responsory.' St. Benedict further instructs that 'in winter and summer, no less than twelve Psalms are to be sung at Vigils, not counting Psalms 3 and 95,' which according to the Rule are always included."
In this superb drawing the Trappist monks are wearing voluminous, woolen cowls with long sleeves that cover their arms and hands. The predominant use of bistre chalk, blended tonal passages of bistre and black chalks, and reserved areas of the gray paper imbue the drawing with a nocturnal quality, as in the related drawing above from La Trappe, (fig. 7), Père Robert at Vigils, in the collection of the Albertina.
Roseman drew Two Trappist Monks at Vigils, (fig. 8), at the Abbey of La Trappe in December 1982. Frère Marc, the ascetic, bearded monk who stands in the foreground of the drawing was "a kind and caring guestmaster,'' writes the artist, such as when he recounts: "Frère Marc thoughtfully told me that the church was cold and to dress warmly, especially when I draw at the long Night Office."
The chiaroscuro modeling in black and bistre chalks, with subdued white highlights on the face, eyeglasses, and cranium of Frère Marc, brings the figure forward in pictorial space. The monk stands with head bowed and eyes lowered. His confrere in choir is drawn with fluent lines and transparent tones of bistre chalk. He leans forward, his right arm raised and head upturned towards the altar. In this compelling composition, Roseman expresses the individuality of the two Trappist monks, each absorbed in prayer at the Night Office.