EINSIEDELN, the most populous town in the Swiss canton of Schwyz. It is built on the right bank of the Alpbach (an affluent of the Sihl), at a height of 2908 ft. above the sea-level on a rather bare moorland, and by rail is 25 m. S.E. of Zürich, or by a round-about railway route about 38 m. north of Schwyz, with which it communicates directly over the Hacken Pass (4649 ft.) or the Holzegg Pass (4616 ft.). In 1900 the population was 8496, all (save 75) Romanists and all (save 111) German-speaking. The town is entirely dependent on the great Benedictine abbey that rises slightly above it to the east. Close to its present site Meinrad, a hermit, was murdered in 861 by two robbers, whose crime was made known by Meinrad's two pet ravens. Early in the 10th century Benno, a hermit, rebuilt the holy man's cell, but the abbey proper was not founded till about 934, the church having been consecrated (it is said by Christ Himself) in 948. In 1274 the dignity of a prince of the Holy Roman Empire was confirmed by the emperor to the reigning abbot. Originally under the protection of the counts of Rapperswil (to which town on the lake of Zürich the old pilgrims' way still leads over the Etzel Pass, 3146 ft., with its chapel and inn), this position passed by marriage with their heiress in 1295 to the Laufenburg or cadet line of the Habsburgs, but from 1386 was permanently occupied by Schwyz. A black wooden image of the Virgin and the fame of St Meinrad caused the throngs of pilgrims to resort to Einsiedeln in the middle ages, and even now it is much frequented, particularly about the 14th of September. The existing buildings date from the 18th century only, while the treasury and the library still contain many precious objects, despite the sack by the French in 1798. There are now about 100 fully professed monks, who direct several educational institutions. The Black Virgin has a special chapel in the stately church. Zwingli was the parish priest of Einsiedeln 1516-1518 (before he became a Protestant), while near the town Paracelsus (1493-1541), the celebrated philosopher, was born.
See Father O. Ringholz, Geschichte d. fürstl. Benediktinerstiftes Einsiedeln, vol. i. (to 1526), (Einsiedeln, 1904).
(W. A. B. C.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)