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Einsiedeln Abbey

Einsiedeln Abbey



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Einsiedeln Abbey (Kloster Einsiedeln) is a picturesque Baroque style Benedictine monastery with an illustrious history dating to the 9th century AD. Founded in 835 AD by a monk called Meinrad, Einsiedeln Abbey flourished into a cultural hub and a popular pilgrimage site. Its chapel is even said to have been consecrated by Christ himself in 948 AD.

Today, Einsiedeln Abbey is home to an important statue known as the Black Madonna as well as a winery and a theological school.

Einsiedeln Abbey history

The monk Meinrad was educated at the abbey school of Reichenau, where he became a monk and ordained priest. Meinrad moved to Mount Etzel, but died on January 21 861 AD when he was killed by some robbers thinking the hermit had valuable treasures. From that point onwards, the location was always inhabited by a hermit emulating Meinrad. One such hermit, Eberhard, founded a monastery there in 934 and became its first abbot.

Allegedly, the monastery was consecrated miraculously by Jesus Christ himself in 948 – an event investigated and claimed by then pope, Leo VIII. The third abbot was made prince of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Otto I and in 1274 the abbey was made an independent principality by Rudolf I of Germany.

It was during this period the abbey was rededicated to ‘Our Lady of the Hermits’, growing wealthy and a popular pilgrimage site. Einsiedeln Abbey remained independent until 1798 when the French invaded under Napoleon Bonaparte.

In the 16th century the spread of Protestantism in Switzerland caused instability. Zwingli (Swiss Reformation leader) was at Einsiedeln Abbey for some time, protesting the pilgrimages. The abbey was left untouched despite the reformation, and a Benedictine order was established there in 1602, promoting a high standard of scholarship among the monks.

The abbey itself was reconstructed several times after numerous fires – entirely redone in the Vorarlberg Baroque style between 1719 and 1735. The main facade is flanked by 2 ornate towers and the interior reflects the exterior grandeur, covered in frescoes and stuccos.

Einsiedeln Abbey today

Einsiedeln Abbey still stands in its magnificence at the intersection of the main road beside a large town square. Open all day, be sure to visit the Chapel of Grace, designed in the Neo-classical style which contains the venerated Black Madonna statue and the reliquary of Saint Meinrad.

The abbey still functions as such, with 55 monks teaching around 350 students as well as serving local parishes. While at Einsiedeln Abbey, you should sample some of the wine made on-site and visit the small gift shop.

Getting to Einsiedeln Abbey

The closest bus stop to Einsiedeln Abbey is Einsiedeln, Brüel on bus routes 552, 553, 555, 556 and 560. The stop is a 2 minute walk round the corner to the abbey. For drivers, Einsiedeln Abbey is a 40 minute drive along the A3 from Zürich. There is parking on site too. You can also get the S25 and S13 trains from Zürich Main Station to Einsiedeln.


The Pilgrimage Town of Einsiedeln

Einsiedeln is located in the heart of Central Switzerland close to Zurich. The Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln is the most important baroque building in Switzerland. Since the Middle Ages the Chapel of Our Lady with the famous "Black Madonna" has been one of the most significant pilgrimage places in Europe.

A monk called "Meinrad" came to this region to live as hermit. After his violent death in 861, a chapel was built at the site of his hermitage. This is the origin of the city’s name, which means hermitage.

The history of the Benedictine Abbey dates back to 934, when a monastic community was founded at the site of St. Meinrad’s hermitage. The pilgrimage to Our Lady of Einsiedeln and her miraculously dedicated chapel developed in the subsequent centuries and attracted pilgrims from all over Europe.

In 1466, the present statue of the Madonna was brought to Einsiedeln and the place became the most important Marian shrine in Switzerland as well as a place of worship, hospitality and culture.

In 1704 the foundations were laid for the abbey complex and the magnificent baroque abbey church was consecrated in 1735.

Even today, the abbey is the home to a dynamic monastic community following the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monks teach at the Abbey School numbering about 350 students, serve in several parishes, and are available for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims.

Einsiedeln offers many attractions, such as the show cheese factory Milchmanufaktur, two ski jumps, the gingerbread and mineral museums, or the Diorama and Panorama. In summer, the region is a paradise for hiking, biking or simply relaxing. Lake Sihl is popular for swimming, wind surfing, sailing, fishing or a cruise aboard "MS Angelika". People who like to be active will enjoy winter here. Einsiedeln is a cross-country ski paradise and offers all kind of winter sports such as skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and walking. Traditions, culture, and sport are very important and always play a central role in numerous events.

Hospitality has a long tradition in Einsiedeln. The village with its many diverse shops, cafés and restaurants is ideal for leisurely strolls combined with good food and friendly encounters.

Big stories in a place with big stories: Welttheater 2020 will take place from June 17th to September 5th in Einsiedeln.


Einsiedeln Abbey

Einsiedeln Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in the village of Einsiedeln. 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 has been a major resting point on the Way of St. James for centuries.

According a legend, Eberhard, previously Provost of Strassburg, erected in 934 a monastery and church there, of which he became first abbot. The church was consecrated 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 &aposas its proper pastor&apos (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 amongst his monks.

The pilgrimages, just mentioned, 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 14 and October 13 are the chief pilgrimage days, the former being the anniversary of the miraculous consecration of Eberhard&aposs basilica and the latter that of the translation of St Meinrad&aposs relics from Reichenau Island to Einsiedeln in 1039. The millennium of St Meinrad was kept there with great splendour 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.


Swiss American History

During the 19th century, a number of Benedictine monasteries had been founded in the United States by monks coming from monasteries in the German-speaking region of Switzerland. The fortunes of Roman Catholic institutions in Switzerland were turbulent, especially in the 19th century. All were dissolved as a consequence of the French Revolution in 1798, but were restored by Napoleonic decree in 1803, with the exception of the Abbey of St. Gall, where the Prince-Abbot refused to make the necessary political concessions. The anti-monastic policies of the Swiss cantons, however, later brought about the dissolution of monasteries in Pfäfers (1838), Muri (1841), Fischingen (1848) and Rheinau (1863).

The outlook for Swiss Roman Catholics during the Kulturkampf was so bleak that the ancient Abbeys of Einsiedeln (pictured) and Engelberg began a program of establishing new monasteries in the United States, so that the remaining Swiss monasteries would have a refuge if they were all exiled. Those pioneer monks also were to serve the large number of German people who had emigrated there. As their offshoots, these new communities remained a part of the Swiss Confederation of Benedictine monasteries.

By 1881 the number of such communities had grown that it was felt appropriate to separate them from the authority of the mother country. Accordingly, Pope Leo XIII authorized the creation of this congregation, under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As you can see below, Subiaco is a foundation of St. Meinrad as our mother abbey, although the "grandmother" Abbey of Maria Enseideln adopted Subiaco in order to sustain it in the earliest years of our foundation.

Provided on this page are documents for the monasteries of the Swiss American Congregation. They include the primary constitution and statutes governing our monasteries, the most recently published Congregational Calendar (known as the ORDO) for our congregation, the Declaration of Benedictine Monastic Life (which provides a really nice overview of our way of life), and the detailed catalogue of our monastries. Listed below are the respective foundations that had been formed by the two main Swiss Abbeys:


Einsiedeln


The Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln, Switzerland

In the German language the word einsiedler means hermit, and Switzerland's greatest pilgrimage shrine, the abbey of Einsiedeln, derives its name from being the 'place of the hermits'. While legends indicate the site was sacred in pre-Christian times, its historical fame began in the early 9th century. In 835, Meinrad, a young nobleman who had been a monk in the monastery of Reichenau, left the monastery to live a hermit's life in the deep woods of northeast Switzerland. For 26 years he lived alone in the woods with two crows as his only companions. In 861, two bandits came upon Meinrad in his hermitage and murdered him. Legends tell that Meinrad's two crows followed the bandits, hovering and shrieking in a strange manner, until the bandits were captured in Zurich, 30 miles away.

When Meinrad had first come to the forest he had brought along one of the mysterious Black Madonna statues, considered by many scholars to be Christianized pagan Dark Goddesses. After Meinrad's death a small Benedictine cloister was built at the site of his hermitage and this cloister, housing the Black Madonna, soon became a pilgrimage site of great importance. The enormous abbey standing today rose over a period of many centuries and only legends are left regarding the sites sacred use in prehistoric times. Inside the church the primary object of pilgrimage visitation is the Chapel of Grace which houses a mid-15th century Black Madonna icon (the earlier icon having been destroyed in a fire). The Chapel of Grace, standing directly upon the site of Meinrad's original hermitage, is believed to have been consecrated by Christ himself when he miraculously appeared on September 14, 948.

The Black Madonna images in European pilgrimage shrines are a matter of some controversy. Throughout Western Europe there are over 200 examples of these black images and, while anathema to the orthodox church, they are widely venerated as having esoteric, magical and wonder-working powers.

Writing in The Cult of the Black Virgin, Ean Begg states that

"The still popular cult of wonder-working images is not only reactionary and non-scriptural, it also evokes memories of awkward subjects best left in obscurity like the pre-Christian origins of much in Christianity, the history of the Templars, Catharism, and other heresies, and secrets concerning the Merovinginian dynasty. So, blackness in statues of the Virgin tends to be ignored and, where admitted, is attributed to the effects of candle smoke, burial, immersion or fashion's passing whim. The contention, then, of the Catholic Church is that most such statues were not originally intended to be black, and only became so by accident later." . "If the presumed polychrome faces and hands of the Virgin and Child have been blackened by the elements however, why has their polychrome clothing not been similarly discolored? Secondly, why has a similar process not occurred in the case of other venerated images (where smoky candles were also burned nearby)?"

