Just 20 nuns still live in Switzerland's Fahr Convent. But their future is uncertain, as they can’t find any new members. They have nevertheless called for more equality in the Catholic Church.
Fahr Conventexternal link was founded in 1130 and is still in use – for now. There was just one novice who joined the Benedictine order in Switzerland in 2017.
Like other ordersexternal link, many Fahr Convent nuns have criticised the role of women in the Catholic Chruch and have called for more participation. “The Catholic Church only has a future if it is supported and led jointly by women and men together,” says Prioress Irene. During the Middle Ages, convents were the only way for women to gain a little bit of freedom and independence. But the Catholic hierarchy was – and remains – very patriarchal.
Convent daily life
Much about the nuns’ lives is revealed in a newly published bookexternal link. Their day is highly structured: it begins at 4:50 am and is organised right through until the evening. The nuns live according to the strict order rules. Women are expected to renounce their real names when they join the convent and take on a new name. In the book, the nuns tell how they came to make such a radical step as joining a nunnery when they were young women.
The book is being published to coincide with the 888th anniversary of the founding of Fahr Convent. All the nuns were in favour of having a book with pictures about their life in the convent. Taking part was voluntary.
Fahr Convent forms a double monastery with the monks’ monastery at Einsiedeln. It is actually located in canton Aargau but is surrounded by the municipality of Unterengstringen in the canton of Zurich, so is not far from the city of Zurich.
It makes agricultural products and wine and is also well-known for its liturgical textiles (paraments).