Built in 1743 originally for Householders who were trying out celibacy, the building was remodeled for the Sister Solitary. There are three main floors with a kitchen, dining room, two common work areas and twelve sleeping rooms on each. With the end of the Solitaires in 1813, the building was divided into apartments and rented out to church members.
All visits begin here. There is an introductory film which gives you an overview of beliefs and life here at the Cloisters. You can then go out on a guided tour which takes you through several of the main surviving buildings of the Cloisters. Hours are 9-5 pm Mon- Fri, Sun noon-5p,. Admission is $7 with fifty cents off with a AAA card or a receipt from another Pennsylvania Trail of History site.
Built in 1741 as a worship hall for the Householders, the Saal was taken over by the Sisters when they moved in next door to the Saron. The Sisters used the Saal for midnight services each day - the Brothers had their own Saal for such purposes. Each Sunday, the entire congregation - Solitary and Householders - used another meetinghouse on the hill - Mount Zion - behind today's Maintenance Barn.
Here was where the faithful found their final rest. Graves date back to 1767. Conrad Beissel's grave is in the middle with a protective covering over his stone to help protect against the ravages of time. Next to him is Peter Miller who became the Cloister's leader following Beissel's 1768 death.
Beissel moved about six times between 1732 and the late 1740's when the Brotherhood built this home between the Saron and the Bethania (Brother's House). Here, Beissel could meditate and write in solitude but also serve to consult the congregation from, too.
Dating to 1746 and lasting until 1908, this building was four-storied and was similar to that of the Saron. It is thought that the printing office was moved here later in the 1700's. The Brothers also had their own adjoining Saal but that was demolished in 1855. Exhibits showthe building plan and exactly how the Bethania once appeared.
The printing office was first operated out of this building before being moved next door to the Bethania. The west addition dates to about 1810 to give more space to a member who had a clock making shop. Along with the printing press, members were involved with frakturschriften - Germanic calligraphy similar to the illuminated writing of medieval monks. Musical composition was important, too. Beissel developed a system of musical composition which tried to simplify music into 'master' and 'servant' notes creating harmony - a precursor to the serialists like Arnold Schoenberg and many others.
Presumably conceived after copious amounts of alcohol consumption - Ephrata's very own Groundhog's Day Celebration started in February 2003. About 35 people gathered before sunrise in Tom Grater Park to chant and watch for "Cocalico Cal and Cocalico Callie". At the break of dawn, Cal appeared on the far side of the creek and prognosticated that Spring had arrived. Shortly after he departed in pursuit of his girlfriend Callie. Two of the revelers jumped into the icy creek waters (one a long-time polar bear and the other a cute female in a tiny thong!). A wholesome family event that dismissed to the nearby American Legion for a free continental breakfast. The 2004 ceremony was held on the Saturday morning before Groundhogs Day so that more people could attend. Cocalico Cal saw his shadow so that means six more weeks of winter!
The leader of the Seventh-Day German Baptists, Conrad Beissel, believed Christians could follow God better if they did not marry. A community of unmarried brothers and sisters at the Ephrata Cloister lived under his strict guidance. They dressed in simple robes of undyed homespun, ate no meat, and slept on hard wooden benches with a block of wood for a pillow.
The ascetic, sex-hating, pleasure-denying, robe-wearing, self-flagellating, God-fearing anabaptist Conrad Biessels sect came from the war torn Palatinate to tolerant Quaker Pennsylvania and settled in bucolic Lancaster County to practice their strict protestant Confession.
They were allowed to print decorated and illuminated Bibles with exquisite calligraphy, much more rewarding than my job.
You must rent a hot air balloon and draw a little plan of the settlement! Start with india ink. Then give it a nice olive-drab wash, the unofficial color of the sect. See how I did it: