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The Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Switzerland.

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While legends indicate that Einsiedeln was sacred in pre-Christian times, its historical fame dates to 835 AD when the monk Meinrad lived as a hermit in the woods. When Meinrad came to the forest he brought one of the mysterious Black Madonna statues, considered by scholars to be a Christianized form of the pagan Dark Goddess. After Meinrad's death a Benedictine cloister was built at the site of his hermitage and this cloister, housing the Black Madonna, soon became a pilgrimage site of great importance. The enormous abbey standing today rose over a period of many centuries and only legends are left regarding the sites sacred use in prehistoric times. Inside the church the primary object of pilgrimage visitation is the Chapel of Grace which houses a mid-15th century Black Madonna statue, the earlier statue having been destroyed in a fire. The Chapel of Grace, standing directly upon the site of Meinrad's original hermitage, is believed to have been consecrated by Jesus when he miraculously appeared in 948.

The Black Madonna statues in European pilgrimage shrines are a matter of controversy. Throughout Western Europe there are more than 200 examples of these black statues and, while heretical to the Orthodox Church, they are widely venerated as having esoteric, magical and wonder-working powers. A large percentage of the European shrines where Black Madonna’s are venerated are known to have been centers of nature worship in pre-Christian times. Scholars interpret the popularity of the Black Madonna’s as a continuing veneration of pagan goddesses such as Isis, Diana of Ephesus, Artemis, Cybele, and the Celtic deity Hecate. It is evident from a study of these matters that the patriarchal Roman church in its effort to exterminate the ancient and immensely popular goddess cults only succeeded in driving them underground. In contemporary Europe the veneration of the feminine principle and her sacred sites is once again gaining power.

More on Einsiedeln from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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