Padre Abate Vittorino used to say that the only other artist that had lived with the Olivetani monks at San Miniato al Monte for as long as I did, was Michelangelo, who fortified the basilica and monestary during the siege of Florence in 1530.

I asked each monk what aspect of St Benedict’s life had inspired his vocation and to re enact that moment of insight for a series of large oil paintings that I began while living with them, not in a cell but in the Palazzo dei Vescovi .

All the photographs in this set were taken in preparation for the paintings.

“I loved the fact that it is only Michelangelo and André Durand that have stayed with the Olivetani monks for a substantial amount of time. Michelangelo made a substantial contribution to the monastery and André too has obviously had an immense impact on the lives of the monks. The Benedictines are remarkable, not only for their spirituality but for their practical skills and their welcome of visitors – the Rule of St. Benedict instructs them to treat visitors ‘as Christ’. André, having been treated as Christ, brought their experience of Christ out of them, through his paintings and photographs. They must have treasured the opportunity to share their lives with such a sensitive and outstanding artist.”
Robert Morton