Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Swiss Monasteries

A reader sent me some fascinating links with stories about Swiss monasteries having to confront the forces of Revolution. Monasteries have from the first centuries of the Church been centers of learning, art, and culture as well as prayer and penance. They are usually some of the first places overthrown by those who would secularize the world. The Swiss are known for not tolerating invaders of their homeland.

Here is what the learned reader shared with me about what happened when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Switzerland in 1798:

When the French soldiers went to Engelberg, which at the time belonged to the Abbey of Engelberg, including the population. The farmers (peasants) were none to too pleased to be told that God was dead, that everyone was equal, and they were now free, and no longer the serfs of the Prince-Abbot, and charged the French soldiers. If memory serves me right, the farmers charged the French musketeers with their pitchforks, and sustained more than 200 dead compared to somewhere between 10 and 20 French casualties. But it was the French soldiers who fled the battlefield. Long afterwards, perhaps to this day, the people from around Engelberg are proud of this victory.

The persecutions led to the monastic traditions being brought to America:

In 1841, anti-clerical forces stormed the abbey of Muri, (pictures) and disbanded it, and some other monasteries . (They also confiscated the equivalent of seven year's taxes from the monasteries.) As always, the argument was about money. The Austrians almost declared war, and the monks from Muri went to Engelberg. The monks in Engelberg were afraid that they may be next and eventually sent a delegation out to start a monastery in Oregon, Mount Angel by name. Einsiedeln, which had to forfeit two of its four castles, established Saint Meinrad.

I have been to Switzerland once, by accident. When flying back to Washington, D.C. from Vienna, the plane had engine trouble. We had an emergency landing in Geneva; the airline put us up in a pleasant hotel where there was lots of complimentary food and wine. It was a delightful stay. I hope to return at some point, especially now that I am more aware of the existence of such beautiful monasteries.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating. As usual I learn something new from your blog And I even LIVE in the Pacific NW! I always wanted to visit Mount Angel, but never have. Perhaps in the future with my daughters.

elena maria vidal said...

I did not know much about any of those places but I am learning from my readers.