Close to decay until the early 1990s, Waldsassen Abbey has been gleaming anew since 2010 thanks to Laetitia Fech. The abbess has turned it into a magnet for guests and locals looking for relaxation and reflection
Abbess Laetitia Fech
A Baroque church with a magnificent garden – from the outside, Waldsassen Abbey looks like a typical convent. Look behind the facade, however, and you will discover a modern, cosmopolitan abbey. Since Abbess M. Laetitia Fech has been in charge, the abbey has been attracting lots of visitors on a daily basis. With creative ideas and plenty of courage, she has breathed new life into the abbey – thus preserving a long tradition.
The ups and downs of the abbey
For more than 1,000 years, abbeys have been a hallmark of Bavaria’s landscape. Many were also the economic heart of entire regions – as is the case in Waldsassen. The hundredth abbey of the Cistercian order was founded in 1133 and was a male-only monastery until 1803. Rich, prosperous and influential, it grew over the years: the magnificent basilica was built in 1704, followed some ten years later by the world-famous library. In 1864, the monastery became a nunnery and shortly after that a girls’ school was established there.
“The foundation was the economic driver of the local area and continues to fulfil that role in many ways today,” says the Abbess. Yet some time ago it began to lose its sheen – at an economic, structural and personal level. Cracks were appearing in the old walls and there was not enough money to maintain them. The abbey was in danger of ruin – and then Sister Laetitia became Abbess. That marked a turning point.
From Sister to Abbess
When Abbess M. Laetitia Fech moved to Waldsessen from Lichtenthal Abbey in Baden-Baden as a young nun, she wanted to support the abbey with her skills as a parament embroiderer. She assumed that she would be able to continue to produce these elaborate church vestments. However, fate took her in a different direction: When in 1995 the fourth Abbess was due to be chosen for Waldsassen Abbey, she was astonished to be selected by the other Sisters.
After a period of contemplation, she accepted the role and set out a plan to help the Abbey. “At times it was very tough,” recalls the Abbess. “Without my belief in God I probably would not have managed it.” Thanks to her firm faith and many helping hands, the Abbey has been given a new lease of life – and has once again become a magnet for visitors and locals alike.
"Without my belief in God I probably wouldn't have managed it.“
Waldsassen Abbey: a place of spirituality
The young Abbess began by arranging the general restoration of the historic walls. Many rooms in the protected building were empty. “We wanted to fill them,” explains the Abbess. She commissioned a study from the Institute for Development Planning and Structural Research. The topic: “What could be done in the Cistercian Waldsassen Abbey that would take it into the future while ensuring it remained firmly rooted in its traditional spirituality?” In 1998 the idea emerged of setting up a Cultural and Meeting Centre.
In the Nature Experience garden, visitors discover the beauty of nature. Splendid parkland, water features and beds of fragrant herbs – in the Abbey’s gardens, people are transported away from everyday life and back to the primordial and the regional. Many people take up the Abbey’s offer and enjoy their stay in the Waldsassen Abbey guesthouse with its extensive facilities.
Local traditionalist for an entire region
Abbess M. Laetitia Fech has managed to bring the Abbey and thus the whole region around Waldsassen back to life. And although it was a difficult task, she does not regret any of her decisions. “My life has definitely not gone as I had planned, but it is no worse for that,” says the Abbess with certainty. It is her love of the Abbey that accompanies and strengthens her on her path – and that her Sisters and guests sense on a daily basis.
Laetitia's insider tip
"A place I love very much is the church 'Kapplkirche' near Waldsassen. The so-called Trinity Church with its three domes is a particularly beautiful building and is located at an altitude of 628 meters on the Glasberg. From there, you have a dream view over the entire Stiftland and to the Czech Republic. You can reach the church from the Waldsassen monastery via the Rosary Station Path: the path through the forest is lined with 15 baroque prayer pillars. One can pray the rosary, each pillar pictorially represents a mystery of the rosary. After this climb, the magnificent view is really rewarding."
More about Waldsassen Monastery: abtei-waldsassen.de (only in german)
... from Laetitia
At Mitterhof you should definitely visit the ostrich farm.
straussenfarm-mitterhof.de (only in German)
Sibyllenbad in Neualbenreuth with eight saunas in Bauhaus style is a tip for wellness fans.
The renovated castle in the town of the same name, which also dates back to the monks of Waldsassen, is well worth seeing with its museum and as a venue for events.
Between the rocks of the natural stage near Wunsiedel, theater performances and concerts take place in summer.
luisenburg-aktuell.de (only in German)