Fahr Abbey

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Kloster Fahr
Kloster Fahr - Unterengstringen IMG 5913.JPG
Fahr Abbey as seen from the west, Unterengstringen in the background
Fahr Abbey is located in Switzerland
Fahr Abbey
Location within Switzerland
Monastery information
Other names Fahr Abbey; Fahr Nunnery
Order Order of Saint Benedict
Established 22 January 1130
Mother house Kloster Einsiedeln
Dedicated to Our Lady
Diocese Roman Catholic Diocese of Basel
Controlled churches 3
Founder(s) Judenta and Luitold von Regensberg
Abbot Urban Federer OSB, Kloster Einsiedeln
Prior Irene Gassmann OSB (since 2003)
Location Würenlos, Canton of Aargau, being an enclave within Unterengstringen, Canton of Zürich, Switzerland
Coordinates 47°24′30.42″N 8°26′21.48″E / 47.4084500°N 8.4393000°E / 47.4084500; 8.4393000Coordinates: 47°24′30.42″N 8°26′21.48″E / 47.4084500°N 8.4393000°E / 47.4084500; 8.4393000
Public access allowed
Other information extensive agriculture by the nunnery, monastery shop and restaurant

Fahr Abbey, (Swiss German: Kloster Fahr) is a Benedictine monastery of nuns located in the Swiss municipality of Würenlos in the Canton of Aargau. Located in different cantons, Einsiedeln Abbey and Fahr Abbey form a double monastery, ruled by the Abbot of Einsiedeln. Fahr and Einsiedeln are perhaps the only such community still to exist.[1]

The outside frescos of the abbey's church
Refectory that was also used for the students
the former chaplain's house built in 1703
St. Anna chapel
View of the abbey from towards the Limmat

Geographical and administratively special situation[edit]

The monastery historically was located in an exclave of the canton of Aargau within the municipality of Unterengstringen in the canton of Zürich in the Limmat Valley. The nuns' abbey had not been part of a political municipality, although some administrative tasks have been carried out by the Würenlos authorities since the 19th century and the nuns were always allowed to fulfill their political rights (voting, etc.) in Würenlos. Since 1 January 2008 Fahr Abbey has been a part of Würenlos. The nunnery has its own postal code, 8109 Kloster Fahr.


The abbey is first mentioned in AD 1130 as Vare (an old term used for "ferry"). The lands were donated by the House of Regensberg. On 22 January 1130 Lütold II and his son Lütold III and his wife Judenta[2] handed over lands and estates on the shore of the Limmat around Weiningen and Unterengstringen-Oberengstringen to the Einsiedeln Abbey to establish a Benedictine monastery for nuns. The Chapel of St. Nicholas already stood on the land. This may have been connected with the death of Lütold I in 1088 while engaged in battle against the forces of the Abbey of Einsiedeln. The monastery was dedicated to Our Lady. In addition to the medieval St. Nikolaus-Kapelle (Saint Nicholas chapel), built around 10th century AD and now called St. Anna-Kapelle, and the late medieval church of the monastery, the parish church of Weiningen were subordinated to the monastery.

From the very beginning, the abbey has been ruled by the Abbot of Einsiedeln; the nuns are governed in their daily life by a prioress appointed by the abbot. The bailiwick rights were first held by the Regensberg family, after 1306 by the citizens of the municipality of Zürich, and from 1434 to 1798 by the Meyer von Knonau family.

Around 1530 the monastery was suppressed during the Reformation in Zürich, but it was reopened in 1576. An era of prosperity during the 17th century led to a brisk program of construction: In 1678 the tavern Zu den zwei Raben ("Two Ravens", the emblem of Einsiedeln Abbey) was built; from 1685 to 1696 the cloister and church tower were renovated; in 1703/04 a new refectory was designed by Johann Moosbrugger; and a house for the chaplain was erected in 1730/34. From 1743 to 1746 the monastery's church was decorated with frescoes by the Torricelli brothers.

