Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln

The Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln is an important Catholic shrine in the village of Einsiedeln, which is about 20 miles southeast of Zürich in Switzerland.

The famous shrine incorporates the relics of a saint, a miraculous Black Madonna statue, and a Benedictine monastery. The village is also home to the world's largest nativity scene, the Diorama Bethlehem.


History of Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln

In the 9th century, the monk St. Meinrad, of the family of the Counts of Hohenzollern, left one of the local monasteries to built a hermitage in the wilderness that would later become Einsiedeln. He took with him a miracle-working statue of the Virgin Mary given to him by the Abbess Hildegarde of Zürich. He soon became well-known in the local village for his kindness and holiness, and received many visitors and gifts.

On January 21, 861, two thieves murdered Meinrad for the treasure in his hermitage. According to legend, the murderers were apprehended after two ravens followed them into town and drew attention to them with loud squawking.

In 940, a small group of Benedictine monks transformed Meinrad's little hermitage into the Lady Chapel. The chapel is said to have been consecrated by Christ himself on September 14, 948. The bishop who was to consecrate the new site had a vision in which the church was filled with a brilliant light as Christ approached the altar; the next day, when he went to perform the ceremony, he heard a voice saying the chapel had already been divinely consecrated. The miracle was confirmed by Pope Leo VIII 16 years later in a papal bull.

St. Meinrad had the Black Madonna statue (its dark color traditionally explained by years of candle smoke) as part of his altarpiece; after his death it was placed in the Lady Chapel for veneration. Many miracles were attributed to the intercession of "Our Lady of Einsiedeln," and pilgrimages to Einsiedeln began shortly after 1000 AD. Throughout the Middle Ages, as many as 50,000 pilgrims streamed into the monastery each week.

Since 1620 the Benedictine abbey of Einsiedeln has had a school of theology for its own clerics, those of other abbeys, and students training to become priests. The small school has had 30 students at the most at one time.

Despite temporary setbacks to the pilgrimage tradition during the Reformation and especially the major destruction during the French Revolution, Einsiedeln continues to receive pilgrims - about 200,000 each year.

What to See at Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln

The abbey church at Einsiedeln is a majestic baroque edifice with elaborately decorated pastel ceilings, many marble side altars, and a large high altar in the east end. The interior is a typically baroque feast for the eyes, in gleaming white with elaborate gold and pastel decoration.

The most important part of the basilica is the Lady Chapel, near the entrance in the west end. The Lady Chapel is a free-standing, square marble edifice that recalls the shelter over Christ's tomb in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was destroyed in 1798 by French invaders and rebuilt in 1817. Above the chapel's altar is the Black Madonna, resplendent in rich robes and surrounded by gold clouds. Many services take place here each day.

The vast Benedictine monastery that stretches to either side of the basilica is still thriving and is known for its tradition of sacred music, especially the occasional Orchestral Masses. Each day, the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours are sung by the monks in Gregorian chant.

A short walk from the abbey is the world's largest nativity scene, the Diorama Bethlehem, with more than 500 carved wooden figures, and the justifiably famous Panorama, a circular painting more than 300 feet long and 30 feet high depicting Jerusalem and the Crucifixion. Open from Easter to the end of October, they have narrative explanations in five languages.


The pilgrimage season at Einsiedeln runs from Easter to Rosary Sunday (the first Sunday in October). Major pilgrimage days to Einsiedeln include:

Before entering the church, pilgrims usually stop at the fountain fed by St. Meinrad's spring to drink from each of the 14 spouts. After visiting the Lady Chapel inside, the Stations of the Cross can be followed on a well-marked forest path up to the top of Mt. Meinrad.

Every five years, Einsiedeln hosts the production of the religious drama "The Great Theater of the World," in which more than 600 villagers participate. The last one was in 2007.

Getting There

Einsiedeln is located about 20 miles SE of Zürich and about three miles off highway 8 between Schwyz and Rapperswil.

There are direct trains to Einsiedeln from Zürich via Wadenswil, from St. Gallen via Rapperswil, and from Lucerne via Arth-Goldau. From the train station, walk up the main street, Hauptstrasse, to the monastery at the end of the street (about a 10-minute walk).

By car from Zürich, take the A3 eastbound (towards Chur) past Wadenswil to the exit for Einsiedeln and Schwyz. Turning south, go four miles to the Biberbrugg crossroads, and turn left.

Quick Facts on Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln

Site Information
Names:Einsiedeln · Kloster Einsiedeln · Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln
Categories:shrines; monasteries
Styles:Baroque style
Dedication: Virgin Mary
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:47.126973° N, 8.751640° E
Address:Einsiedeln, Switzerland
Email:[email protected]
Lodging:View hotels near Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. Personal visit (December 18, 2006).
  2. Kevin Wright, Catholic Shrines of Western Europe, 216-19.
  3. Official Website of Einsiedeln Monastery
  4. Monastery and Pilgrimage - Village of Einsiedeln

More Information

© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
View of the Lady Chapel through the glass doors of the foyer, during Mass. © Holly Hayes
© Einsiedeln Abbey
© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes

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