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Einsiedler (Mhd. Einsidelære , lonely settle) is the collective term for people who establish themselves lonely with their ideas or their way of life, be it geographically, socially or mentally.

Concept and history

Hermit , woodcut by Wolf Traut , 1513

The word hermit is a development of the Old High German Sedal with meaning "seat" to the late Middle High German einsidelære that as "alone, lonely settle" respectively reside translate leaves. However, at that time the term eremitae was in use, derived from the ancient Greek erēmítēs , which means “desert” but also “empty” and “uninhabited”.

The first hermits were the desert fathers living in the 3rd century . They saw themselves as radical followers of Christ and sought refuge in the solitude of the deserts of Egypt, Palestine and Syria, as it were in protest against what they saw as the secularization of the Church. The hermit life was ascetic, in poverty and modesty (ideal of a simple life ). Distractions and stimuli were kept away just to be in dialogue with God. The central actions were prayer, meditation and penance.

Hermitism as the original Christian way of life was practiced until the 15th century and was highly regarded. In the late Middle Ages , the wars made a hermitic way of life impossible.

In the 20th century, the way of life in Europe, which had previously been considered backward, experienced a rebirth thanks to reports of hermits in the Sahara.

With Canon 603 in 1983 in the version of the Roman Catholic Church's legal code , the Codex Iuris Canonici , which is still valid today , the hermitic way of life was recognized by canon law as consecrated life .

Today's meaning

The term hermit not only includes the religious hermit , but can also be applied to all people who geographically, mentally or socially distance themselves from the norm. Establishing the norm and thus defining a clear demarcation of the hermits is difficult. It is a changeable convention that is subject to the zeitgeist. In every society there is a historically evolved system of officially established and tacitly accepted rules for shaping life. They range from general rules of conduct to role rules and mental agreement. In spite of knowing these norms, hermits consciously live according to their own values ​​and accept the solitude that this entails.

Geographical hermits ensure a spatial distance between themselves and civilization. It can be a consciously chosen life in order to escape the distractions of the environment in the loneliness and to devote oneself entirely to one's actual task, or it can be conditioned by one's job, as with the shepherd.

The social hermit prefers being alone to the community. Reasons for this are:

  • their individual characteristics (such as introversion, slowness), through which they do not correspond to the zeitgeist and the requirements of their environment; they cannot find a suitable counterpart for a satisfactory interpersonal exchange;
  • their criticism of the applicable norms, which leads to a break with society in the form of an external exit. In order to free themselves from social constraints, the outer dropout usually gives up everything that previously determined their life, such as work and friends.

The mental recluse deviates from the norm with his ideas, views and ideas. Although his spiritual realm differs from the norm, he does not seek a break with society and respects the rules imposed. Mental hermitism is an internal, spiritual process. It can be divided into two different types:

  • A person is one step ahead of his time or his environment, or he is alone on a path that has not been foreseen by society.
  • Inner dropouts (see Inner Emigration ) live in a value system with which they cannot identify. Inwardly, he has broken with the outside world. However, he does not reveal his own values ​​and on the surface continues to lead a regular life.


  • Nora Watteck: Hermit. Inclusions, hermits, hermits and forest brothers in Salzburg . Part of the picture by Reinhard Rinnerthaler , Verlag St. Peter, Salzburg 1972, ISBN 3-900173-13-3 .
  • Anne Bamberg: Ecclesiastically recognized hermits. Canon 603 of the Code of Canon Law and the Responsibility of the Diocesan Bishop . In: Ordenskorrespondenz, 45, 2004, pp. 425–433.
  • Anne Bamberg: Hermits and consecrated life. On the canonical typology . In: Geist und Leben, 78, 2005, pp. 313-318.
  • Maria Anna Leenen: lonely and alone? Hermits in Germany , Aschendorff Verlag, Münster 2006, ISBN 3-402-00235-3
  • Maria Anna Leenen: Exposing yourself to God and withstanding. Hermit Spirituality Today! Aschendorff Verlag, Münster 2009, ISBN 978-3-402-12811-4
  • Maria Anna Leenen: An old way of life in a new guise. The Canon 603 Codex Iuris Canonici. Articles and lectures. A working aid. Verlag Traugott Bautz, Nordhausen 2012, ISBN 978-3-88309-696-4
  • M.Antonia Sondermann, "Praedicatio silentiosa et ecclesia minor", hermitic life according to the applicable law of the Catholic Church, supplements to the Munster Commentary No. 68, Ludgerus Verlag, Munster 2014, ISBN 978-3-87497-282-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Einsiedler  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. From Kluge Etymological Dictionary, Walter de Gruyter & Co.
  2. The first hermit was considered to be Jesus Christ, who had spent 40 days as a klosener (Middle High German for Klausner ) in the desert. See Peter von Gengenbach. In: Author's Lexicon . Volume VII, Col. 434.
  3. Maria Anna Leenen: Lonely and alone? Hermits in Germany. Part 2, pp. 85-97 and pp. 131-133.