In dissolving the old County (Grafschaft) of Baden in 1803, the cantons of Zurich and Aargau established an exclave of Aargau within the canton of Zürich, for the former lands of the abbey. Formerly part of the Bishopric of Constance, the abbey has been part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Basel since 1828. The canton of Aargau chose in 1841 to close all monasteries within its territory, but this was reversed in 1843 for women's monasteries. The negotiations between Einsiedeln Abbey and the cantonal authorities regarding assets and authority were completed nearly 90 years later, in 1932. At that point Aargau granted full autonomy to the monastic community.

During World War II, from November 1943 to February 1944, 11 female Jewish refugees lived secretly in the cloister; unfortunately they had to leave for an unknown destination when the school was opened.[3] On 1 February 1944, the abbey established a Bäuerinnenschule, i.e. an agricultural school for women.

On 1 January 2008 the monastery was incorporated into the municipality of Würenlos, happening over a century after the municipality's initial attempts to absorb the 1.48-hectare area of the monastery.[4]

On 22 January 2009 the former Abbot of Einsiedeln, Dom Martin Werlen, O.S.B., presented the nuns a new community seal, thereby indicating that the nuns were in full control of the business affairs of their monastery.[5]

End of 2014 the women's agricultural school (Bäuerinnenschule) had to close for financial reason.[6] At the same time the overall renovation of the monastery's buildings that were built between 1689 and 1746 started. The interior decoration, the windows and electric cables will be renewed to 2016, as well as the living cells of the sisters will be equipped with hot water. As the residential wing was the focus of the renovation, the sisters lived in the former peasant school. Primarily, the estimated total cost of CHF 21 million will ensure fire prevention and include energetically improvements to meet statutory requirements.[7]


As of April 2010, there were 26 nuns (7 in 1873, 33 in 2000) living at the abbey. Silja Walter (Sister Maria Hedwig, O.S.B.) (1919–2011), a renowned novelist, was the most prominent member of the community.[8][9]

Main article: Silja Walter

On 23 April 2016 the Silja-Walter-Raum was inaugurated. Sister Maria Hedwig's literal work is inextricably linked to the nunnery as she lived for over 60 years in the Benedictine community. During this time, Silja Walter wrote most of her literary work that included lyrics, mystery plays and theatre. After the renovation of the provost, the former office of the provost with its beautiful stucco ceiling was chosen to establish a small museum. It contains numerous texts, film, audio and photographic documents, as well as excerpts from the radio interview from 1982, when Silja Walter and her brother, Otto F. Walter, another renowned Swiss writer, recorded the interview tape Eine Insel (An Island). But also personal objects like the nun's typewriter are exhibited, and also the lesser known drawings and painting of the artist. The monastery would appeal to people who knew the artist's work, but also for the younger generation, said Prioress Irene during an interview.[10] For now, the room will be open every last Sunday of the month after the worship service from approximately 10:45 to 14:00. Admission is free.[11]

On memorial of Saint Wiborada – the first (Swiss) woman who was ever canonized by the Roman Catholic Church – on 2 May 2016 started a two months pilgrimage of eight respectively seven Fahr nuns from Wiborada's former home St. Gallen to Rome; the project group Kirche mit* insists on more rights for the Catholic woman. Along their 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) travel to the Vatican, the group of pilgrims was accompanied on stages by other women right's activists.[12][13] By mid-May 2016 around 650 people (approximately one fifth men) joined for at least one day's stage, and there are 400 more registrations for the final section of the pilgrimage in Rome.[14] Whether the Pope will grant an audience to the group of pilgrims on 2 July, the day of the Visitation, was uncertain; actually he then should be on vacation.[12]

Cloister garden[edit]

Sister Beatrice Beerli (born 1947) has the responsibility over the monastery gardens for over 20 years. In the peasant school (Bäuerinnenschule) she headed the module horticulture. Since the closure of the school in July 2013, she taught her knowledge on occasion of group tours in the multi-award winning Fahr gardens. Besides herbs, teas, syrup or herb salt, the sisters also sell tinctures from the herbs in their monastery shop. Vegetables are grown both for their own use as well as for the monastery's pilgrim hostel.[15][16]

Activities and points of interest[edit]

Viticulture played, for centuries, an important role in the monastic culture. Even in the deed of donation of 22 January 1130, a vineyard was mentioned. In the Middle Ages the cultivation and trade in wine was significant and frequently documented. Cultivation and wine pressing are part of the historic tradition, and the present vineyards comprise 4.2 hectares on the "Wingert" hill just above the monastery in the municipality of Unterengstringen and on monastic property in Weiningen where selected grape varieties are grown: Riesling-Sylvaner, Pinor Noir, Pinot Gris, Regent and Dornfelder. With the young vines Zweigelt, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, the historic wine selection was expanded.[17] The well-known wine estate is managed by the nuns and around 30 external employees.

