The Artist in the Cloister

The Artist in the Cloister

The Life and Works of Father Dunstan Massey

By (author): Daphne Sleigh
ISBN 9781927051399
Softcover | Publication Date: March 25, 2013
Book Dimensions: 8 in x 8 in
208 Pages

About the Book

Winner (Honourable Mention), 2014 BC Historical Federation Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing.

Each year, visitors from all parts of the globe find their way to a sequestered Benedictine monastery in the hills of Mission, BC, and view the art and sculptures that beautify the abbey and its walls. But the man responsible for this work rarely ventures outside the monastery, never mind the province. He is an artist who has seen few of the masterpieces of Western art that inspire him in person; he is a musician who has seldom attended a concert; and he is an intellectual who, at his own insistence, dropped out of high school as early as he could.

Acknowledged by some as one of the major British Columbian artists of his generation, Dunstan Massey could have developed a successful public career in Vancouver or Toronto as an artist or musician—or perhaps even as an actor or academic. But none of this happened because at the age of 18 he renounced every one of these possibilities and dedicated his life to God. Daphne Sleigh introduces both the artist and his art in this fascinating and lavishly illustrated new biography.

Father Dunstan Massey passed away on December 26, 2022.

About the Author(s)

Daphne Sleigh was born in Ewell, Surrey, England, and moved to Vancouver in 1957. She became interested in BC history during the province’s 1971 centennial, for which she co-wrote a history of Maple Ridge. She won the Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal from the BC Historical Federation in 1984 for her book Discovering Deroche. She has written three histories and three biographies, including The Man Who Saved Vancouver. Daphne lives in Deroche, BC, with her husband, Francis.


”One cannot fail to admire what Father Dunstan has accomplished within the parameters of sacred iconography. His output has been, and will continue to be, enormous. And Father Dunstan’s following, thanks to Daphne Sleigh’s well-researched book, will no doubt increase.” —Maria Tippett, BC Studies
“This beautiful book is a gift: the compelling story of one of BC's most powerful and little-known visual artists. The Artist in the Cloister ensures a passionate monk's legacy of sacred art will endure for generations—as it should.” —Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun
“Father Dunstan Massey is a most extraordinary man. . . . His labours have been almost incredible, even on the physical level. He has sustained the intensity of his vision through fatigue, frustration, disappointment, disease and through the lack of time endemic to a monk who is also a seminary professor. . . . It is a book to read with awe. —Sister Wendey Beckett
"Dunstan Massey's inspiring story of creativity, craftsmanship and religious faith could have come straight out of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. The fact that it has taken place in Canada in the decades after World War II makes this superb artistic biography even more fascinating." —Ross King, author of Leonardo and the Last Supper
“Historian and biographer Daphne Sleigh has crafted a gift of profound beauty, insight, and depth. She tells a fascinating story with artistic sensitivity and spiritual insight. This is a book that will be read and cherished for its inspiration and beauty by a wide and varied audience.” —Ven. Christopher Page, Spiritually Speaking blogger
“Sleigh unfolds a compelling life story, infused as it is with Massey's creative drive and his overriding passion to serve God. . . . Described as a gifted artist, musician, writer and teacher, an unflinching believer and a creative soul, Massey is summed up as national treasure, one of the greatest B.C. artists of his generation.’” — Christina Toth, Vancouver Sun