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Einsiedeln Abbey

Coordinates: 47°07′36″N 08°45′5.3″E / 47.12667°N 8.751472°E / 47.12667; 8.751472
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Einsiedeln Abbey
Kloster Einsiedeln
Front der Klosterkirche (2022)
Einsiedeln Abbey is located in Canton of Schwyz
Einsiedeln Abbey
Location within Canton of Schwyz
Einsiedeln Abbey is located in Switzerland
Einsiedeln Abbey
Einsiedeln Abbey (Switzerland)
Monastery information
OrderOrder of Saint Benedict
Dedicated toOur Lady of the Hermits
DioceseEinsiedeln territorial abbey
Founder(s)Eberhard of Strasbourg
AbbotUrban Federer O.S.B.
PriorDaniel Emmenegger O.S.B.
Important associated figuresSaint Meinrad
StyleBaroque (1704/1735)
LocationEinsiedeln, Canton of Schwyz, Switzerland
Coordinates47°07′36″N 08°45′5.3″E / 47.12667°N 8.751472°E / 47.12667; 8.751472
Public accessallowed
Other informationplace of pilgrimage, gymnasium (Swiss Matura, 400 students), work shops, plant nursery, viniculture, stud

Einsiedeln Abbey (German: Kloster Einsiedeln) is a Catholic monastery administered by the Benedictine Order in the village of Einsiedeln, Switzerland.

The Abbey of Einsiedeln is one of the most important baroque monastic sites and the largest place of pilgrimage in Switzerland.[1]

The Black Madonna of Einsiedeln in the Chapel of Grace attracts around 800,000 pilgrims and tourists every year. The community of Benedictine monks has around 40 members. The monastery is not under the jurisdiction of a diocese or a bishop because it is a territorial abbey.[2]

The abbey operates a private high school along with a winery, sawmill, restaurant and other small businesses in order to support itself.[3]


Origin of the monastery[edit]

The history of Einsiedeln Abbey starts with Meinrad of Einsiedeln. Born in around 800, he was educated at the abbey school on Reichenau Island in what is today Germany. Meinrad became a monk and was later ordained a priest. After gaining public attention for reportedly performing miracles, Meinrad established a hermitage in 828 in the Einsiedeln forest of Switzerland, searching for privacy. He was murdered by two robbers in January 861.[4]

Over the next 80 years, other hermits occupied Meinrad's hermitage. In 934 Eberhard, previously Provost of Strassburg, built the Einsiedeln abbey and church on the hermitage site, becoming its first abbot. According to legend, the church was consecrated in 948 in person by Jesus Christ in honor of his mother Mary. It was the beginning of the pilgrimage to the Chapel of the Saviour, which turned in the Middle Ages to a Marian pilgrimage.[4]

In 965 Gregory, the third Abbot of Einsiedeln, was named a prince of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Otto I. His successor abbots would hold that title until the dissolution of the empire in 1806.

High and late Middle Ages[edit]

In 1226, after another fire, the church was enlarged. The lower church was built above the Chapel of the Saviour, which was incorporated into the new compley. This effect, of a sanctuary within a sanctuary, has been maintained in later restorations of the Chapel of Our Lady.

In the 13th century, the pilgrimage to the monastic compley became more popular, better structured and organized. The figure of the enthroned Madonna holding the baby Christ on her left knee, which appears on an abbey seal from 1239, is considered Einsiedeln's oldest miraculous image.

Early modern times[edit]

During the early 16th century, the standards of discipline at Einsiedeln started to decline, but Ludovicus II, a monk of St. Gall who was Abbot of Einsiedeln from 1526 to 1544, restored a stricter observance. The abbey remained unaffected by the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. Its leader, Huldrych Zwingli, had studied at the abbey for a period of time.[5] Abbot Augustine I (1600–29) led the movement to create the Swiss Congregation of the Order of St. Benedict in 1602. Augustine established unrelaxed observance in the abbey and promoted a high standard of scholarship and learning amongst his monks.

The Einsiedeln abbey church was rebuilt by Abbot Maurus between 1704 and 1719 and the baroque ornamentation was completed in 1734. In 1798, the abbey was occupied by French revolution soldiers, losing its status as an independent principality. The clergy could return to the monastery in 1801. On February 19, 1803, the abbey was officially reinstalled by the Act of Mediation. However, the Chapel of Grace was only rebuilt in 1815-1817 with the remaining parts of the old structure in the neoclassical style.

19th and 20th century[edit]

Because of the political uncertainties inside and outside the country in the 1840s, the Einsiedeln leadership became afraid that the abbey would be suppressed or dissolved. They sent a group of monks to southern Indiana in the United States to minister to German immigrants and develop a possible place of refuge. The monks started a new foundation, now Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana.[6]

There are a total of five monasteries in the USA that are linked to Einsiedeln by history:

A highlight in the history of the monastery was the visit of Pope John Paul II in the summer of 1984, who solemnly consecrated the new high altar in the lower choir on June 15.[7]

Marian veneration[edit]

The canonically crowned image of Our Lady of Hermits.

In contrast to for example Lourdes, the pilgrimage in Einsiedeln does not go back to a Marian apparition, but to a monastic tradition.[8]

The oldest surviving reference to the Einsiedeln pilgrimage dates back to the early 14th century.[9] However, the pilgrimage itself is likely to be older. It was encouraged by the legend of the consecration of the angels, according to which the Einsiedeln Chapel of Grace was consecrated by Christ himself in 948. Originally, the Einsiedeln pilgrimage was therefore a pilgrimage to the church consecrated by Christ, which only gradually became a Marian pilgrimage with the rise of Marian devotion in the High Middle Ages. The miraculous consecration is commemorated every year on the Feast of the Consecration of the Angels on September 14.

The Middle Ages were the great age of pilgrimages. In addition to pilgrimages to Einsiedeln, many were also passing through on their way to Rome or Santiago de Compostela.

After the Reformation and especially in the Baroque period, Einsiedeln became more and more of a Marian pilgrimage site. After the great ecclesiastical crisis caused by the Reformation, the monastic community consolidated again and played a significant role in shaping Einsiedeln's pilgrimage culture.

Nowadays, the monastery is visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world every year. The majority come from Switzerland and the surrounding countries, but pilgrims from Eastern and Central European countries are also well represented.[10] In addition to the traditional religious pilgrims, there are also more and more visitors who come to the monastery and village for cultural reasons.

Status today[edit]


The Einsiedeln monastic community currently consists of 40 monks (as of October 2023).[11] The average age (as well as the median) is comparatively low at just under 60 years due to the continuous arrival of new members in recent years.

Einsiedeln 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.

The head of the community has been Abbot Urban Federer since December 2013. As Abbot of Einsiedeln, he is a full member of the Swiss Bishops' Conference.

Located in separate cantons, Einsiedeln Abbey and Fahr Convent, a community of Benedictine nuns, form a double monastery, both under the authority of the male Abbot of Einsiedeln.


The monastery's library is rich in old books: it contains around 230,000 printed books, 1230 manuscripts and 1040 volumes of incunabula and early printed books. Between 500 and 800 books are added every year.

The library was founded in 934 and the monastery already had its own writing school in the mid-10th century; 64 manuscripts from this period are still preserved today. The scriptorium, established in 2022, is a reminder of this, where visitors can learn about the production of books in the Middle Ages and write with ink and quill themselves.[12] The monastery was given its own printing press in 1664, where over a thousand titles were published by 1798. The library was last restored in 1998.


Einsiedeln Abbey School is a private and federally recognized Matura school in Einsiedeln with a history stretching back over 1,000 years. It is organized by the Benedictine monastery of Einsiedeln. Around 400 students attend the school, which is taught by around 50 teachers. Among them are also five priests.

The mission statement of the Abbey School is shaped by the Benedictine tradition. According to the current abbot of Einsiedeln Abbey, this is reflected in "the most holistic humanistic education possible, which essentially includes the artistic dimension". The abbey school is thus intended to offer an alternative to the existing range of schools.[13]

List of abbots[edit]

Main article: List of abbots (DE)



  • Moreau (Odile et Richard): D'Einsiedeln à la Salette au fil des siècles : avec les pėlerins comtois sur les pas de la Vierge Marie. L'Harmattan, Paris, 2012.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kloster Einsiedeln ||Kloster Einsiedeln". www.eyz.swiss (in German). Retrieved 2024-01-10.
  2. ^ "Abt & Mönche". Kloster Einsiedeln (in German). Retrieved 2024-01-10.
  3. ^ "Schule & Betriebe". Kloster Einsiedeln (in German). Retrieved 2022-04-22.
  4. ^ a b Alston, George Cyprian. "Abbey of Einsiedeln." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Potter, G. R. (1976), Zwingli, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 20-40, ISBN 0-521-20939-0
  6. ^ "Monastery History". Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Retrieved 2024-01-10.
  7. ^ "Geschichte der Wallfahrt".
  8. ^ "Geschichte der Wallfahrt".
  9. ^ Ringholz, Odilo (1888). Geschichte des Fürstlichen Benediktinerstiftes U. L. Fr. zu Einsiedeln unter Abt Johannes I. von Schwanden (1298–1327). Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des schwyzerisch-einsiedeln’schen Marchenstreites (1114–1350). Einsiedeln, p. 223 (§ 22).
  10. ^ "Wallfahrt nach Einsiedeln". www.lebendige-traditionen.ch (in German). Retrieved 2024-01-10.
  11. ^ "Abt & Mönche".
  12. ^ "Einsiedler Skriptorium".
  13. ^ "Geschichte und Werte | Gymnasium mit Internat im Kloster Einsiedeln".

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Abbey of Einsiedeln". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

External links[edit]