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Archive for ephrata cloister

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.

Solitary Confinement

By Linda Tancs

In 1732 German immigrant Johann Conrad Beissel sought out solitude in the Pennsylvania countryside in what is now Ephrata. There he established a reclusive retreat dedicated to the pursuit of spirituality, and the Solitary movement was born. The Solitary lived a monastic life dedicated to prayer and worship, eating a single evening meal off of the lands they tended. Although the last of the order died over a century ago and the lands sold to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Ephrata Cloister’s heritage is preserved at various houses and meeting rooms that can be toured on the property. The experience comes complete with guides in the white robes worn by members of the Cloister to hide their bodies. As the song goes, give me that old time religion. Or at the very least, as their website says, a quiet place to visit.

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