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Swiss Council Hires New Hermit For Job With Cave

Swiss Council Hires New Hermit For Job With Cave

A nun has been chosen as the new hermit of a Swiss cave.

Sister Benedikta, 51, - real name Franziska Sigel - beat 100 other applicants for the lonesome post.

For the last 20 years Sister Benedikta has been running a childrens' home in Bern, Switzerland. She has four children herself and became a nun after her divorce.

The only qualification she needed for the post - apart from a desire to live in a hole - was the skill to tend a small garden, and of course dispense wisdom to anyone that might turn up at the Verena Gorge Hermitage, as well as giving courses in meditation three times a week.

She also had to be fit as the climb to the cave in the Verena Gorge, to the north of the city of Solothurn in Switzerland, is quite steep.

The name of the hermitage refers to Saint Verena, who is said to have passed near the area and lived in a cave near Solothurn.

But while that may be the legend, the hermitage is known to have been in existence since the 17th Century. The site at the end of the steep hiking trail in the gorge even features stations of the cross dating from 1613, and the first mention of the region's hermit is in a note written in 1442.

Sister Benedikta will get a wage paid by the local council which controversially allowed a woman to get the job the last time it was available in 2008. But 68-year-old Verena Dubacher who was the first woman in 600 years to hold the position, had to step down on health grounds after five years as official hermit. Prior to her, the job was held for 25 years by Johannes Leutenegger.

Mayor Sergio Wyniger said: "We were surprised by the amount of interest we had this time round. We have had applications from all over Europe."

He said: "The cave is a protected monument and a valuable part of the region's cultural heritage. The job of hermit is an important one."

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