A former policeman has started his new job as the resident hermit in a gorge near the Swiss town of Solothurn. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
Michael Daum is German and a divorced father of four, who left the police in 1984, after which he studied theology and meditation. He is required to live (rent-free) in solitude in the idyllic Verena gorge, yet also mingle with tourists. He will receive about CHF2,000 ($2,000) per month for the job.
Daum’s duties include keeping the gorge and its surrounding chapels clean, and assisting with events such as weddings and baptisms, as well as advising day-trippers.
The position of hermit was created in the 15th century in honour of St Verena, who is said to have lived as a recluse in a cave in the region. The Verena Gorge is believed by some to hold mystical powers related to its geography.
The last hermit, Sister Benedicta, quit after only two years in office. She had received death threats and clashed with the Solothurn authorities over the role of the hermitage.
Her predecessor left the job after complaining about the number of tourists who visit the hermitage and chapel. It was important for the Solothurn authorities that the new hermit was sociable enough to get along with curious tourists and locals.