Brothers at Taizé Take Permanent Vows

Brother Roger’s foundation at Taizé, begun during World War II, received its first group of brothers taking lifelong vows of celibacy, poverty, and simplicity. A Protestant monastic community at first, Taizé later emphasized an ecumenical approach.

Summary of Event

Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche, later to become Brother Roger of Taizé, is the central figure in the story of the monastic community at Taizé. Raised in Switzerland near Geneva, he was the son of a Protestant pastor and a French mother with roots and an extended family in nearby Burgundy, France. Schutz studied theology at the Universities of Lausanne and Strasbourg, and in 1939 became president of the Protestant Student Association. He led a group of young students called the Grande Communauté Grande Communauté who met regularly for study, discussion, prayer, and retreats. By the time World War II broke out in France in 1939, he had become attracted to the life of prayer in community, but he wanted actively to help in the world as well. Taizé community
Ecumenical Community of Taizé
Monastic orders
Christianity;monastic orders
[kw]Brothers at Taizé Take Permanent Vows (Apr. 17, 1949)
[kw]Taizé Take Permanent Vows, Brothers at (Apr. 17, 1949)
[kw]Vows, Brothers at Taizé Take Permanent (Apr. 17, 1949)
Taizé community
Ecumenical Community of Taizé
Monastic orders
Christianity;monastic orders
[g]Europe;Apr. 17, 1949: Brothers at Taizé Take Permanent Vows[02920]
[g]France;Apr. 17, 1949: Brothers at Taizé Take Permanent Vows[02920]
[c]Religion, theology, and ethics;Apr. 17, 1949: Brothers at Taizé Take Permanent Vows[02920]
Roger, Brother

In 1940, Schutz bought a house in the small, half-abandoned village of Taizé, near Cluny in Burgundy. He intended to create a house of prayer, a retreat for the Grande Communauté. The house would also act as a refuge for those passing through Free France while fleeing from Nazi-occupied France to neutral Switzerland. Situated within a couple miles of the demarcation line between occupied France and Free France, the house at Taizé became a secret refuge for a steady stream of refugees, many of them Jewish. Schutz lived a life of poverty and simplicity, farming a small plot and keeping a cow. He shared what he had, while praying regularly three times a day. Aiding those fleeing from occupied France was dangerous work, and in 1942, while he was in Geneva raising money to support this work after escorting a refugee to Switzerland, he was denounced to the Nazis.

Forced to remain in Geneva for the rest of the war, Schutz spent his time finishing his thesis, The Ideal of Monastic Life Before St. Benedict and Its Relationship to the Gospels. Ideal of Monastic Life Before St. Benedict and Its Relationship to the Gospels, The (Schutz-Marsauche) In 1943, he defended the thesis, and he was ordained a pastor. Meanwhile, he was writing the outline of a plan for an ideal monastic community based on prayer and work, faithful to the concepts of joy, simplicity, and mercy found in the Beatitudes. All members of this self-sustaining community would pray three times daily and would reach out to those in need beyond their walls. In Geneva, Schutz was joined by three students who would be among the first brothers at Taizé. Together, they made provisional vows of celibacy and community of material possessions, which were to be renewable annually.

When France was liberated in 1944, Brother Roger and his three companions moved back to the house at Taizé. Reconciliation was from the beginning an important concept in the life of Taizé. Several camps for German prisoners of war were in the immediate neighborhood of Taizé, and the prisoners were not well treated by the local French people, many of whom had lost family members in the German suppression of the French Resistance. Roger and his brothers visited the prisoners, shared food with them, and were allowed to bring them to Taizé for prayer and a Sunday meal. Roger’s sister Genevieve also came to Taizé, taking in and raising twenty war orphans in a nearby house.

