Einsiedeln : the church
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The monastery complex was entirely rebuilt from 1704 to 1726 in the most lavish of late-Baroque styles. As you emerge from the cluster of the village centre, the vast Klosterplatz opens out in front. The rather plain sandstone front of the church, with its twin towers rising from an immense 140m-long facade, is framed by unusual semi-circular sunken arcades. The ornate Well of Our Lady in the square taps the water of Meginrat’s spring – pilgrims traditionally drink from each of the 14 spouts in turn on their approach to the church.

The interior, designed by Kaspar Moosbrugger, one of the monks, is immediately breathtaking, although with the regular cycle of services continuing daily you may not get a chance to wander round admiring it. The nave is decorated with gorgeously detailed frescoes by Cosmas Damian Asam, and every part of the lofty white interior is detailed in lavish gold. An intricate wrought-iron choir screen gives into the stunning pink Rococo choir, its ceiling bedecked with animated sculptures of angels. However, the focus of all the pilgrims’ attention is the black marble Chapel of Our Lady, positioned in a huge octagonal bay just inside the main portal. The invading French destroyed the chapel in 1798 (although the monks had already removed the Black Madonna to the Tyrol for safekeeping), and the present chapel building dates from a Neoclassical reconstruction in 1817. The Black Madonna itself, a little over a metre tall and usually dressed in a jewelled and tasselled golden dress donated by Canton Uri in 1734, stands illuminated within at the centre of attention.

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