EINSIEDELN, ain'zî-deln (MARIA EINSIEDELN): A town of Switzerland (9 m. e.n.e. of Schwyz), containing (1900) about 4,000 inhabitants, and famous as a place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage. Monastic life there dates back to the ninth century, and is connected with the legend of St. Meginrad or Meinrad, who is said to have come from the region near Rottenburg or Hechingen. He first lived in a cell, perhaps at Bollingen near Rappersweil, but yielding to his desire for a hermit's life, is said to have gone to the summit of Mount Etzel, and thence to the still more impenetrable wilderness of the mountain forests. There he is said to have tamed two ravens, which, when he was murdered by robbers in 861, followed the criminals to Zurich and convicted them of the crime. It was not until the tenth century, however, that a monastery was erected in this region, when Benno and Eberhard are said to have made the first attempts to gather monks about the deserted cell of Meinrad. Authentic history begins with 947, when Otto I. granted immunity to the cell and to Eberhard, and allowed the free choice of an abbot. Otto I., Otto II., and Henry II. gave rich gifts to the cloister, and until the thirteenth century the control was in the hands of the counts of Rappersweil. After the time of Rudolf, on the other hand, it was controlled by the house of Austria, and was accordingly involved in the struggles between the Swiss Confederacy and the Hapsburgs. The Sempach war broke all bonds which held Einsiedeln to Austria, and after the end of the fourteenth century the monastery belonged to the Canton of Schwyz, although it was decaying rapidly when Zwingli was its parish priest.
The Zurich Reformation depopulated Einsiedeln, but under the administration of the first civil abbot, Joachim Eichhorn (1544-69), it revived, and in the seventeenth century, during the rule of Placidus Reymann, the Documenta archivii Einsidlensis were printed, while the librarian of the monastery, Christof Hartmann, wrote its history in his Annales Heremi (Freiburg, 1612). The monastery was burned repeatedly, but underwent no essential change until 1798, when it was entirely destroyed by the invasion of the French and the establishment of the Helvetian Republic. In 1801 its oration was begun and its importance steadily increased, until at its millennial celebration in 1861, it contained nearly 100 monks, and a daughter house was founded in the United States by Abbot Heinrich at St. Meinrad, Ind., in 1854.
Einsiedeln is especially famous as a center of pilgrimage from Switzerland, the neighboring districts of Germany, and from France and Austria. These pilgrimages began in the tenth century, and in1895 reached the number of 210,000. The chief day is Sept. 14, regarded as the date of the divine dedication of the church in 948. The center of devotion is a statue of the Virgin, originally flesh-colored, but blackened by the smoke of the lights and lamps which burn continually. It stands in small chapel in the church of the cloister, which, like all the buildings, was erected in the eighteenth century.
(G. MEYER VON KNONAU.)
Bibliography: O. Ringholz, Wallfahrtsgeschichte unserer Aden Frau von Einsiedeln, Freiburg, 1896; idem, Geschichte des fürstlichen Benediktinerstiftes ... von Einsiedeln, Einsiedeln, 1902 sqq. (in progress); A. Kuhn, Der jetzige Stiftsbau Maria-Einsiedeln, ib. 1885. Earlier materials will be found in T. von Mohr's Regenten der Archive in der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, vol. i., Bern. 1848; Liber Heremi, ed. G. Morel, in Geschichts-freund vol. i., Einsiedeln, 1843; G. von Wyss, Lieber die Antiquitates monasterii . . Einsidlensis und den Liber Heremi, in Jahrbuch für schweizerische Geschichte, vol. x., 1885.