Major record deal for reclusive Benedictine nuns

Avignon, France - An order of Benedictine nuns has signed a major record deal with the company behind Lady Gaga, it has been revealed.

The Nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation, from France, won a global search of more than 70 convents across Europe, the US and Africa.

The reclusive order, based near Avignon, were deemed to have the finest Gregorian Chant singers.

They have signed a deal with Decca Records, part of Universal Music, which counts Lady Gaga and U2 among its acts.

The nuns' ancient order dates back to the 6th Century and they follow a tradition of leading a hidden life behind closed doors.

The Reverend Mother Abbess said: "We never sought this, it came looking for us.

"At first we were worried it would affect our cloistered life, so we asked St Joseph in prayer. Our prayers were answered, and we thought that this album would be a good thing if it touches people's lives and helps them find peace."

The nuns are self-sufficient and include a plumber, an engineer, an electrician, a silk-weaver and a dental assistant.

But their strict rules meant that even Decca Records managing director Dickon Stainer was unable to enter their home to congratulate them.

"I passed the contract through the grille, they signed it and passed it back," he said.

"Although the nuns do not leave the Convent, the whole world will now hear the true beauty of their singing."

The sisters' album, Voice: Chant From Avignon, will be released in November.

Decca is hoping to repeat the success of the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz whose 2008 album Chant: Music For Paradise sold more than one million copies.