NewsThe water apostle

The water apostle

Doctors and pharmacists scolded him as a quack at the time – today Sebastian Kneipp is considered a pioneer of naturopathy. A tribute to the 200th birthday

He did not study medicine for a day, but he treated thousands of patients. Today the case would be clear: On the official side, it would have to be determined that Sebastian Kneipp lacks the approval required for doctors according to the licensing regulations. So he shouldn’t treat anyone, at most as a naturopath. Otherwise he will come into conflict with the law. And so it happened back then, around 1854.

There were Messrs. Semmelbauer and Mannheimer, Kling and Sauter, who didn’t want to watch the goings-on at Kneipp. For them that was what the pastor was doing. a clear case of “business harassment”, to their detriment. After all, they were established doctors and pharmacists who saw the man’s demand.

In court, Kneipp defended himself as follows: “Not preference or interest, but compassion for the unfortunate” prompted him to seek treatment. He was “not murderous, but in the gentlest, most innocent and natural way”. And he asked the judge: “If someone is sick and cannot find any help and has already had several doctors, shouldn’t they be helped? Or when someone has spent all of their money on a doctor and pharmacy and the doctors explain: We’ll stop now because you have run out of money – shouldn’t we be helped? “

The matter ended as follows: The judge asked Kneipp for an effective remedy for his “very painful rheumatism on the neck”. Kneipp gave him advice, and the court ordered this: “Cure those who get no help or no money, and be a helper in need.” In his biography on Kneipp, Christian Feldmann recalls such episodes.

Sebastian Kneipp, born on May 17th 200 years ago in the Swabian town of Stephansried near Ottobeuren as a weaver’s son, called “Baschtl”, brought it from a poor, rural life to world fame. At the beginning of the 20th century he was considered the most famous European after Bismarck in the USA. And in 2016 the German UNESCO Commission added Kneipp’s teaching to the German list of intangible cultural heritage.

Treat body and soul

All of us have heard of him and many have tried what he developed. He, the pioneer of special therapies for body and soul, the water doctor from Wörishofen, who was “only” a priest. There have been a large number of Kneipp associations for a long time, and 53 state-recognized Kneipp spas and health resorts in Germany alone; there are museums and films about his life, monuments, prizes, foundations and schools, magazines, medals and stamps. Kneipp GmbH with around 650 employees produces hundreds of products on an industrial scale, including lipsticks with the slogan “Kissed by nature”.

So far-reaching its effect, so small its world. For a long time he lived almost exclusively in Upper Swabia. A chaplain recommended him, which was a giant step, for high school. Then he was able to study theology in Dillingen, followed by ordination and primacy. First jobs in villages like Biberbach and Boos. In 1855 he was transferred to the Dominican convent in Wörishofen as a confessor.

There he deals more and more with questions about illness and health. It all started when he suffered from tuberculosis as a young man and came across a book by the Silesian doctor Johann Hahn. He recommended using the healing power of fresh water. Kneipp takes a radical cure: a few times a week in 1849 he plunges into the ice-cold Danube for a few seconds – and gets well. Later he prescribes casts and shows fellow students how good it is for them too.

In Wörishofen even an abbot is treated by him. In 1884 he encouraged him to write a book. Just two years later it is available under the title “Meine Wasserkur”; it achieved several editions and translations. Other books (he had previously written a lot about agriculture, livestock, rabbit and beekeeping) also met with enthusiastic audiences. In 1888, Kneipp’s remedy was so popular that a bathhouse was built in Wörishofen. What else should follow that there and elsewhere! For example treading water, lightning pouring, lots of wraps and poultices, rubbing, and contrasts such as cold therapy and sauna.

The Pope was also a fan

Kneipp’s foundation was its five pillars: the search and finding for inner balance, the diet that should be “simple, natural and tasty” far from asceticism, and the use of herbs – they were up to many ailments. He turned against stress and hectic rush, but for movement, and that’s still true today. And finally the power of water. That is, says the Kneipp Association, “pure nature, a source of energy and the purest beauty elixir”. Kneipp himself may also have experienced stress: his reputation led the “pillar saint” to lectures across half of Europe.

The simple priest found an effective remedy for his enemies: the supreme authority. Pope Leo XIII was, as they say today, a Kneipp fan. In 1894 he called the Water Apostle to Rome and allowed him to treat him several times. His personal physician, enraged about this, of course didn’t believe in this kind of bullshit. In the same year, “My Testament for the Healthy and the Sick” appears, again a success. Such sentences belong to his balance sheet: “My whole endeavor was to present and explain what the Creator offers us in the water and in the herbs. I’ll take the bungler and quack quietly. “

People seeking advice had come to him in droves. His gift of speaking to them clearly and vividly, far from high theology, in broad, cozy Swabian, also made him popular. They are – still an effective pillar? – to this day teaching pieces for what is called doctor-patient communication today and does not always work for a long time. “Work it, then you’ll be healthy!”, He advises a nobleman, and if you talk too much, you should get “three casts on your mouth”.

When he, the soon to be 78-year-old, was plagued by a tumor, bladder cancer, he refused any operation, as well as a pilgrimage to Lourdes. “I am a believer,” he says, “miracles are only necessary for people who are not believers.” He is buried with strong, honest sympathy in a chapel – in Wörishofen of course.

Arbor Day: "Nature is the greatest artist"

Gerhard Reusch transforms her works into abstract and surreal images. The Aschaffenburg artist photographs the bark of native trees.

Hay fever: Something is blooming again!

Spring is finally beckoning in all its glory. But that's exactly the problem: cabaret artist Anne Vogd has hay fever.

"Inventing Anna" on Netflix – wasted potential

The Netflix series "Inventing Anna" puts accents in the wrong place and waters down a suspenseful crime. The "Next Episode" series column.

ARD crime scene from Hamburg: The transparent "tyrant murder"

Today's Hamburg crime scene "Tyrannenmord" of the ARD with Wotan Wilke Möhring has no time for the big questions.

Curved Things

About snake smugglers, snake lines and a rare phobia.