Swiss Town: Have Cave, Want (Social and Outgoing) Hermit
do you do when your village hermit retires? Advertise for a new one, of
course. One Swiss town is looking for a people-loving person to take up
residence in their now-empty cave.
you thought qualifications for being a hermit were a tendency toward
solitude and dislike of civilization, think again. A small Swiss town is
on the hunt for an outgoing hermit to live in and show visitors around a
popular cave. It’s a time-honored position that’s nearly 600 years old.
About a mile from the community of Solothurn, the Verena Gorge Hermitage is known to have existed since 1613. Records of a hermit living in the area date back to 1442.
after the most recent hermit decided to step down due to health
problems, the nearby town in seeking a replacement. An ad posted
recently in a Swiss paper called Reformed Press caught the eye of
“Are you an idealistic-minded, church-related person, who gets joy out of encounters with people?” the posting asks in German.
nature reserve of Verena offers a winding hike along a tree-lined
stream to get to the caves surrounding St. Martin and St. Verena
chapels. Next to them is the hermitage, a small garden and cottage built
into the cave wall.
Manning the hermitage comes with a fair share
of work, from tending to the canyon’s chapels to helping with events
such as weddings and christenings. There are also three meditation
classes to lead weekly, and lots of snow to shovel in the wintertime.
“The area is now a popular tourist destination and the amount of social interaction can be too much for a true recluse.”
perfect applicant also needs to be more outgoing than is expected of a
traditional hermit. “Our hermit unfortunately can not be a real hermit,”
Town Council President Sergio Wyniger told a German newspaper.
“Our hermit needs a listening ear for people. He should tell them the
legend of Saint Verena. Or listen to people when they talk about their
The cave is known for being visited by Saint Verena, a healer who
tended to the poor and settled in Solothurn, where she “spent her
remaining days as a hermite [sp] in a cave,” a biography of her on Catholic.org says.
the area is now a popular tourist destination and the amount of social
interaction can be too much for a true recluse. Wyniger tells the Daily
Beast that Verena is a place of "spiritual power," and the job requires
dispensing some spirituality of its own. "The new hermit should have a
religious background, have an idealistic attitude, be willing to speak
with the visitors and answer to their questions or give them advice," he
In 2008, 68-year-old Verena Dubacher became the first woman to ever
take the job. But illness and dissatisfaction with how many visitors
came to the area forced her to abandon
the position after five years. Prior to Dubacher, Brother Johannes
Leutenegger spent 25 years as the Verena hermit. Historically, the
position has usually been held by priests of the hermitage, but now
civilian hermits may apply. Wyniger explained to Sueddeutsche
that it could attract a breadth of people: “from young to old, from
religious to dropout who wants to do something new for a while.”
chosen applicant will also, like any gainfully employed citizen,
receive payment and vacation time. The wage is relatively small, around
1,000 francs ($1,140) a month, and ideal “for someone who is retired and
no longer needs a lot of money,” Wyniger says.
The applications closed on May 5, but Wyniger says they began
receiving applications even before the job was officially opened. They
have more than 100 candidates from across the world—from the Czech
Republic to the U.S.—and they town council is in the process of
narrowing them down. "Now we have to read all the applications, then
choose 4 or 5 for a job interview, and finally the council will make the
election of the new hermit," Wyniger explains. Those lured by a promise
of quasi-solitude and the chance to dispense wisdom to curious
travelers while nestled in a Swiss cave, this could be the hermitage for
Edited by tatee - May 10 2014 at 6:48am