Mary Lee Nolan, a leading scholar of European pilgrimage has noted that more than 10% of the European shrines where Black Virgins are venerated are known to have been centers of worship in pre-Christian times. Echoing this fact, other scholars see in Black Virgin veneration a continuation of pre-Christian worship of such pagan goddesses as Isis, Diana of Ephesus, Artemis, Cybele, and the Celtic deity Hecate (it is interesting to note in this regard that the great Egyptian goddess, Isis, is often shown as a nursing mother with the infant Horus god at her breast in this image lies the origins of the Madonna and Child image). Lending still more support to the pre-Christian origin of the Black Madonnas, Begg writes that

"Again and again in the stories of the Black Virgin, a statue is found in a forest or a bush, or discovered when ploughing animals refuse to pass a certain spot. The statue is taken to the parish church, only to return miraculously by night to her own place, where a chapel is then built in her honor. Almost invariably her cult is associated with natural phenomena, especially healing waters or striking geographical features. The Romans had taken over and adapted many of the sacred sites of the Celtic world, which the Christians were later, in their turn, to sanctify, but the spirit of the place remains Celtic, and still whispers something of its origins through the cult associated with it."

It is evident from a serious study of these matters that the patriarchal Roman church in its effort to exterminate the ancient and immensely popular goddess cults had only succeeded in driving them underground. In contemporary Europe the veneration of the feminine principle and her sacred sites is once again gaining power. As Begg interprets it,

"The return of the Black Virgin to the forefront of collective consciousness has coincided with the profound psychological need to reconcile sexuality and religion."


The Black Madonna statue of Guadalupe, Spain

Martin Gray is a cultural anthropologist, writer and photographer specializing in the study and documentation of pilgrimage places around the world. During a 38 year period he has visited more than 1500 sacred sites in 165 countries. The World Pilgrimage Guide web site is the most comprehensive source of information on this subject.

Main street of Einsiedeln, Abbey square in the foreground

The village of Einsiedeln is a popular tourist destination in central Switzerland. The Benedictine Einsiedeln Abbey, located within the village, is considered one of the most important Roman Catholic pilgrimage sites in Europe Β] and is called "the most important place of pilgrimage dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Switzerland". ⎘] In addition to the Abbey, Einsiedeln is also a popular destination for sports year round. The village has 3 ski areas which include lifts as well as ski jumps. ⎘]

Since the Middle Ages the Graces Chapel and a statue of the Black Madonna have been the centerpiece of the pilgrimage. The statue is so famous that a copy can also be seen in the French Jura town of Pontarlier. Between 150,000 and 200,000 pilgrims visit the Graces Chapel each year. Β]

Besides being a site for pilgrimages, Einsiedeln is a tourist destination for those interested in winter sports. The village has its own ski jump, ski lifts, ski tows and winter sports centres, which are in the nearby area of Hoch-Ybrig and Brunni. The Schwedentritt cross-country skiing trail starts next to the Einsiedeln Abbey.

The nearby reservoir, Sihlsee, is used in summer for swimming, surfing and sailing, and in the winter for ice-skating. The dam, which retains the lake, produces electricity for the trains and protects the city of Zurich further down the valley from the flood of the Sihl.

These days, fewer pilgrims come to Einsiedeln. For that reason, some of the former hotels have now closed. At the same time, the village has experienced a boom with day tourists, owing to the clear air and mountain views. Because of the high quality of life locally, the population is growing faster than is normal in Switzerland.


References

Below is a location map and aerial view of Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

Sacred Destinations is an online travel guide to sacred sites, religious travel, pilgrimages, holy places, religious history, sacred places, historical religious sites, archaeological sites, religious festivals, sacred sites, spiritual retreats, and spiritual journeys.

Sacred Destinations is an independent editorial publication. It is not the official website of any sacred site or religious building listed here.

Except where indicated otherwise, all content and images © 2005-2021 Sacred Destinations. All rights reserved.


Einsiedeln Monastery

Einsiedeln Monastery has been cultivating a tradition of hospitality for over 1000 years. Switzerland's most important place of pilgrimage is a magnet for pilgrims on the Way of St. James, culture devotees and tourists alike.

The magnificent abbey, complete with Chapel of Our Lady and Black Madonna, is fascinating. The monks celebrate Vespers at 4.30 p.m., closing with the polyphonic antiphon, Salve Regina. Einsiedeln Monastery is currently home to some 50 monks. The Baroque complex in its present form was built from 1703 onwards after plans by Caspar Moosbrugger.


