Film ID:
YFA 5699



Visitor Tabs


This is one of several films written and directed by Bill Davison with members of the Selby Cine Club.  Selby Open Youth Club provided the actors for this re-enactment of the founding of Selby Abbey by the monk Benedict.  A narration by the Reverend J A P Kent provides a historical background while a voiceover by one of the monks provides a lighter touch.  The film was accompanied by a booklet giving background to the making of the film and acknowledgements to all those who supported it.  Filming started in March 1967 and was completed in March 1969.  It is in three parts.

The film opens with a “Home Exhibition Certificate” which declares it “suitable for all types of audience”.

Part One

The sun peaks through the trees in a wood as three couples of youth drive along on scooters.  This is accompanied by an instrumental version of the song ‘Black is Black.’  They are joined by several others on scooters, and they arrive in Selby town centre looking on to Selby Abbey.  It is a Sunday, and voiceover by one of the girls on a scooter suggests that they visit the Abbey.  They take a look around, and while the rest leave, the girl and her boyfriend take a look inside the Abbey, especially at the stained glass windows.

Scorpio films and the Selby Open Youth Club presents:  The Vision of Benedict
Gordon Hardy as Benedict
Larry Thompson as Abbot Hugh
With T Littlewood, M Anderson, D Campbell, B Barnes, J Poole, R Salter, D Harris and members of Selby Open Youth Club.
Narrative written by Alan Cook
Spoken by the Reverend J A P Kent
Plain song by Selby Abbey Choir
Costume Supervisor, S Talbot, E Hall, H Papwork
Colour by Eastman
Lighting, Michael Hanley
Sound, John Smith
Produced by Roland Papworth
Photographed and Directed by William Davison 

The pair emerges from the Abbey and look at a booklet before the film switches to the narration and a re-enactment of the founding of the Abbey.  We go back in time to the 11th century, where the monk Benedict, living in a monastery in Auxerre, France, has a vision form the spirit of St. Germain, who orders Benedict to travel to England, and a place called ‘Selebiae’.  So he sets sail on a merchant ship and arrives on the coast of England in 1068.  Eventually he takes a vessel towards York and arrives by boat on a river at a place near what was to become Selby.  He rest for the night in a wood where he lives for some time as a recluse, living on fishing.  He plants a wooden cross in a spot where he hopes to set up a monastery and prayers for guidance, not knowing what to do.  As he does so he is secretly observed by a servant of Viscount Hugh who rides off to report what he has seen to his master.

End of Part One

Part two

The servant arrives in York and reports back to the Viscount, who decides to visit Benedict himself two weeks later.  When Viscount Hugh arrives in the wood Benedict explains to him how he came to be where he is.  Viscount Hugh promises to help, and explains that King William owns the land and that he will have to get the King’s blessing.  So he arranges for Benedict to have an audience with the King.  At this the two of them look at a map of the land where Benedict wishes to found his monastery, and the King agrees, and grants him a charter.  

Back at Selby Benedict ordains a group of recruits to become monks, including an ex-soldier of Viscount Hugh.  This ex-soldier provides an intermittent commentary on events.  And so a monastery is founded and Benedict is anointed as the Abbot.  They go on to set up a farm, with the ex-soldier being the task of overseeing, even though he has no experience of this, and complaining that this must some joke on the part of Benedict, seen grinning as he watches the ex-soldier struggling to milk a cow.  

Work begins on the monastery, showing the monks quarrying for stone and transporting it on rafts by river.  The fields are seeded and harvested, and things are going well, although the ex-soldier complains about the small rations as we watch the monks sit down to eat. The seasons pass, and we see them enduring the snow.  And then, Brother Randolph, the second in command, steals the silver that had been donated to the monastery.  He is caught and brought before Benedict, who is infuriated with him.  So much so that he personally flogs him and has him hanged.  This excessive punishment is enough for the monks to call for the resignation of Benedict, who leaves in disgrace, prays in the wilderness, and is not heard of again.

End of Part Two

Part Three

Benedict is replaced as Abbot by Hugh de Lacy.  Despite being strict, he sets up classes for local children and so gets a reputation for his good works.  Servant girls of Queen Matilda arrive to say that the Queen, on her way to York and heavily pregnant, is passing by and is in the throes of going into labour.  The Queen arrives, is greeted by the Abbot and collapses by the door of the Abbey. She is carried in, tended to, and gives birth to a son, the eventual Henry 1st.   Work continues on the building of the monastery, showing more of the quarrying and transportation of stone, with the ex-soldier complaining of the hard labour, while admitting that the diet is better.  One of the monks plays a prank on the monk in charge, Dominic, a hard task master, by jolting the raft that he is standing on and causing him to fall into the river.  Dominic repays the joke by giving the monk a very stubborn mule, Ferdinand.  

We see then stone masons at work, carving the figure of a head.  Meanwhile, the farm is expanding, marshes are drained, roads are built and a town grows around the Abbey, Selby.  When spring arrives the Abbey is complete, and Norman knights come from all over, arriving by horse back and foot through the wood for the opening. As the service is underway, news comes that Benedict, who had settled in Rochester, has just died.  

The film finishes showing the young couple leaving the Abbey and looking up at it.

End credits:  The producers wish to thank the W l Kirby Memorial fund without whose help this film would not have been possible.
Scorpio Films