The History Club had a wonderful day on Saturday at the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County. Settled in the mid-18th century by German immigrants, the cloister was the gathering place of a very eclectic group of religious ideas. The leader Conrad Beissel instructed his followers that Christ could return any minute, and to make any long term life choices (such as marriage) would be sinful. Our wonderful tour guide explained the harsh realities of day-to-day life at the cloister, which involved sleeping on a wooden plank with a wooden block for a pillow, eating one meal a day and sleeping in two three-hour intervals. How appealing! Of course, after the tour was over, we just had to try out the beds:
After our refreshing rest, we wandered around the rest of the grounds; the state of Pennsylvania took over the property in 1941 and has since restored the already existing buildings. Also on the property was God’s Acre Cemetery, where Conrad Beissel and many other original residents of the cloister are buried.
The area around the cloister is still very quiet, but certainly nothing like what Beissel would have found ideal. Interestingly enough, many of the stores around the cloister are named ‘Cloister’ – something. The main road runs right past the cloister, and a Pizza Hut is just down the street. The isolation Beissel and his followers sought has disappeared in the 21st century.
It was a gorgeous day for our exploration, and our small group really enjoyed exploring this place from the past. Next semester, we are headed to Philadelphia! Won’t you join us?