Sources

Gallia Christiana (Paris, 1781), V Album Benedictinum (St. Vincent's, Pennsylvania, 1880) MIGNE, Dict. des Abbayes (Paris, 1856) RÉGNIER, Chronique d'Einsiedeln (Paris, 1837) Précis Historique de l'Abbaye et du Pélerinage de Notre-Dame-des-Ermites (Einsiedeln, 1870) MOREL, Die Regesten der Benediktiner-Abtei Einsieldeln (Chur, 1848) BRUNNER, Ein Benediktinerbuch (Würzburg, 1880) RINGHOLZ, Geschichte des fürstlichen Benediktinerstiftes L. F. von Einsiedeln (Einsiedeln, 1904), the most important work on the history and antiquities of the abbey.


Bible Encyclopedias

A Benedictine monastery in the Canton of Schwyz, Switzerland, dedicated to Our Lady of the Hermits, that title being derived from the circumstances of its foundation, from which the name Einsiedeln is also said to have originated. St. Meinrad, of the family of the Counts of Hohenzollern, was educated at the abbey school of Reichenau, an island in Lake Constance, under his kinsmen Abbots Hatto and Erlebald, where he became a monk and was ordained. After some years at Reichenau, and the dependent priory of Bollingen, on Lake Zurich, he embraced an eremitical life and established his hermitage on the slopes of Mt. Etzel, taking with him a wonder-working statue of Our Lady which he had been given by the Abbess Hildegarde of Zurich. He died in 861 at the hands of robbers who coveted the treasures offered at the shrine by devout pilgrims, but during the next eighty years the place was never without one or more hermits emulating St. Meinrad's example. One of them, named Eberhard, previously Provost of Strasburg, erected 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 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 empire by Otto I, and his successors continued to enjoy the same dignity up to the cessation of the empire in the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1274 the abbey, with its dependencies, was created an independent principality by Rudolf of Hapsburg, over which the abbot exercised temporal as well as spiritual jurisdiction. It continued independent until the French Revolution. The abbey is now what is termed nullius dioecesis, the abbot having quasi-episcopal authority over ten parishes served by the monks and comprising nearly twenty thousand souls. 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 sixteenth 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 amongst his monks.

The pilgrimages, just mentioned, which have never ceased since the days of St. Meinrad, have tended to make Einsiedeln the rival even of Rome, Loreto, and Compostela, and constitute one of the features for which the abbey is chiefly celebrated. The pilgrims number from 150,000 to 200,000 annually, from all parts of Catholic Europe. The miraculous statue of Our Lady, originally set up by St. Meinrad, and later enthroned in the little chapel erected by Eberhard, is the object of their devotion. This chapel stands within the great abbey church, in much the same way as the Holy House at Loreto, encased in marbles and precious woodwork, elaborately decorated, though it has been so often restored, rebuilt, and adorned with the offerings of pilgrims, that it may be doubted whether much of the original sanctuary still remains. The fourteenth of September and the thirteenth of October 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 to Einsiedeln in 1039. The millenary of St. Meinrad was kept there with great splendour in 1861. The great church has been many times rebuilt, the last time by Abbot Maurus between the years 1704 and 1719, and one of its chief treasures now is a magnificent corona presented by Napoleon III when he made a pilgrimage there in 1865. The library, which dates from 946, contains nearly fifty thousand volumes and many priceless manuscripts The work of the monks is divided chiefly between prayer, the confessional, and study. At pilgrimage times the number of confessions heard is very large. The community numbers about one hundred priests and forty lay brothers, and attached to the abbey are a seminary and a college for about two hundred and sixty boys, both of which are taught by the monks, who also direct six convents of nuns. In 1854 a colony was sent to America from Einsiedeln to work amongst the native Indian tribes. From St. Meinrad's Abbey, Indiana, which was the first settlement, daughter-houses were founded, and these in 1881 were formed into the Swiss-American Congregation, which comprised (in 1906) seven monasteries and nearly four hundred religious. Dom Thomas Bossart, the fifty-third Abbot of Einsiedeln and former dean of the monastery, was elected in 1905.

Gallia Christiana (Paris, 1781), V Album Benedictinum (St. Vincent's, Pennsylvania, 1880) MIGNE, Dict. des Abbayes (Paris, 1856) RÉGNIER, Chronique d'Einsiedeln (Paris, 1837) Précis Historique de l'Abbaye et du Pélerinage de Notre-Dame-des-Ermites (Einsiedeln, 1870) MOREL, Die Regesten der Benediktiner-Abtei Einsieldeln (Chur, 1848) BRUNNER, Ein Benediktinerbuch (Würzburg, 1880) RINGHOLZ, Geschichte des fürstlichen Benediktinerstiftes L. F. von Einsiedeln (Einsiedeln, 1904), the most important work on the history and antiquities of the abbey.


Watch the video: Black Madonnas in Europe and Spain (September 2022).

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