In and around the village of Engelberg
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The major draw of the village is the huge Benedictine monastery. The first monks arrived in the valley around 1120, and during the Middle Ages, the monastery was central to the expansion of ascetic mysticism in Germany and Switzerland. The last of three major fires throughout the monastery’s history, on August 29, 1729, razed the entire complex to the ground, with the buildings as they stand today dating from a subsequent rebuilding. Up until 1798, when French troops arrived in force, the monastery ruled the whole valley, which was independent of the Swiss Confederation and answered only to the Pope. The Revolution changed all that, and the monastery first joined Nidwalden in 1803, then changed its mind and switched to Obwalden twelve years later. These days, the sixty or so monks – over half of whom are priests – teach secondary school and further education courses, and have founded two affiliated monasteries in Missouri and Oregon. The Rococo church, dating from 1730, is stunning – a vast, elegant, light space complete with nine altars. A riot of ornamental stucco leads you through what would otherwise be an austere interior to the dramatic high altar, framing a luminescent painting of the Assumption. Guided tours of the whole complex, including the church and several impressive halls within the monastery, run year-round (Tues–Sat 10am & 4pm; Fr.2.50).

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