Tributes paid to Sister Wendy Beckett, hermit and art historian

Tributes have been paid to Sister Wendy Beckett, the nun and art historian who became an unlikely television star in Britain in the 1990s.

She died at the age of 88 on Wednesday, the Carmelite monastery at Quidenham in Norfolk.

BBCSister Wendy Beckett has died aged 88.

Born in South Africa, she studied English at Oxford and was awarded a congratulatory first-class degree. She taught in convent schools in South Africa for 20 years before her health broke down. She returned to the UK and was living as a hermit in a caravan in the Quidenham monastery when she began studying art in the 1980s. She was spotted by a film crew at an exhibition and commissioned by the BBC to make a 1992 documentary – Sister Wendy's Odyssey – about paintings and sculpture in six British museums.

She was an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and professional presenter, known as 'one-take Wendy' by production staff.

Beckett wrote around 25 books, which included collections of poetry and meditations, and made a dozen documentaries.

She continued to make programmes for the next decade, speaking directly to the camera while wearing her black nun's habit and winning fans in Britain and in the United States, where the programmes aired on public television.

Tributes to her poured in from writers and art historians.

Author Sarah Bessey said her 'enthusiasm for art history was such a gift'. Salt, an independent publishing house, said she was 'brilliant at conveying complex ideas with lucidity, enthusiasm and charm'.

Her Christian faith was at the core not only of her personal life but of her experience of art; she believed art, and not just religious art, was a way of encountering God.

She gave up her TV work in 2001 and returned to her hermitage, though she continued to write.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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