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Job stress Overwhelming visitors force hermit to quit

Sister Benedikta said she enjoyed "contact with people" when she took on the job

(Keystone)

A Swiss hermitage has lost its second resident in the space of two years – both hounded out by hordes of curious sightseers who made life unbearably hectic for the quiet life of a hermit.

Overwhelmed by visitors, Sister Benedikta has quit the Hermitage of Saint Verena after only 18 months. The hermitage sits in the Verena Gorge in canton Solothurn, a popular tourist spot. The gorge is believed by some to have mystical powers, and has had a hermitage since at least 1442.

Because the hermitage has proved a sightseer magnet, the local community had asked for a “sociable” hermit to fill the position. This followed the resignation of the previous occupant, Verena Dubacher, who, after five years in the job, withdrew in 2014 on the grounds that too many visitors had damaged her health.

Sister Benedikta, a divorced mother of four children who took religious orders in 2011, had declared herself as ready for the rigours of the unusual posting when she beat off 118 other applicants in the summer of 2014. But she now has been forced to step down after being treated as an object of curiosity.

“I never had a problem with the number of people who came for spiritual advice or pastoral care,” she told the 20 Minuten newspaper. But other visitors were just nosy, and wanted to see what a hermit was like or to have a chat. “It simply became too much for me,” she said.

The local authorities are now trying to work out a way forward for the 600-year-old hermitage. A working group is due to present a report in May which will examine a number of options, including a refurbish that would make it more modern.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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