• Deborah Kade

Einsiedeln, Switzerland

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

The tops of the surrounding mountains were covered in snow this morning. Beautiful sight! Even though the temperature was a chilly 32 degrees, the sun beating down on us at the train station made it feel so much warmer.

I especially loved to see Spiez’s Niesen’s peak covered in snow.

Some of the other mountain tops in snow.

Schynige Platte

We are off to Einsiedeln. I had seen a Rudy Maxa show that highlighted the abbey. It is a place we have not visited.

Took the ICE (Intercity Express) German train from Interlaken West to Bern. Switched to an IC (Intercity) from Bern to the Zürich main train station. From Zürich we took the RE (Regional Express) to Wädneswil. Changed in Wädenswil to an S (Schnell- Fast )to Einsiedeln.

Met a couple from New Zealand on the train from Interlaken West to Bern. They will be attending a friend’s son’s wedding in Germany next Tuesday. They had been in Italy touring, before spending a few days in the Alps. They encountered many problems in Italy. They were parked in a wrong parking space and fined 85 euros. They were speeding and got caught on photo radar. They are not sure about that fine yet.

The man’s family were sheep ranchers. He didn’t want to raise the sheep but he loves being outdoors so he builds and repairs fences for other sheep farmers.

Einsiedeln, population of approximately 15,000, is known for its monastery, the Benedictine Einsiedeln Abbey, established in the 10th century.

There was no permanent settlement in the area prior to the early medieval period, but numerous artifacts left by prehistoric hunters, dated to the Mesolithic to Bronze Age were recovered.

The original "hermitage" is associated with St. Meinrad, a Benedictine monk family of the Counts of Hohenzollern. According to legend, Meinrad lived on the slopes of Mt. Etzel from 835 until his death in 861.

During the next eighty years, Saint Meinrad's hermitage was never without one or more hermits emulating his example. One of the hermits, named Eberhard, previously Provost of Strasburg, erected a monastery and church there, of which he became first abbot. Work on the monastery is said to have begun in 934. Following a miraculous vision by Eberhard, the new church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. At the time of the foundation of the Abbey, the local hunters and small farmers of the forest, placed themselves under the authority of the noble-born Abbot. The surrounding population was known as Waldleute (forest people) because of the forests around the Abbey. The Abbey encouraged the Waldleute to settle in surrounding villages and begin farming. The settlement of Einsiedeln is first mentioned in 1073.

The alpine valleys were used to raise cattle, which became increasingly more important to the village. By 1250, the major business in the village was breeding and raising cattle. Expansion of grazing land into nearby alpine valleys led to a two century conflict with Schwyz.

As early as 1100, the villages of Einsiedeln and Schwyz were in conflict over land near the two Mythen mountains. Over the following century, conflicts over the land led to many court battles and actual battles. In 1173, when the Habsburgs gained rights over the village of Schwyz and in 1283 when they raised the Abbey to an independent principality under the Habsburgs, this raised a local conflict into a regional one. The Habsburgs were able to quiet the conflict for a few years, until 1291 when Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden revolted against the Habsburgs. In 1314, the conflict flared up again with an attack by Schwyz into Einsiedeln. This attack triggered a series of border raids that, along with other events, in 1315 led to a Habsburg invasion and their crushing defeat at the Battle of Morgarten. It wasn't until 1350 that the conflict was resolved and the borders between Einsiedeln and Schwyz were fixed.

In 1394, the Abbey came under the protection of Schwyz and the rights of high justice went over to Schwyz. Low justice though remained with the Abbey. Einsiedeln is the birthplace of Paracelsus, a Renaissance physician and alchemist who is credited with first naming zinc.

In 1399, the Drei Teile ("Three Parts": a council that included the Abbey, the Waldleute from the surrounding villages, and Schwyz) is first mentioned. Initially the Drei Teile only addressed any issues that affected the free Waldleute. In 1564, they were able to issue a binding ordinance for all three groups. The Drei Teile, in 1657, changed its name to the "Session". The relationship between the three parties was not always smooth. In 1764, an attempt by the Abbot to require tradesmen to only practice their trade in Einsiedeln and preventing skilled workers from settling in among the Waldleute led to open conflict. Schwyz supported the Abbey against the Waldleute and in 1766 crushed the revolt. However, the Abbey lost much of its independence and thereafter was treated more as a subject of Schwyz instead of a partner.

Had lunch right next to the abbey. We each had a mixed salad and a Rusticana pizza. Very good but..... they aren’t even in the same class as Città Vecchia.

Abbey Square is under construction from 2018- 2020.

The Lady Fountain is located in the center of the square. Many of the pilgrims drink from it. The fourteen taps equate to the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The water of the Saint Meinrad is attributed to having a healing effect.

