Einsiedeln Abbey and the Black Madonna Statue

Kloster Einsiedeln, Einsiedeln, Švica

Website of the Sanctuary

+41 (0)55 418 61 11

Every day: 8.00 to 18.30

The Einsiedeln Abbey – Place of Pilgrimage

Einsiedeln is the oldest and most important place of pilgri­mage in Switzer­land. Its origins date back to the 11th century. During the Middle-ages Einsiedeln was an important stop-over for the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The main focus of religious attraction is the Lady Chapel with the Black Madonna

In contrast to other Marian places of pilgrimage such as Lourdes and Fatima the pilgrimage takes place in small groups and remains largely unnoticed by other visitors.

Einsiedeln Abbey and the Black Madonna Statue

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The daily highlight is the Salve Regina: Following the Gregorian Vesper at 4:30 p.m., the monks pass to the Lady Chapel in a solemn procession and sing the four-chant Salve Regina – a tradition that goes back to the middle of the 16th century.

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The Black Madonna statue

The black Madonna is a wooden statue of Our Lady situated inside the Lady Chapel. Her name derives from her black com­plexion, a result of the smoke of the many candles that used to burn in the chapel.

Einsiedeln Abbey and the Black Madonna Statue

The statue dates from the middle of the 15th century and stands in front of an aureole from which rays and flashes emanate. Since the early 17th century the Madonna is clad in a festive robe which is changed according to liturgy.

Feast of the Miraculous Consecration

The feast of the Miraculous Consecration commemorates the consecration of the Lady Chapel by Christ himself. This is the most important feast in Einsiedeln – particularly when it is celebrated on a Sunday: The abbey and parts of the town are illuminated by candles and the monks and pilgrims march in a candle light procession around the abbey square.

Great Hall

The baroque ‘Great Hall’ is the audience chamber of the monastery and the only part that can be visited by the public. It is used mainly for concerts. Treasures of the monastery are exhibited in the entrance hall.

Einsiedeln Abbey Library

Manuscripts and books going back to the foundation of the monastery in the 10th century can be found in the abbey library. The interior of the library is rococo.

The Sanctuary of Einsiedeln – Lady Chapel

The Lady Chapel of Einsiedeln is situated inside the abbey church and it houses the Black Madonna. It was erected in exactly the same place where St. Meinrad had built his hermitage.

It was consecrated on September 14th in 948 by Konrad, bishop of Constance. According to the legend, Christ appeared him in his dream and consecrated the chapel himself.

Konrad therefore refused to consecrate it again. Every year the Feast of the Miraculous Consecration commemorates this event on September 14th.

The original chapel was torn down in Mai 1798 by the French troops that had occupied Switzerland. It was reconstructed in the years 1815 – 1817 in the neoclassical style.

Einsiedeln – the beginnings

It can no longer be ascertained exactly when Einsiedeln first became a centre of pilgrimage, but it is certain that the pilgrimage has played an important role in the development of Einsiedeln’s monastic community.

The beginnings of the pilgrimage could well be bound up with the spread of the legend of the “miraculous consecration” of the Lady Chapel, the so-called “Engelweihe”, first documented around the middle of the 12th century.

The earliest authentic record of the pilgrimage itself is from the year 1337, when Tumb von Neuburg, a knight from the Vorarlberg region of Austria, drew up a letter of safe conduct for pilgrims to Einsiedeln.

The foundation of the Pilgrim’s Hospital in 1353 is indicative of an increase in the pilgrimage’s popularity. Pilgrims came from all parts of the Swiss Confederation, as well as from abroad: there is evidence of pilgrims from Lubeck around 1370, and later from Cologne and Flanders.

Large numbers of pilgrims crowded into Einsiedeln on the occasion known as the Great Miraculous Consecration Day in 1466.

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Feasts and Pilgrim’s Days

January 1 Solemnity of Our Lady – new year
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers

January 6 Solemnity of the Apparition of the Lord – feast of the three kings
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers

January 21 Solemnity of Saint Meinrad (+ 861), holy day
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers, procession with the skull relic of St. Meinrad to the Lady Chapel

March 19 Solemnity of St. Joseph
9:30 a.m. High Mass
4:30 p.m. Solemn Vespers

Holy Thursday 7 p.m. Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Compline and Adoration in the undercroft of the Church

Good Friday 8 p.m. Mourning Matins
4 p.m. Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, adoration before the Holy Sepulcher in the Chapel of St. Magdalene

Holy Saturday 8 p.m. Mourning Mattins
20.30 Liturgy of the Easter Vigil

Easter Sunday 07.30 Pontifical Lauds
10:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass – solemnized by orchestra and mixed choir
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers

Ascension Important pilgrim’s day
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass – solemnized by orchestra and mixed choir
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers

Pentecost 9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers

Corpus Christi 8:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass followed by the procession with the Blessed Sacrament on the abbey square
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers with Benediction
8 p.m. Pontifical Compline with Benediction

