Saint Nicolas of Flue
Home > Tourist Guide > Table of contents > Swiss culture > Religions > Catholicism > St.Nicolas

Canonized on 15 May 1947, Nicolas of Flue, also known as Brother Klaus, a hermit and mystic of Obwalden, became known to Confederates over the years as one of the noblest patriotic figures, in the fashion of a "national saint". Marked by the spirit of reconciliation and agreement, he exerted his pacifist influence over Swiss politics throughout his life. And it is for this very influence that the person and work of "Brother Klaus" is revered across denominational barriers. Until his fifties, Nicolas of Flue led a full life. He was a farmer, a father to ten children and, what’s more, he acted as councilor, judge, deputy to the Diets and officer. He was a member of a well-to-do family in the canton and it was often said that he would become landammann (governor). Just before the beginning of his presumed career as statesman, two particular characteristics, fairly discreet up until that point, abruptly came to light in this sensitive man: firstly, his propensity for mystic piety, and secondly, his uncompromising love of justice that made him withstand the hedging of routine policies even less. In 1467, he left his family with the intention to settle in Alsace – a citadel for the mystics of the early Middle Ages. But by Liestal he was homesick to the point that he turned back, inspired by a vision that came to him in a dream. He stayed several weeks in complete solitude in the Melchtal mountains. Then, obeying a second vision, he decided to live as a hermit in Ranft, a land that belonged to his family. It was in this retreat that he spent the last twenty years of his life, practicing strict ascetics. Legend has it that he did not feed himself throughout his life as an anchorite.

The hermitic mission of Brother Klaus was both remarkably open to the world and impregnated with holy mysticism. In this respect, his thoughts and visions take on a certain theological and psychological interest even today (according to the great Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung). This solitary figure enjoyed the special consideration of the Lucerne government who frequently inquired after his opinion in political matters. In the end, the hermit was deemed a wise and sensible adviser, arousing interest and acclaim throughout the Confederation and well beyond its borders. Among the European powers that sought counseling from Nicolas of Flue, there are the Republic of Venice, the city of Constance, Ludovic Sforza, duke of Milan, and Sigismond, duke of Austria, to name a few. It is largely due to his arbitration that the Confederates, divided in 1481 at the Diet Stans, arrived at a historic compromise ("Agreement" of Stans), and formed a basis for the peaceful coexistence of the early cantons for several centuries. The fundamental characteristics of Flue’s political exhortations for the benefit of his compatriots – the spirit of peace, non-intervention in "foreign affairs", moderation – all remain the dominant features in Swiss politics today.

© Micheloud & Cie 2013      Tel. ++41 21 331 48 48  info@switzerland.isyours.com. No part of this site may be reproduced in any form or by any means without our prior written permission. Printed from http://Switzerland.isyours.com/e/guide/religion/christianism/flue.html