Agricultural products made by the nunnery also include liquors and honey, and a variety of other products among them fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. The monastic community sells its products in a shop (from Monday to Saturday) situated in the abbey and provides a restaurant (from Wednesday to Sunday) in the former pilgrim's hostel, built in 1678 AD. The Chapel of St. Anna is a popular site for weddings.

The abbey was also renowned for its agricultural school for women (Bäuerinnenschule) that was established in 1944, but had to be closed in January 2015 for economical reasons and because the few nuns were no longer able to ensure the high quality of the 20-weeks courses for young women.[6]

From spring 2016, the rooms of the convent are also opened for civil marriages which performs the Zivilstandsamt Wettingen on Friday afternoons from May to September: Abtstube for up to 10 people, and the Vier Jahreszeiten room for up to 20 people, regardless of religion, creed and nationality.[18]

For tourists, Fahr Abbey is a highlight in the Limmat Valley and a popular stop for hikers and bikers along the Limmat.[19]

Cultural Heritage[edit]

Kloster Fahr is listed in the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance as a Class A object of national importance.[20]



  1. ^ "Doppelkloster". Kloster Fahr (in German). Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Martin Leonhard (2013-01-29). "Regensberg, von" (in German). HDS. Retrieved 2015-08-28. 
  3. ^ Tages-Anzeiger online (April 4, 2010): Das Kloster Fahr nahm jüdische Frauen auf
  4. ^ Tages-Anzeiger online (December 8, 2006): Kloster Fahr wird eingemeindet
  5. ^ Orden online (January 24, 2009): Kloster Fahr erhält Siegelrecht zurück
  6. ^ a b Anina Gepp (2015-01-25). "Grosser Abschied: Kloster Fahr schliesst Bäuerinnenschule" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2015-08-19. 
  7. ^ Sophie Rüesch (2015-12-31). "So fällt das Loslassen von der Bäuerinnenschule weniger schwer" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  8. ^ "Silja Walter ist tot" (in German). Tages-Anzeiger. 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2016-04-24. 
  9. ^ "Prior Irene Gassmann, Kloster Fahr: Zum Tod von Schwester Hedwig (Silja) Walter OSB" (in German). kath.ch. 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2016-04-24. 
  10. ^ Anna Gepp (2016-04-25). "Unerwartete Einblicke hinter die Klostermauern zu Ehren von Schwester Silja Walter" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  11. ^ Sandro Zimmerli (2016-04-22). "Silja-Walter-Raum im Kloster Fahr: So lebte die schreibende Nonne" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2016-04-24. 
  12. ^ a b Sophie Rüesch (2016-05-06). "Tausend Gläubige setzten ein Zeichen für mehr kirchliche Frauenrechte. Mittendrin: die Fahrer Nonnen" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  13. ^ "Courage: Irene Gassmann" (in German). Beobachter. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2016-07-08. 
  14. ^ "Pilgerprojekt der Nonnen Fahr hat Ziel jetzt schon erreicht" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. 2016-05-17. Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  15. ^ Sophie Rüesch (2016-06-10). "Die Nonnen laden in ihre preisgekrönten Gärten ein" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  16. ^ "Bäuerinnenschule Kloster Fahr: Abschied im Blütenmeer" (in German). migrosmagazin.ch. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  17. ^ "Klösterlicher Weinbau gestern und heute" (in German). Kloster Fahr. Retrieved 2015-08-19. 
  18. ^ Anina Gepp (2016-02-03). "Die Abtstube ist neu auch ein Trauzimmer" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  19. ^ Raphael Biermayr (2015-10-07). "Touristisch ist das Limmattal ein blinder Fleck im Schatten der Grossstadt" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  20. ^ "A-Objekte KGS-Inventar" (PDF). Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, Amt für Bevölkerungsschutz. 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-09-14. 


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