Fort Augustus Abbey closed to the public in 1998 after more than one hundred years as a Benedictine Community. This is the latter part of that story.

The Abbot's Message

This is an historical section of the website. The monastery is no longer open. Please read the introduction page. The photograph shows Abbot Mark Dilworth (right) with Archbishop Keith O'Brien in the cloisters.

I am sometimes asked what the future of monastic life is likely to be, and usually I reply that there will always be persons who experience the call to this life. It may never command large numbers, but it will always be part of the Church. The Abbot with Archbishop Keith O'Brien

Monasteries have played a leading role in the Church from the earliest times. The Rule of St. Benedict, composed in the 6th century, is strong and unyielding on spiritual principle but flexible as regards material circumstances. Benedictines have never been strictly centralised and this has allowed each monastery to develop its own ethos and apostolate.

We live in changing times, and Fort Augustus Abbey, founded here in 1878 (building started in 1876), had adapted itself to the changing world. For most of our time here we had conducted a boarding school for boys, and this was for two reasons. We wanted to have an outreach to the wider community, and we could only do this by bringing people to us in this rural area, 35 miles from the nearest town. There was also a great need for Christian education. A boarding school was the ideal solution.

In 1993 we realised that the school was no longer meeting a need, and we had become aware of another pressing need. Every summer the influx of visitors to this beautiful part of Scotland had been increasing, but as long as all our energies went into running the school, we could do little to help. Opening the visitor centre meant that we could cater for their needs in material and pastoral ways and also host spiritual retreats and conferences during the winter months.

Quite frequently visitors asked if our monastic quiet is not spoiled by the thousands of visitors. The honest answer is NO. The monastic routine of work, reading and prayer went on unhindered and we were encouraged by the numbers of visitors who attended Mass and other services in the abbey church. In those closing years of the 20th century we had become committed to the apostolate of tourism.

Rt. Rev. Mark Dilworth OSB, Abbot of Fort Augustus

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