Saint of the Day – 21 January – Saint Meinrad of Einsiedeln OSB (c 797–861) Martyr, Benedictine Priest and Monk, Hermit, known as “Martyr of Hospitality” – born at Solgen, Swabia (Sülichgau near Wurtemberg, Germay) and died by being beaten to death with clubs by robbers, on 21 January 861 at Einsiedeln, Switzerland. Patronage – Hospitality, Einsiedeln Monastery in the United States.
Meinrad received his education and entered the Order of St Benedict at Reichenau Abbey in his native Germany. After Ordination to the Priesthood around the year 824, he taught at Reichenau and then served at the Benedictine Priory at Benken in Switzerland.
Around the year 835, seeking greater solitude, he was allowed to establish a Hermitage and Chapel on Mount Etzel, the present site of Einsiedeln Abbey. He had with him a small miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, given to him by Hildegard, Abbess of Zurich, which is now known as Our Lady of Einsiedeln.
His life of simple austerity and his reputation for holiness soon drew pilgrims to his remote hut and they brought him gifts and alms which Meinrad distributed to the poor and needy. He always welcomed all visitors with Christian hospitality, even the two robbers who finally took his life after 26 years in that lonely place. 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. He was killed in 861 by two robbers who wanted the treasures which pilgrims left at the shrine. Meinrad is known as the Martyr of Hospitality.
When his brother Monks found his body, they buried him at the at Reichenau Abbey on Reichenau Island.
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.
In 1039, the year of Meinrad’s Canonisation as a Saint, his remains were brought back to Einsiedeln. During the French Revolution, Meinrad’s relics were hidden at Tyrol, Austria, by Abbot Conrad Tanner and his reliquary is now enshrined in the Grace Chapel of the Abbey Church at Einsiedeln.
During the Middle Ages, Einsiedeln became a popular place of pilgrimage for people from southern Germany, Switzerland and the Alsace. Meinrad’s cell became the Shrine of the Black Madonna of Einsiedel. Over the years dust and the smoke of candles, oil lamps and incense darkened the image. In 1803 the hands and face were painted black.
The Chapel St Meinrad at the summit of the Etzel Pass is first mentioned in the 13th century. The Chapel and a nearby inn are located on the pilgrimage route of Camino de Santiago.