What does a Trappist library contain?

What does the typical Trappist monastery library contain? Are the books only on the Christian tradition, or are there books on secular topics and other spiritual paths? How about periodicals and newspapers?


Monastic libraries typically house thousands of books on a wide range of subjects.

My own monastery at New Melleray Abbey, is probably representative of what you would find in many Trappist monasteries today. Our library, containing about ten thousand volumes, is dominated by books on Theology, Scripture, History, Philosophy, Spirituality and Monasticism as you might expect. But one will also find there books on Psychology, Sociology, Linguistics, Non-Christian Religions, (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism), Comparative Religion, New Age, and Atheism.

There are special sections containing books on Art, Literature, Physics, Biology, Medicine, and Botany. In a back corner of the library you find shelves offering introductions to Japan, Russia, Africa and a dozen or so other countries. Left over shelves provide small collections of books on ships, airplanes, space travel, and trains.

Besides books, our library contains numerous periodicals, religious, (AmericaNCR, Origins, Christian Century, Spiritus, Communio, etc.) as well as secular publications like Time and National Geographic. You will also find on display the DeMoines Register, and Dubuque’s Telegraph Herald. Such a variety of reading material available to cloistered monks might surprise some but, monks are “Catholics” after all and, for hundreds of years, monk’s literary interests have been appropriately Catholic.