The Ephrata Cloister
Address: 632 West Main Street, Ephrata, PA 17522
Latitude/Longitude: 40.183423, -76.188161
Web site: click here
Phone: (717) 733-6600
The Ephrata Cloister is a PA State Museum Site that’s listed in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”.
During peak months of April – October the site is open 7 days a week, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, noon – 5:00 on Sunday. Check the web for days of operation from November – March.
The Cloister is a very interesting historic site dating back to the early 1700s. It was founded by German immigrants who were escaping religious persecution. The simplest way to describe the community is to say it was an “American Monastery”. The types of things you imagine monks doing: living a celibate life, singing hymns, transcribing and illustrating hymn books, operating printing presses, praying, gardening, sewing garments from fabric they’d spun, were all part of daily life at the Ephrata Cloister.
The Cloister is worth visiting for a number of reasons. First, Americans are taught so much about “British Colonial history” and this is an opportunity to learn about German colonial life, in particular, from a perspective of unique religious beliefs and the desire for tolerance. Second, while the name “Cloister” implies that they separated themselves from society, in fact they contributed in many significant ways, leaving a legacy that remains to this day. Just one example is the unique music that was composed by the community leader, Conrad Beissel, and performed by cloister members. It is still studied to this day by music historians and performed by the Ephrata Cloister Choir during special events.
From the Author: We love the Ephrata Cloister which is just a quarter mile from where we live. It's a very peaceful place, which holds special importance to us because the man who built our home, Henry Miller, is buried in "God's Acre" the cemetery at the front of the site. Henry died of "camp fever" while he was caring for Revolutionary War soldiers evacuated from the Philadelphia area after the battle of Brandywine. We visit the Cloister many times throughout the year because of the special events they host, our favorite being "Christmas at the Cloister" where the Cloister Choir sings in the Historic Saal building. It's magical hearing historic and traditional hymns sung in a building that was built in the 1730s! Look at the "Events" link on the Cloister's website to see what's happening during your visit.
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