15 - Einsiedeln Abbey, Home of the Swiss "Black Madonna"
Tuesday, June 20, 2023, our Hiestand-Haston tour group will visit the largest church in Switzerland–the famous Einsiedeln Abbey.
150,000 to 200,000 Roman Catholic pilgrims visit each year
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.
Meinrad was educated under his kinsmen, Abbots Hatto and Erlebald, at the abbey school at Reichenau, an island on Lake Constance, 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 a heremitical life and established his hermitage on the slopes of mount 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, in 934 erected a monastery and church there, of which he became first abbot.
The church is alleged to have been 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.
During the Middle Ages, Einsiedeln became a popular place of pilgrimage for people from southern Germany, Switzerland, and Alsace. Meinrad’s cell became the shrine of the Black Madonna of Einsiedeln. Over the years dust and the smoke of candles, oil lamps, and incense darkened the image. In 1803 the hands and face were painted black. Wikipedia.
Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli stayed in Einsiedeln for two years, during which time he focused on church activities and personal studies, including Greek and Hebrew. Many of his reformation ideas began to germinate during those years prior to his move to Zürich to become the people’s priest of the Grossmünster church there.