St. Gerold priory
TEXT: Renate Breuß and Marina Hämmerle
No other town in Vorarlberg boasts as great a density of knowledge, culture and spirituality as the St. Gerold priory in the Grosses Walsertal does. At the Benedictine branch of the famous Swiss Einsiedeln Abbey, ‘bene volentia’ – Latin for ‘benevolence’ – has been a guiding principle for centuries. The Christian maxim influences all aspects of life in this communal establishment: it inspires the people who frequent it, shapes the house and the garden, the cooking and the culture.
Since its establishment around one millennium ago, the priory has been in a constant state of flux. Its original structures have been expanded sideways and upwards countless times over. In the last decade, a comprehensive renovation project was begun in collaboration with the architect Hermann Kaufmann. The existing buildings are being reinforced and expanded, while some parts are returning to their original design concepts. When day trippers discovered the priory in the 1950s, its owners promptly reacted by offering accommodation and an in-house restaurant. This hospitality section has been given a modern, welcoming interior as part of the ongoing renovations.
As well as spiritual nourishment in the form of books, the adjacent shop also sells home-made specialities from the region. Ashwood-panelled floors, solid oakwood furniture and a quiet, clear architectural style embody the principle of simplicity and harmony with nature in a welcoming ambiance.
In the parlours, seminar guests mingle with day trippers while the progressively minded prior, Father Martin Werlen, and his two managers, David Ganahl and Nathalie Morscher, enjoy a meal of exquisitely prepared, seasonal goods, with the menu ranging from traditional dishes to contemporary vegetarian cuisine.
Meals give structure to daily life and well-being to the body. In the newly established herb garden, based on the model of Hildegard of Bingen’s own garden, the colour green represents physical and mental health. The publicly accessible Laudatio si Garten is an expression of concern about our common home – the environment, the climate, the biodiversity – as is the integrated and revived apiary. All these installments are inspired by Pope Francis’s Laudato si’ encyclical on ecology, published in 2015.
The historical assembly of buildings and the natural space surrounding it form an inspiring habitat and an environment for seminars and cultural events. Visitors to the St Gerold priory will find a wonderful spot to think, relax and eat.