The ruins of Abbaye de Villers, Belgium - in black and white.

Dans les ruines d'une abbaye

Seuls tous deux, ravis, chantants !

Comme on s’aime !

Comme on cueille le printemps

Que Dieu sème !


Quels rires étincelants

Dans ces ombres

Pleines jadis de fronts blancs,

De cœurs sombres !


On est tout frais mariés.

On s’envoie

Les charmants cris variés

De la joie.


Purs ébats mêlés au vent

Qui frissonne !

Gaîtés que le noir couvent

Assaisonne !


On effeuille des jasmins

Sur la pierre

Où l’abbesse joint ses mains

En prière.


Les tombeaux, de croix marqués,

Font partie

De ces jeux, un peu piqués

Par l’ortie.


On se cherche, on se poursuit,

On sent croître

Ton aube, amour, dans la nuit

Du vieux cloître.


On s’en va se becquetant,

On s’adore,

On s’embrasse à chaque instant,

Puis encore,


Sous les piliers, les arceaux,

Et les marbres.

C’est l’histoire des oiseaux

Dans les arbres.

In The Ruins of an Abbey

Alone, the two together, ecstatic and singing!

How they love one another!

How they gather the springtime

That God has sown!


What sparkling laughter

Fills these shadows

Once filled with blank faces

And somber hearts!


They have just been married.

They send each other

Various charming cries

Of joy.


Their antics mix with the wind

That shivers!

Joyful expressions that the dark convent



They ruffle the jasmine flowers

On the stone

Where the abbess joins hands

In prayer.


The graves, marked with crosses,

Become a part

Of these games, just slightly bitten

By the nettle.


They chase each other, play hide-and-seek,

And feel the growth

Of your dawn, love, during this night

In the old cloister.


They go about, pecking at one another,

They adore each other,

They embrace at every moment,

And then again,


Under the pillars and the arches

And the marbles.

This is the story of the birds

In the trees.


~ A Poem By Victor Hugo, upon visiting the Abbaye de Villers.

Hide and seek with the ghosts of Abbaye de Villers.



1. A force of nature

2. The real and visceral energy and spirit of life on earth

3. It is particularly associated with abbess Hildegard von Bingen, who wrote of it many times in her mystical treatises.

synonyms: vitality, lushness, verdure, and growth.



Just us, amongst the ruins: Myself, Oliver, and several honking geese.
Wandering and wondering about ancient halls, wind-swept cloisters, playing hide and seek between the walls beneath the sky.
My laughter was caught by my breath, stopped short in the vast nave where the pillars went down, rows and rows, to the apse.
The bones were showing. I imagined what it must have been to walk the nave, in the light of candles, and shifting shadows, sent down from the cracks that now opened onto daylight.
Windows on the sky.
A ceiling that touched the clouds.
The height of the nave was even more apparent, now that it was stripped bare. Vertiginous. Vertigo. Can one get vertigo, looking up? I felt a little dizzy when I craned my neck to stare into the depths of the heights.
And all along the walls were ropes and tendrils of ivy, and pockets of grasses growing from brick-shaped-holes.


The beautiful stone apse of Abbaye de Villers - with light pouring in.
The ruined stone walls and ivy clad gardens of Abbaye de Villers.
Ivy leaves in the sun, close up of ivy on a stone wall.
Black and white photo of Abbaye de Villers, Belgium - in afternoon sun.
Rosemary still grows in the gardens of the ruined Abbey of Villers.
Round window with stone tracery, in an old Abbey of Belgium.
Light pours through the windows in the old stone apse.