Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ephrata Cloister

DAY 3: We left Swarthmore at about 8:30a.m. and headed west, but first stopped for breakfast in Media, PA at the Court Diner, just a few blocks from where Ellen used to live in Media at Idlewild Lane (back in the 1970's). The Court Diner had changed dramatically, but is still had a good breakfast. We made the decision there to head toward Gettysburg and follow U.S. Route 30 all the way to Chicago. But before we got to Gettysburg we decided to check out a Roadfood restaurant in New Holland (The People's Cafe), and before we got there we decided to look for the Ephrata Cloister, which Ellen had long heard about but didn't know exactly what it was.

It took a little searching but we found it, and we're glad we did. This was a religious community of German Anabaptists in the mid-eighteenth century, under the leadership of Conrad Beissel. An inner core of "Solitaries" - about 100 men and women -  lived in constant expectation of Christ's return, were celibate,  lived very austerely on one meal a day (vegetarian), only 6 hours sleep (on unpadded boards), prayed 6 hours daily and worked over 10 hours each day.  Men and women lived and worshipped separately.

Women's Hall (left) and Meeting House (right)

A larger group of "Householders" lived around the cloister on farms, in families, worked and ate normally, but worshipped with the Solitaries on the "Sabbath" (Saturday),  and supported the Solitaries. The community managed to survive for almost 200 years, though it really thrived for only about 50 years - during the lifetime of Beissel. Eight of about 40 original buildings still exist and have been refurbished. Others have been reconstructed or recreated, which gives a good sense of the original community.

One of the remarkable features of this community was its development of a German art form called fraktur. 

The Letter W in fraktur
After Ephrata (pronounced EF - ra - ta), we ate at the restaurant in New Holland - which was no longer The People's Cafe, and thus no longer had Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine -  but was still good food. We drove on to Gettysburg and that's where we are now. We'll visit the National Cemetery where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and then head up Rte 30 to Chicago.

We learned at check-in that next summer is the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Battle and that rooms at this Super 8 where we are right now are already sold out at $350 a room!

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