Einsiedeln – The Most Famous Monastic Village in Switzerland


The noun Klosterdorf translates to monastery village in English. Hence, villages with renowned monasteries are frequently referred to as Klosterdorf. Among the monastic villages in Switzerland are Disentis, Engelberg, Muri, and Einsiedeln. Of these monastery villages, Einsiedeln is the most prominent. 

Einsiedeln lies in the canton of Schwyz, Switzerland. Known for its Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln, one of Switzerland’s most important pilgrimage sites for Roman Catholics. The monastery was founded around 835 CE by the Benedictine monk and hermit Saint Meinrad.

Einsiedeln was also an important station on the Way of St. James during the Middle Ages and Early Modern Era.

There is much more to do in this picturesque village near Zurich than just visiting the monastery. In this article, we will explore the Einsiedeln Abbey and all there is to do in Einsiedeln, Switzerland.

Einsiedeln Abbey: A Short History

Image of the Benedictine Abbey by TouringSwitzerland.com

Switzerland’s most important Roman Catholic pilgrimage site is the Einsiedeln Abbey. It was founded around 835 CE by the Benedictine monk and hermit Saint Meinrad. It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive monastic structures in Switzerland.

If you would like to read more about the Einsiedeln Abbey, check out our article A Quick Guide to Einsiedeln Abbey and the Black Madonna.

Saint Meinrad

Saint Meinrad (called Meginrat in Alemannic) was born in the year 800 in Sülchgau, Germany. After studying at Insel Reichenau, he was sent to the area around Lake Zurich. He was known to come to the area around Etzel for its peace and quiet. 

Saint Meinrad built his hermitage before he was killed by two robbers in 861. Einsiedeln Abbey is located on the exact spot where Saint Meinrad occupied his room. It was later transferred to the predecessor of Einsiedeln Abbey.

Later, in 935 CE, Duchess and Otto I of Swabia (890-958 CE) founded their monastery at Einsiedeln. A major road intersects the western edge of Einsiedeln’s town square. This is where the Einsiedeln Abbey Church now stands.

In 1649, the Bavarian and French peace process was also held in Einsiedeln.

Black Madonna at Einsiedeln Abbey

Image of the Black Madonna from wikimedia

The Black Madonna at Einsiedeln Abbey is also the site of Marian devotion in Switzerland for more than a thousand years. 

Located at the rear of the church, the Black Madonna has her own chapel. The Black Madonna holds a child in her left hand. A figure made of limewood, the Black Madonna arrived at the holy chapel in 1466. The earlier Madonna was destroyed by fire in 1456.

During the French Revolution, the Black Madonna was moved to several different locations. Alpthal was where it was hidden before going to Haggenegg, the Monastery of St. Peter in Bludenz, and St. Gerold’s Provotory. The Black Madonna was restored in St. Gerold.

In 1803, the Black Madonna was returned to its chapel home in Einsiedeln.

Architecture & Collection

The front of the Einsiedeln Abbey faces a semicircular, large courtyard. It has a fountain built in honor of the honorable Virgin Mary.

Einsiedeln Abbey is the largest baroque masterpiece in Switzerland.

The Benedictine abbey is a well-known pilgrimage site, religious and cultural gathering place for many people. It was built between 1704 and 1780 according to Kaspar Moosbrugger’s plans.

Image from wikimedia

The first church built here was dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, and to Saint Meinrad. There are two impressive towers and a harmonious facade. The beautiful baroque architecture of the abbey will greet you once you enter. Large windows allow a lot of light to enter the church interior from the outside. Aegid Quirin Asam (stucco, pulpit) and Cosmas Damian Asam (ceiling frescoes) also contributed to the beautiful white, gold, and pastel interiors.

At the back of the Church is the Chapel for Black Madonna, a place where you can pray before her.

Note: Since it is a place of worship, taking pictures inside the church is not allowed nor recommended. The two images of its interiors that I used are courtesy of Wikimedia. Meanwhile, the images of the village are mine. 

Things to do in Einsiedeln

You can do different activities there according to different weather conditions.

Things to do in Summer around Einsiedeln

Image of Einsiedeln near the Forest Thematic Trail by TouringSwitzerland.com

What do you like to do in summer most of the time while visiting? In Switzerland, many locals love to do hiking, biking and visiting places with kids and family. If you are interested in doing the aforementioned activities, then you can visit Einsiedeln in the summer.

Here are more things to do around Einsiedeln during summer:

  • There is a short forest thematic trail (3.5 kilometers long) near the monastery. You can find more information on this Einsiedeln-Ybrig-Zurichsee region site.
  • In summer you can an extensive hiking and biking on trial network of Einsiedeln which is almost 400 km long. Hiking trails are available on the Einsiedeln-Ybrig-Zurichsee region hiking page.
  • There is an small mini-golf course for you right beside the monastery, if you are a sporty person.  
  • You can as visit to the Zoo in Goldau or the Children’s Zoo in Rapperswil with family and kids.
  • For summer you can also enjoy trips by mountain railway up the Rigi, a cruise on Lakes Lucerne, Zug or Zurich, or visit the Mouta Valley.

Things to do in Winter around Einsiedeln

Most of us like to go on trips in winter, if you also visit Einsiedeln in winter then don’t delay it.

Einsiedeln hosts a wonderful Christmas market, typically around the time before and after the first Advent (end of November to early December). So if you happen to visit it during this time, you are in luck. The place is truly magical and worth visiting.

Image of the Christmas Market by TouringSwitzerland.com

There are a lot of things you can do while visiting Einsiedeln in winter.  The winter sports region of Hoch Ybrig is just a few kilometers away. Hoch Ybrig is half an hour away from Einsiedeln by bus and 22 minutes by car.

Here are more things to do around Einsiedeln during winter:

  • In winter people love to visit ski regions and you will love it too, especially the Zurich area.
  • Hoch Ybrig and Brunni-Mythen have the biggest skiing tracks across the region, with the altitude of 900 to 1,900 meters above sea level. This area is very suitable for skiers and snowboarders.
  • The oldest ski school in Switzerland is the Ybrig ski school. There is also fun park which attracts kids and families like to spend time there.
  • In Einsiedeln, there is a cross-country track called Schwedentritt where you can do rounds for 1 / 2 / 3 / 9 / 12 / 15 kilometers. Near Einsideln, there are cross-country tracks in nearby Rothenthurm, Alpthal, Trachslau, and Hoch-Ybrig too.
  • Furthermore, the region has its fair share of winter trails and snowshoe trails to choose from.
  • There is a slope (Friherrenberg) suitable for sledging right near the Einsiedeln Abbey. Otherwise, they have other sledging slopes in Laucheren, Bogenfang (Alpthal), Druesberghütte (Hoch-Ybrig), and Höchgütsch (Unteriberg).

If you are in the area of Zurich, Lucerne, or Central Switzerland, I would definitely recommend a visit to Einsiedeln village. It is a beautiful place that is suitable for you no matter what kind of weather. So it’s better not to waste any more time and make a plan to visit there, right away.