The Lady Fountain is located in the middle of the square right beneath the arcades. Built by J.H. Kuen during the years 1684 - 1686, the Lady Fountain is based on the original Meinrad Fountain depicted in the Block Book. The fountain has fourteen taps and has been renovated many times. The last time the fountain was renovated was when the large facades of the Abbey were renovated during the service of Abbot Benno Gut. In 1749, the dome roof over each of seven pillars was exchanged with volute balusters and a golden crown on top. Domenico Pozzi from Milan crafted the copper and gold-plated statue which illustrates the Immaculate Conception which is also the high altar of the Abbey Church.

The top acts like a weather vane.

Some of the buildings around the square.

Check out the House of the Red Hat next to the Rathaus.

To say the abbey is ornate is an understatement! It certainly is a “wow moment” when you first enter. There is so much to take in! I actually had to sit and center myself. I felt a calming presence, though. This is a place you have to experience yourself. I think everyone would have a different reaction to the abbey.

Whoever enters the church will stand in a big, octagonal room and will see right in front of her-himself the Lady of the Chapel made out of black marble. It is the prayer site of the first Meinrad of Einsiedeln. After he was murdered in 861, the “wood brothers” built a chapel over the ruins of his altar.

The miraculous image of the Black Madonna was created by an unknown artist in the 15th century. Soon after, Mary and the baby Jesus were given magnificent embroidered clothes. Depending on the celebration the color of clothes are changed. The clothes cover everything except their face and hands. On their heads they wear crowns; this is the way Brother Claus saw them. The Einsiedeln Black Madonna image belongs to the series of the famous Black Madonnas of Europe. The Black Madonna became black over the years from dust and the soot of the candles, oil lamps and incense. In 1803 the hands and face were painted black.

Such talented and devoted people back when this was built.

We lit so many candles here for family and friends. It is quite a spiritual place. The location for the candles is by the entrance where the statue of the Black Madonna is located. Fresh flowers adorned the chapel where the Madonna is kept. The chapel with the Back Madonna is the first thing you see upon entering, while the rest of the church is behind it.

They don’t want you to take pictures with your camera. They expect complete silence!!! I did take a couple pictures before I saw the sign. Michael’s new camera is quite silent so I was able to take a few more.

Einsiedeln Abbey History

The abbey is dedicated to Our Lady of the Hermits, the title being derived from the circumstances of its foundation, for the first inhabitant of the region was Saint Meinrad, a hermit. It is a territorial abbey and, therefore, not part of a diocese, subject to a bishop. It has been a major resting point on the Way of St. James for centuries.

Meinrad was educated at the abbey school on Reichenau Island, in Lake Constance, under his kinsmen, Abbots Hatto and Erlebald, where he became a monk and was ordained a priest. After some years at Reichenau, and at a dependent priory on Lake Zurich, he embraced an eremitical life and established his hermitage on the slopes of the mountain of Etzel. He died on January 21, 861, at the hands of two robbers who thought that the hermit had some precious treasures, but during the next 80 years the place was never without one or more hermits emulating Meinrad's example.

One of them, named Eberhard, previously Provost of Strassburg, erected in 934 a monastery and church there, of which he became first abbot.

The church was miraculously consecrated, so the legend runs, in 948, by Christ himself assisted by the Four Evangelists, St. Peter, and St. Gregory the Great. This event was investigated and confirmed by Pope Leo VIII and subsequently ratified by many of his successors, the last ratification being by Pope Pius VI in 1793, who confirmed the acts of all his predecessors.

In 965, Gregory, the third Abbot of Einsiedeln, was made a prince of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Otto I, and his successors continued to enjoy the same dignity up to the cessation of the empire in the beginning of the 19th century. In 1274, the abbey, with its dependencies, was created an independent principality by Rudolf I of Germany, over which the abbot exercised temporal as well as spiritual jurisdiction. It remained independent until 1798, the year of the French invasion. It is still a territorial abbey, meaning that it is located in a territory that is not part of any diocese which the abbot governs "as its proper pastor" (Canon 370, Codex Juris Canonici) with the same authority as a diocesan bishop.

For the learning and piety of its monks, Einsiedeln has been famous for a thousand years, and many saints and scholars have lived within its walls. The study of letters, printing, and music have greatly flourished there, and the abbey has contributed largely to the glory of the Benedictine Order. It is true that discipline declined somewhat in the fifteenth century and the rule became relaxed, but Ludovicus II, a monk of St. Gall who was Abbot of Einsiedeln 1526-44, succeeded in restoring the stricter observance.

In the 16th century the religious disturbances caused by the spread of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland were a source of trouble for some time. Zwingli himself was at Einsiedeln for a while, and used the opportunity for protesting against the famous pilgrimages, but the storm passed over and the abbey was left in peace. Abbot Augustine I (1600–29) was the leader of the movement which resulted in the erection of the Swiss Congregation of the Order of St. Benedict in 1602, and he also did much for the establishment of unrelaxed observance in the abbey and for the promotion of a high standard of scholarship and learning among his monks.

