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‘Sociable’ hermit lands dream job

The Hermitage of St Verena will get a new house-sitter in July Keystone

One of Europe’s most sought after jobs has been filled with the appointment of a 51-year-old Bernese woman as hermit at Verena Gorge in canton Solothurn. A key duty will be to welcome the multitude of visitors that flock to the protected site.

Sister Benedikta, otherwise known as Franziska Sigel, beat off competition from 118 other applicants from around Europe to land the post as occupant and caretaker of the picturesque hermitage of St VerenaExternal link that traces its history back some 600 years.

The previous hermit had to retire on health grounds after being overwhelmed by the number of tourists and sightseers who came to the gorge each year.

In an effort to avoid a repeat problem, the community of Solothurn said the new hermit should be an “open and communicative person” in the job advert placed in local newspapers.

“I enjoy contact with people,” the successful applicant, a divorced mother of four grown-up children, said at a press conference on Monday.

Sister Benedikta, a trained accountant, ran an open house for children from difficult backgrounds for 20 years in Bern before moving to canton Graubünden. She took religious orders in 2011.

Her other duties in her new position include maintenance of the hermitage garden and of the two chapels, St Martin and St Verena.

The Verena Gorge is believed by some to hold mystical powers related to its geography. The first records of a hermit in the gorge date back to 1442.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR