8 of the Most Interesting Facts About the Ephrata Cloister

Ephrata CloisterThe Ephrata Cloister is a quiet retreat in the Lancaster countryside. This historic attraction not only has a rich, long history but also features some beautiful grounds that are ideal for holding weddings and other important events. Set back from society and back in time, the Ephrata Cloister is worth visiting, and here are some interesting facts that will help explain why!

1. Spiritual Beginnings

The Ephrata Cloister is one of the earliest religious communities in America. It was founded in 1732 by German settlers who created a spiritual community consisting of celibate Brothers and Sisters as well as married congregation of families. This hermitage grew into a thriving community. In its heyday, the Ephrata Cloister community had about 300 members.

2. Arts & Music

Central aspects to the spiritual focus of the Ephrata Cloister community were art and music. Aside from religion, these were the acceptable forms of creative expression. The group became known for self-composed a capella music as well as Germanic calligraphy, which was called Frakturschriften. The Ephrata Cloister also had its own publishing center, which included a paper mill, printing office, and book bindery.

3. Chorus

Today, the Ephrata Cloister features a chorus to bring to life the traditional music. These choraliers wear white robes patterned after the 18th-century garb that was donned by the Brothers and Sisters of Ephrata. This chorus performs at the Ephrata Cloister as well as throughout the region, also singing compositions from other early American communities such as the Shakers, Moravians, Harmonists, and First New England School.

4. National Historic Landmark

The Ephrata Cloister has been designated as a United States National Historic Landmark. This historic feature in Ephrata, PA, is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

5. Tours

There are daily tours offered at the Ephrata Cloister, as well as special programs, ongoing research, and education. Admission to the Ephrata Cloister includes a self-guided exhibits in the Visitor Center, seven historic buildings, and a guided tour with a self-guided option. In addition, the guided tours will take you inside the Sister’s dormitory and the Meetinghouse, which can not be accessed on the self-guided tour. You will also have access to the Museum Store, which offers locally made traditional crafts, such as pottery, handwoven textiles, glassware, watercolors, and calligraphy.

6. Rentals

The Ephrata Cloister is a premier location for weddings and other events. Certain areas of the historic site can be rented for these special occasions. The Meeting House has a cozy, quiet location ideal for your wedding ceremony, with wooden pews that seat up to 80. Folding chairs can be added at no extra cost to seat up to 125. The outdoor Amphitheater can also be rented out. This building was constructed in the 1970s for plays, and can seat up to 450 guests.

7. Educational Programs

Educational programs at the Ephrata Cloister include school programs, discovery tours, community days, family tours, and storytime. Each of these programs seek to further the initial goals created by Brother Obed, who opened a school for local children in the 1740s. The Ephrata Cloister is a place for learning still, over two centuries later!

8. Research

The Ephrata Cloister still offers a resource to conduct research and unearth more details about the original community and culture that surrounded it. The historic site maintains a rich collection of original artifacts- books, furniture, manuscripts, baskets, and ceramics- and most are available for viewing in exhibits throughout the Ephrata Cloister. There are also some genealogical materials available in the site library.

The Ephrata Cloister to the Historic Smithton

After touring the Ephrata Cloister, you won’t have far to go to head back to the Historic Smithton Inn. Just a two minute drive away from the Ephrata Cloister, the Historic Smithton Inn offers a bed and breakfast getaway with quaint, themed guest rooms, comfortable pillow-top beds, fireplaces, and of course a bountiful breakfast in the morning! Wake up rejuvenated and see what else Lancaster County has to offer. For more to see and do, download our free vacation guide!