In 1854, when the monastery was again facing suppression, a colony was sent to the United States from Einsiedeln to minister to the local German-speaking population and to develop a place of refuge, if needed. The delegation started a new foundation, now St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana, which became part of the Swiss-American Congregation formed in 1881. As of April 1, 2018, the Swiss-American Congregation consists of 14 monasteries from Canada to Guatemala, five of which were founded from St. Meinrad Archabbey and its daughter houses.

One of the abbey's apostolates is a school (Gymnasium) for the seventh to twelfth grades which has existed in its present form since 1848. It is the continuation of a tradition of education that dates to the early Middle Ages. Its distinguished alumni include Gall Morel, Franz Fassbind, Philipp Etter, Hans Hürlimann and his son Thomas Hürlimann, Bruno Frick, and Anatole Taubman.

The Einsiedeln Abbey extends over a thousand year history. At the heart of the abbey is the abbey church where the monks gather daily for church service.

The original abbey was constructed in Romanesque and later Gothic style. Over the centuries, the abbey slowly deteriorated and required reconstruction. In 1704 reconstruction began on the abbey to include more space. The finished product is the baroque style monastery complex that still stands today. The abbey church is at the center of the complex and faces east. Here, at the very heart of the complex, the monks meet daily for church service. Surrounding the abbey church, the other wings of the abbey serve as living and working areas for the monk community and monastery school. Certain areas are also used for guests and the monastery staff. The interior stucco and murals covering the walls and ceilings of the nave were crafted by the Asam brothers of Munich. The central dome depicts an illustration of nativity story. The wrought-iron choir screen, separating the choir from the main space, is designed as visual illusion of three doors.

Details of the ceiling paintings

The pilgrimages, which have never ceased since the days of St Meinrad, have tended to make Einsiedeln the rival even of Rome, the Holy House of Loreto and Santiago de Compostela, serving as a major stopping point on the Way of St. James leading there. Pilgrimages constitute one of the features for which the abbey is chiefly celebrated. The pilgrims number around one million, from all parts of Catholic Europe or even further. The statue of Our Lady from the 15th century, enthroned in the little chapel erected by Eberhard, is the object of their devotion. It is the subject of the earliest preserved print of pilgrimage, by the Master E.S. in 1466. The chapel stands within the great abbey church, in much the same way as the Holy House at Loreto is encased in a marble shrine and is elaborately decorated.

September 14th and October 13th are the chief pilgrimage days, the former being the anniversary of the miraculous consecration of Eberhard's basilica and the latter that of the translation of St Meinrad's relics from Reichenau Island to Einsiedeln in 1039. The millennium of St Meinrad was kept there with great splendor in 1861 as well as that of the Benedictine monastery in 1934. The great church has been many times rebuilt, the last time by Abbot Maurus between the years 1704 and 1719. The last big renovation ended after more than twenty years in 1997. The library contains nearly 250,000 volumes and many priceless manuscripts. The work of the monks is divided chiefly between prayer, work and study. At pilgrimage times the number of confessions heard is very large.

In 2013, the community numbered 60 monks. Attached to the abbey are a seminary and a college for about 360 pupils who are partially taught by the monks, who also provide spiritual direction for six convents of Religious Sisters.

They do keep some horses at the abbey and we saw them taken out to be exercised.

The stable of the Abbey is considered the home of the oldest horse breed in Europe.

The baroque stable was built during 1764 - 1767. The Einsiedeln horses were once held in great esteem all over Europe. In Italy they were known as “Cavalli della Madonna”. By renovating and modernizing the stables, there is hope to secure the future of this old horse breed from Einsiedeln.

I can’t imagine how this abbey celebrates Christmas! Maybe, when we are in Switzerland over Christmas, I will have the opportunity to see.

Rudy Maxa also talked about the Goldapfel Bakery. We went to the outlet shop by the church and not the main shop. There was a little display of the molds used to make the hermit biscuits. The pilgrims would eat these during their pilgrimage.

For over 160 years, the name Goldapfel stood for the best of the Einsiedler specialties. Since 1850, Einsiedler specialties were baked and sold in the Gold Apple.

The shop makes brown and white gingerbread.

Today, the range of the gold apple includes not only hermit specialties but also chocolate specialties from the in-house confectionery.

Molds for the ravens of Einsiedeln.

Experience Switzerland’s most modern ski jumps and training place of the 4-time Olympic gold medalist Simon Ammann firsthand. ∙

Former home of national ski jumping, the ski jump facility in the district of Eschbach, Einsiedeln, is a popular site for numerous uses. There are four different sized jumps on site. Two of the jumps bear the names after the famous Swiss ski jumpers - Andreas Küttel and Simon Ammann.

I am sure this was the first of many visits to come.


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