July 11 Solemnity of St. Benedict – holy day in the abbey
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers

July 16 Feast of our Lady of Einsiedeln
(respectively: 9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
following Sunday) 4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers followed by the procession to the Lady Chapel with sung Marian Litany

August 15 Assumption of our Lady

Patronage of the Abbey Church – important pilgrim’s day
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
2:30 p.m. Devotion with the pilgrims
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers followed by the procession to the Lady Chapel with sung Marian Litany

September 8 Birth of Mary – holy day in the abbey
9:30 a.m. High Mass
4:30 p.m. Solemn Vespers followed by the procession to the Lady Chapel with sung Marian Litany

September 14 Anniversary of the Dedication of the Lady Chapel – main pilgrim’s day
Eve
8 p.m. First Pontifical Mass, procession to the Lady Chapel

Holy Day
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
11 a.m. Pilgrims Mass
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers
8 p.m. Solemn Compline followed by the procession with the Blessed Sacrament on the illuminated abbey square

1st Sunday in Oct. Memorial of our Lady of the Rosary
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
14:30 p.m. Pilgrims Prayer
4:30 p.m. Solemn Vespers followed by the procession to the Lady Chapel with sung Marian Litany

2nd Sunday in Oct. Sunday of St. Meinrad
9:30 a.m. High Mass
4:30 p.m. Solemn Vespers followed by the procession with the skull relic of St. Meinrad

November 1 All Saint’s Day
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers

December 8 Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary
9:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers

Christmas Eve
8 p.m. Solemn Monastic Vigils
11 p.m. Mass at midnight – solemnized by orchestra and mixed choir

Christmas Day
10:30 a.m. Pontifical Mass – solemnized by orchestra and mixed choir
4:30 p.m. Pontifical Vespers followed by by a devotion before the Christmas crib

December 31 Turn of the Year
8 p.m. Solemn Monastic Vigils
11 p.m. Celebration for the turn of the year – organ plays

Black Madonna

The black Madonna is a wooden statue of Our Lady situated inside the Lady Chapel. Her name derives from her black com­plexion, a result of the smoke of the many candles that used to burn in the chapel.

The statue dates from the middle of the 15th century and stands in front of an aureole from which rays and flashes emanate. Since the early 17th century the Madonna is clad in a festive robe which is changed according to liturgy.

Salve Regina

The Salve Regina is the daily highlight of the religious ceremonies in Einsiedeln. Following the Gregorian Vesper celebrations in the choir at 4.30 p.m., the monks march in a solemn procession to the Lady Chapel an sing there the four-part chant of the Salve Regina, a tradition dating back to the year 1547.

Feast of the Miraculous Consecration

The feast of the Miraculous Consecration commemorates the consecration of the Lady Chapel by Christ himself. This is the most important feast in Einsiedeln – particularly when it is celebrated on a Sunday: The abbey and parts of the town are illuminated by candles and the monks and pilgrims march in a candle light procession around the abbey square.

Great Hall

The baroque ‘Great Hall’ is the audience chamber of the monastery and the only part that can be visited by the public. It is used mainly for concerts. Treasures of the monastery are exhibited in the entrance hall.

Abbey Library

Manuscripts and books going back to the foundation of the monastery in the 10th century can be found in the abbey library. The interior of the library is rococo.

Einsiedeln is about 40 km south-east of Zurich and can easily be reached by train as well as by car.

Journey by Train
The “Schweizerische Südostbahn” will get you from Wädenswil or Pfäffikon (both on the main route Zurich – Sargans/Chur) in 25 minutes to Einsiedeln. From Zurich there is a connection every half hour.
The “Voralpen-Express” (Romanshorn – Lucerne) offers excellent connections to Eastern Switzerland and the lake of Lucerne area.From the station it is about a 7 min. walk to the abbey square.

Journey by Car
From the highway exits Richterswil and Schindellegi on the A3 (Zurich – Chur) Einsiedeln is reached in less than 15 minutes.

Sundays and Holy Days

  • 6:15 a.m. Mass in the Lady Chapel
  • 7:15 a.m. Divine Office – Lauds (sung)
  • 8 a.m. Mass in the Lady Chapel
  • 9:30 a.m. Conventual High Mass
  • 11 a.m. Mass for the Pilgrims
  • 4:30 p.m. Divine Office – Vespers and ‘Salve Regina’
  • 5:30 p.m. Mass in the Lady Chapel
  • 8 p.m. Divine Office – Compline

Weekdays

  • 6:15 a.m. Mass in the Lady Chapel
  • 7:15 a.m. Divine Office – Lauds (sung)
  • 8:30 a.m. Mass in the Lady Chapel
  • 9:30 a.m. Mass in the Lady Chapel
  • 11:15 a.m. Conventual High Mass
  • 12:05 a.m. Divine Office – Midday Prayer
  • 4:30 p.m. Divine Office – Vespers and ‘Salve Regina’
  • 5:30 p.m. Mass in the Lady Chapel
  • 8 p.m. Divine Office – Compline

Easter to All Saint’s Day daily (other times Sundays and holidays only) in the undercroft of the church from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance.

