St Meinrad of Einsiedeln

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Saint Meinrad (c. 797 – 21 January 861) was a hermit and known as the “Martyr of Hospitality.”

Meinrad was born into the family of the Counts of Hohenzollern and was educated at the Abbey of Reichenau, an island in Lake Constance, under his kinsmen, the Benedictine Abbots Hatto and Erlebald.

After some years at Reichenau, and the dependent priory at Benken, St. Gallen near Lake Zurich, around 829 he embraced an eremitical life and established his hermitage on the slopes of Etzel Pass, taking with him a wonder-working statue of the Virgin Mary which he had been given by the Abbess Hildegarde of Zurich. Because so many people sought him out, in 835 he retreated to a hermitage in the forest on the site of today’s monastery in Einsiedeln. Inspired by the Desert Fathers, Meinrad practiced a strict asceticism. Gifts presented to him he passed on to poor. He was killed in 861 by the thieves Richard and Peter who wanted the treasures which pilgrims left at the shrine. Meinrad is known as the Martyr of Hospitality.

Over the next eighty years, the hermitage was occupied by a succession of hermits. One of them, named Eberhard, previously Provost of Strasburg, erected a monastery, Einsiedeln Abbey, and became its first abbot. Meinrad was originally buried at Reichenau, but his relics were returned to Einsiedel in 1029.

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