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The Spirit of Things in Pennsylvania

By Linda Tancs

Ephrata began in 1732 as a monastic settlement in Pennsylvania labeled a cloister, a retreat from worldly distractions where devoted members followed a disciplined life designed to prepare them for a heavenly existence. Their labors included farming, papermaking, carpentry, milling and textile production. The site became known for the development of the German calligraphic art of Frakturscriften (considered the first of this folk art produced in America), hundreds of compositions of a cappella music and the translation and publication of the 1,500-page Martyrs Mirror for the Mennonites, the largest book printed in colonial America. It also served as a hospital for nearly 260 American soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Administered today by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Historic Ephrata Cloister boasts historic buildings, collections and programming exhibiting the community’s spiritual, creative and intellectual accomplishments.

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