Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tauferhohle, or the Anabaptist Cave

Hopefully you can indulge the many photos in this particular entry. On Sunday I visited the Tauferhoehle, or Anabaptist Cave, near Baeritswil. It was a deeply emotional, spiritual, and enjoyable experience.

In Schaffhausen I met some Mormons. They overheard me talking to a local woman and then because the one was American, he started talking to me. The other one was Swiss German, and when I told him that I was a Taufer, he recognized the name because he knew about the Tauferhohle. But just because that was the name of the cave, he did not know much about Anabaptists. I needed to give him the regular explanations.

And so while Mennonites think of Tauferhohle as a worship space for our spiritual ancestors, the Swiss think of it as a beautiful and fun place to hike. Since I was there on Sunday afternoon the place was full of people. There are several fire circles with grills and wood, so people would hike up to the cave and then picnic. It was nice to know that it was a place that was giving so many people such joy, especially children who loved the cave. But of course many of them did not know where the name came from or what its significance might be. However some signs were put up recently that do an excellent job in both German and English of explaining the place.

For my part I spent a lot of time in quiet, when I could. I also sang 606, which is the thing to do in such places. I felt a little awkward doing it by myself, especially since a family was within listening distance.

I have visited a number of beautiful cathedrals, or muensters they are called in German, during my stay here. Some of them have been not so beautiful, such as the Grossmuenster of Zurich which is still very plain after the manner of Zwingli. It even has places made for statues but no statues there. Zwingli preached against all such decorations and they were taken out of the church.

But the Fraumuenster, or women's cathedral of Zurich is just the opposite. It is gorgeous. It has a whole series of stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. They go from the life of Jesus, to the prophets, Jacob's ladder, King David and New Jerusalem, and the giving of the law. Each one is in its own color. I sat there for a long time meditating on the meaning and beauty of the pictures.

But I have to say that the beauty of this Tauferhohle is beyond anything else that I experienced. I thought about the irony of the Anabaptists needing to meet here because it was so isolated and so safe for gatherings. But at the same time finding such a beautiful and peaceful place to meet. There is a water fall that goes over the front, so there is the soft noise of water the whole time you are there. And if the preacher is standing at the front, you would have the beauty of God's creation to meditate on as you look past him or her. It is a holy and beautiful place.
A note on finding the place. Sam Wenger gives excellent directions in his second volume of A Tour of Ten Important Anabaptist and Reformed Sites in Rural Switzerland. They are very detailed. But you could also use Markus Rediger and Erwin Roethlisberger's Walk in the Footsteps of the Anabaptists. The main thing is to go to Baretswil and then follow the yellow "wanderweg" signs to Tauferhohle.
I took the train from Zurich to Wetzikon, and then the bus from Wetzikon to the Oberdorf stop in Baretswil. It was under 40 minutes to be at the Overdort stop. From there the Wanderweg sign says it is 1 1/2 hours by foot. I took my bike up the roads about 2 km and then went by foot another 1 km, I would estimate. It is a climb. And then I returned all the way to Wetzikon by bike. There is a nice bike path part of the way, though it was all down hill for me coming from Baretswil. So you could easily take public transportation and walk the rest of the way for about at total of 4-5 hours.
I met some hikers when I got off the bus. I biked up and then saw them on my return. They had given me some guidance. When I spoke to them I told them I was a Taufer, and they said they thought I might be. They could tell I was a foreigner, and thought I might be there to visit an origination point. They were well informed, asking about the Amish as another kind of Taufer.
This was a worthwhile and satisfying visit. My last photo is of the beautiful scenery you see when you come out of the woods.

1 comment:

Darnell said...

Thanks for posting these pictures. I've often wondered what this cave looked like on the inside.