Confessions
Ask at the gate to the abbey (inside the church right in the front on the right hand side, ring the bell) for a English speaking priest.

Prayer Requests
In front of the left pillar in the middle of the church you will find a book, in which you may enter your prayer requests.

Devotional Lights
Opposite the Lady Chapel you will find the candle stand. The contribution is used for the renovation of the church.

Benedictions
At the Sigismund altar – the first altar upfront on the right next to the gate to the abbey – religious articles will be blessed by a monk at various times.

The Way of the Cross
The way of the cross starts at the woods on the right hand side of the abbey. Gently ascending you reach the Meinradsberg with the mighty crucifixion group. This point offers a splendid view onto the abbey and the abbey square.

The Sanctuary of Einsiedeln – Lady Chapel

The Lady Chapel of Einsiedeln is situated inside the abbey church and it houses the Black Madonna. It was erected in exactly the same place where St. Meinrad had built his hermitage. It was consecrated on September 14th in 948 by Konrad, bishop of Constance. According to the legend, Christ appeared him in his dream and consecrated the chapel himself. Konrad therefore refused to consecrate it again. Every year the Feast of the Miraculous Consecration commemorates this event on September 14th.

The original chapel was torn down in Mai 1798 by the French troops that had occupied Switzerland. It was reconstructed in the years 1815 – 1817 in the neoclassical style.

The beginnings

It can no longer be ascertained exactly when Einsiedeln first became a centre of pilgrimage, but it is certain that the pilgrimage has played an important role in the development of Einsiedeln’s monastic community. The beginnings of the pilgrimage could well be bound up with the spread of the legend of the “miraculous consecration” of the Lady Chapel, the so-called “Engelweihe”, first documented around the middle of the 12th century.

The earliest authentic record of the pilgrimage itself is from the year 1337, when Tumb von Neuburg, a knight from the Vorarlberg region of Austria, drew up a letter of safe conduct for pilgrims to Einsiedeln. The foundation of the Pilgrim’s Hospital in 1353 is indicative of an increase in the pilgrimage’s popularity. Pilgrims came from all parts of the Swiss Confederation, as well as from abroad: there is evidence of pilgrims from Lubeck around 1370, and later from Cologne and Flanders. Large numbers of pilgrims crowded into Einsiedeln on the occasion known as the Great Miraculous Consecration Day in 1466.

Flowering-time and spiritual plays

At the time of the Reformation pilgrimage dropped off sharply. However, the struggle for the old faith brought the cantons that remained Catholic closely together, and Einsiedeln became a spiritual and religious focal point for them. In the second half of the 16th century the number of official pilgrimages under the auspices of the Catholic cantons continued to grow.

The Confraternity of the Rosary, introduced into Einsiedeln in 1600, played a large role in establishing the elaborate pageantry of the pilgrimage with processions and morality plays. In so doing they were but reinstating an old tradition, since there are reports of dramatic productions in Einsiedeln from as far back as the 12th century. The plays of the Baroque era developed from silent tableaux presented in the processions, in which scenes from the wars with the Turks were prominent.

The first time that an actual festival performance took place was in 1655 for the papal nuncio Frederico Borromeo. The text was in the main composed by fathers from the abbey, while the head of the confraternity was in charge of the many facets of the theatrical production. Some of the plays presented reflected the prejudices of the time or could not be considered spiritual presentations. It is, therefore, no wonder that in 1773, during the period of the Enlightenment, the productions were forbidden.

Decline as a result of the French revolution

After 1680 more than 100’000 pilgrims arrived at Einsiedeln each year. During the Enlightenment and after the French Revolution pilgrimage was forbidden to the subjects of many states. In 1791 the revolutionary authorities in France forbade pilgrimages to Einsiedeln, and placed them under the same sanctions as emigration. The Helvetian Directory decreed that processions were not allowed to leave the immediate vicinity of the abbey church. Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg, the vicar-general of Constance, ordered that all rogations must have returned to their point of departure by the evening of the same day they set out. Both decrees made pilgrimage impossible.

New rise and continuous decline

After the Restoration pilgrimages to Einsiedeln quickly regained their former popularity. Especially large cantonal pilgrimages took place in 1847 before the Sonderbund War, Switzerland’s short civil war, broke out. Pilgrimage was greatly promoted, but also greatly changed, when the railways were built. Since automobile travel has become common, it has also become tinged with tourism. After severe setbacks during the two world-wars because of the absence of German and Austrian pilgrims, pilgrimage resurged after the second world-war. Since the seventies of the last century, however, pilgrimage has fallen into a continuous decline. The large pilgrimage trains completely disappeared and gave way to bus travels. Many of these bus travels operate in a intermediate zone between pilgrimage and tourism that is difficult to overlook.

© Father Joachim Salzgeber, OSB / Ele

Posted in Europe and Switzerland