St. Meinrod was a ninth-century Benedictine monk at the monastery of Reichenau, Switzerland. In 840 he realized he had a vocation to a solitary life of prayer. He received permission to live as a hermit among the pines by Lake Lucerne. One evening a visitor saw a great light coming from the window of the hermitage, as he looked in he saw Meinrod at his prayers, the book held open by a supernatural child who was reciting the verses with him. The visitor spread the news that Meinrod was entertaining angels. His reputation as a man with outstanding Spiritual gifts spread and visitors called upon him for his council. It seemed right that these pilgrims should be able to hear Mass and so a small chapel was built. The Abbess Hildegarde of Zurich presented Meinrod with a beautiful wooden statue of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus. Pilgrims began reporting cures after visiting the chapel, which was now dedicated to Our Lady of Einsiedeln.
Meinrod developed a close relationship with all the creatures of the forest and had two tame crows as companions. One winter’s night in 863 Meinrod received two visitors; robbers anticipating rich pickings from the money left behind by pilgrims. Despite knowing their evil intent, (through a dream he had received the previous night,) Meinrod welcomed them with food and drink. They ransacked the chapel and on finding nothing worth stealing they turned to Meinrod in anger and beat him to death. They ran off to Zurich to hide but were followed all the way by Meinrod’s crows. They were brought to justice and legend has it that Meinrod’s crows flew over the scaffold at their execution. This is the explanation for the statues and pictures of crows found in many Swiss churches.
Sadly, Meinrod’s chapel fell into disrepair after his death, but was restored in 903 by Cannon Benno who founded a Benedictine Community there. He built a church to house the little chapel and preserve it as a shrine to the memory of Meinrod, it was finished in 948 and its consecration set for Holy Cross Day. The ceremony was to be performed by Conrad, Bishop of Constance, who spent the previous night kneeling in vigil before the statue of Mary and the Child Jesus in Meinrod’s chapel. There he received a vision of an angelic choir singing the consecration anthems. At the head of the angels, standing before the altar was our Lord, preparing to conduct the solemn rite of consecration. In this heavenly company were also St Stephen, St Augustine, St. Peter, St. Gregory and St. Lawrence. On a separate throne in the sanctuary sat the Blessed Virgin.
At dawn the monks and attendants arrived, Bishop Conrad told them that Our Lord had consecrated the chapel the previous night. The Priest’s convinced him however, that the service should go ahead as planned. But when the opening sentences were being intoned a heavenly voice commanded: Stop! For this church has been “Divinely consecrated”. Bishop Conrad later wrote down all that had happened and gave his account to Pope Leo Vlll. In 964, the pope confirmed the miracle of the Divine Consecration. The outer church has been burnt down many times over the years but each time Meinrod’s little chapel has remained unharmed. 200,000 Pilgrims a year come to see the little chapel that was consecrated by Jesus Himself and pay their respects to St. Meinrod, the gentle hermit who lived for prayer.