Cordula von der Ropp is the head physician at the Sebastianeum in Bad Wörishofen, the former place of work of pastor Sebastian Kneipp, who was born 200 years ago
Kneipp Ambassador Cordula von der Ropp
The first step is always the most difficult: when you dip your leg into the ice-cold water, you inevitably gasp for air – the temperature must be between eight and 18 degrees. Then the stork walk begins: lift your leg completely out of the water, take the next step and stalk through the pool like the eponymous bird. The famous “Wassertreten”, or treading water, is usually the first association when talking about the teachings of Sebastian Kneipp – and at the moment, everyone is talking about the priest’s name again: Kneipp was born 200 years ago, on 17 May 1821.
“I am always amazed at how much Kneipp was ahead of his time, what he already suspected and knew,” says Cordula von der Ropp. “And I’m fascinated that the approach of healing the soul and minimising stress by alleviating physical ailments through natural remedies can quickly stabilise people.”
The doctor of internal medicine is the head physician at the Sebastianeum in Bad Wörishofen – and thus the most important keeper of Kneipp’s teachings: “I have a very, very unique workplace here, because Kneipp worked in our building for the last six years of his life.” His treatment room is now the room for the therapeutic fasting patients, where they take their meals.
The five pillars of Kneipp’s teachings
Kneipp came to Bad Wörishofen at the age of 34, where he developed his holistic natural healing method. He already had a wealth of experience with water treatments in the Danube, which had previously cured him of tuberculosis. Later, he expanded his teachings to include other elements:
“His ideas are based on five pillars,” explains von der Ropp, “water applications, nutrition, exercise, herbal applications and order – by which he means lifestyle.” Principles that can still be found today – adapted to new discoveries – in over 120 different applications at the Sebastianeum. What began as a pioneering achievement back then is now part of the zeitgeist.
View of nature
Von der Ropp sees Kneipp’s most important message in applying the simple and the obvious to stay healthy or to become healthy: “It helps us to look at nature, which we find all around us. It offers so much for a good lifestyle”. The Kneipp ambassador explains that the effectiveness of water treatments in particular has been proven:
"It offers so much for a good lifestyle"
“Blood circulation is promoted, the metabolism is stimulated and blood pressure is lowered. Pain often improves surprisingly quickly. The immune system and the psyche also benefit. However, she also emphasises that natural healing methods like Kneipp’s are not quite as easy to verify scientifically.
Conventional medicine and naturopathy combined
Kneipp was therefore at the centre of the conflict between orthodox medicine and naturopathy at the time. Von der Ropp takes a relaxed view of this and deliberately says somewhat provocatively: “If we prescribe classical naturopathic treatments, then we are classical orthodox physicians. Especially in prevention and chronic diseases, exercise, diet, order, hydrotherapy and medicinal herbs simply help very well.”
At the same time, her team at the Sebastianeum also works like any well-equipped internal medicine practice with procedures such as ECG, ultrasound, screenings and lung function tests.
A stroke of luck after medical school
The 51-year-old is now deeply rooted in her role as Kneipp ambassador, although her professional career began in a very classical way – she initially had nothing to do with Kneipp’s teachings during her studies and additional training as a nurse: “I only came into closer contact with it twelve years ago when a physician’s position was advertised at the Sebastianeum and I applied. Looking back, it was an absolute stroke of luck!” she says. “At that time, I was very quickly convinced that Kneipp treatments ideally complement modern medicine – and I still am today.”
Integrating Kneipp into one’s life
No wonder that she also integrates Kneipp’s teachings into her private life, for example, the topic of exercise: “I move quite consistently outside in the fresh air twice a day for an hour and usually easily reach 20,000 steps a day. My family always has a nice laugh and is convinced that I don't walk the dog because of the dog, but the dog kindly walks me.” This is entirely in the spirit of Sebastian Kneipp, she says: “We Kneipp experts appeal very strongly to personal responsibility. A sustainable change in lifestyle can not only prevent, but also cure.”
... from Cordula
A view as far as the Zugspitze
I like to walk over to Hartenthal, which is four kilometres from the centre of Bad Wörishof. From there, on a clear day, you can see as far as the Ammergau Alps, the Zugspitze and the western Allgäu.
A walk to the Mariengrotte
We recommend a walk to the Mariengrotte, which is beautifully situated on a hill. There is a bench to rest on and a sweeping view – the place simply has a special aura for me.
Herbal liqueur from the Charterhouse
The Buxheim Charterhouse near Memmingen is an interesting cultural destination. The carved choir stalls are a world-class work of art. And you can buy the very fine herbal liqueur “Chartreuse” there, made to a secret recipe with 150 herbs – completely Kneipp-compliant!
Relaxation at the spa concert
When I’m not out and about with my family in the beautiful Allgäu mountains, I like to listen to the spa concerts in Bad Wörishofen in the summer. They are really popular and feature an international line-up.