Throughout his life, Bruno Rotival photographed the intimacy of the contemplative life in more than 80 monasteries and abbeys across the globe.  From cloisters to individual cells, and spanning moments from the refectory to the Divine Office, he was known as a genuine “photographer of silence”, taking photos that he happily shared in various albums and expositions throughout his lifetime.

On the morning of 29 June 2019, at the request of the abbot of the French Trappist abbey of Notre Dame de Sept-Fons, Rotival was taking photos at the ordination of one of the monastery’s young monks.  However, in the evening, while preparing the photographs he had taken for an exhibition that was to be held throughout the summer, death suddenly struck him.

His public work spans more than 37,000 photographs shown over the course of 40 years, well known for his black-and-white photographs that spectacularly portray both shadows and light.

In loving memory of Bruno Rotival, the monastery of Sept-Fons is maintaining the intended photographic exposition posthumously throughout the summer.

(Adapted from an article by G. Ringlet, La Croix)

On the photos below

We have learned with sadness that Bruno Rotival died suddenly of a heart attack on 29 June 2019.  I came to know him in 2006 when he spent some time in St Ottilien. As he did in so many other monasteries, he produced a photo chronicle of his stay, bringing together the realities he found and his own serious and somewhat melancholic (and perhaps rather French) vision of monastic life.  We commend him to the prayers of the Benedictine Confederation.

Abbot Jeremias Schröder, Abbot President of the Congregation of St. Ottilien

Article on the passing of Rotival (French, La Croix)