By 1947, the community was supporting itself by farming and had welcomed a steady stream of visitors, Roman Catholic as well as Protestant, in addition to holding retreats for the Grande Communauté. The small Romanesque church in the village was empty and used only for an occasional funeral. The brothers asked for permission to use the church for their prayers. Because the community was Protestant and the church was Roman Catholic, this permission was very difficult to get. Nevertheless, it was finally granted thanks to an ecumenically minded bishop in the region and the intervention of the papal nuncio in Paris, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, later to become Pope John XXIII and a lifelong friend of Taizé. An important aspect of Brother Roger’s concept of reconciliation was the idea of reconciliation between Christians. He had been raised in the Protestant tradition, but with a close affinity for the Catholic forms of worship, and he always welcomed those from all Christian traditions. Christianity;interdenominational cooperation This unity was not always welcomed by either the Protestant or the Catholic leadership.

During 1948, three more young men decided to join the brothers, completing the original group of seven brothers. The brothers felt the need to make their provisional vows permanent. Thus, at Easter, 1949, in the village church at Taizé, the seven brothers quietly took permanent vows of celibacy, community of goods, and acceptance of the authority of their prior, Brother Roger, recreating the ancient monastic ideal among twentieth century Protestants.

With the establishment of this permanent community, it became easier to make contact with other churches. In the aftermath of the horror of World War II, ecumenism began to flower. The World Council of Churches was established in Amsterdam in 1948, with Brother Roger as a model and a voice within the movement. A meeting of Catholic bishops and Protestant pastors at Taizé in 1960 was the first of its kind since the Reformation several centuries before. As the Taizé community grew, the brothers affected the region economically, working with miners and forming milk and farming cooperatives. Brothers formed fraternities in other countries, focusing on the problems of poverty in locations as widespread as Latin America, New York City, and Calcutta, India.


The Ecumenical Community of Taizé was a unique institution: a monastic order founded in the twentieth century with an ecumenical orientation. Brother Roger and his community were ahead of their time in their ecumenical approach, which was not embraced at first by either Protestant or Catholic clergy. Pope John XXIII became a special friend of Taizé, and Brother Roger visited him annually in Rome. Taizé became a model of ecumenism, visited by clergy from the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant traditions.

As the Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of John XXIII, began to search for more liberal and contemporary forms of worship in the 1960’s and young people around the world began to question traditional forms of worship, the Taizé community and its Church of the Reconciliation Church of the Reconciliation became a center for growing crowds of international young people searching for faith and community, attracted by the intensity of the prayer, the ecumenical nature of the place, and its commitment to social justice. Brother Roger traveled widely, leading convocations of youth all over the world, and establishing a long relationship with Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

The liturgy at Taizé reflects the international and ecumenical nature of the Taizé movement, repeating simple phrases in Latin and many languages.The prayers, music, and meditative chants developed at Taizé are both popular and meditative, and Taizé prayer and music has been published and used in churches around the world. The interaction of the search for faith with community, accessibility, and social action have furthered the reconciliation among nations and among Christians envisioned by Brother Roger and his community. Taizé community
Ecumenical Community of Taizé
Monastic orders
Christianity;monastic orders

Further Reading

  • Balado, José Luis Gonzalez. The Story of Taizé. London: Mowbray, 1980. A detailed history of the Taizé community.
  • Brico, Rex. Taizé: Brother Roger and His Community. New York: Collins, 1978. History of Taizé by a journalist. Includes the author’s observations, interviews with Brother Roger and visitors to Taizé, and some of Brother Roger’s writings.
  • Clement, Olivier. Taizé: A Meaning to Life. Chicago: GIA, 1997. One man’s spiritual journey, influenced by Brother Roger and experienced at and through Taizé.
  • Roger of Taizé, Brother. The Sources of Taizé. Chicago: GIA, 2000. Presented as a letter from Brother Roger explaining the fundamentals on which the common life of the monastic community at Taizé is based. Essential to understanding Brother Roger’s vision.
  • Spink, Kathryn. A Universal Heart: The Life and Vision of Brother Roger of Taizé. Rev. ed. Chicago: GIA, 2006. An excellent biography of Brother Roger, providing the background of Taizé, his vision of ecumenism and social justice, and the evolution of Councils of Youth. Updates the original edition through Brother Roger’s death in 2005.

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