The Story: Monastic Library

My first time out as a vendor at Forest City Flea was cut short by a crazy storm, but in the 3 short hours I was there, I found myself being asked about one particular image quite frequently.

This was one of those unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and now that some time has passed, it almost feels like it happened to someone else.

Read on, if you’d like to know the story behind this image.

monastic library

It was my last morning in Prague, and I was intent on finding the church which had eluded me on other days. It was worth the search: the Church of Our Lady of the Snow was absolutely beautiful.

As I explored the small chapel, a monk happened upon me.

He asked if I spoke Polish (yes!).

He asked if I was alone (yes!).

He asked if I wanted to see something interesting (yes!).

And so I followed him out into the courtyard, into an adjacent building, through some locked doors, up the stairs, through a tiny vestibule, and when he opened up a set of barred doors, we entered this room.

It was like something out of a film.


We had entered his order’s 15th century library. He showed me around the room, explaining the history of his order, the provenance of the books. He let me touch an illuminated manuscript with my oily little fingers.

I was an MLIS student at the time, and handling such an old book without gloves was an illicit thrill – though I knew the books and the library were treated more like a living library than a climate controlled rare books room at a university library. 

It was a short visit, and it was one of those times (though aren’t they all?) where I had to balance being in the moment, and photographing it.

If you’d like to see the other images from that visit, please click through to my flickr album, and prints are available in the shop and gallery.

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