Tradition & Modernity

The Life of Sebastian Kneipp

Sebastian Kneipp was born on 17th May, 1821 in Stephansried, a tiny village in Swabia. His parents were simple weavers und his childhood and early youth were marked by poverty and excessive hard work. His burning ambition to study theology and become a catholic priest seemed to be an impossible dream. It was not until the age of 23, after enormous set-backs, such as the loss of all his savings through fire in his parent’s house, that Kneipp was able to start his secondary school education.

During this time at Gymnastium in Dillingen on the Donau he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis, probably brought on by the years of poor nutrition and working in the damp cellar of his parent’s house. Due to his willpower, Kneipp was able to finish his schooling and begin studying Theology. On a visit to Munich he found a book that was to change his life. The book called “Lecture on the Power and Effects of Fresh Water on the Human Body” by Dr. J.S. Hahn, written in 1738. Inspired by this work, Kneipp decided to try the healing power of water on his own diseased body. Throughout the winter of 1849 he bathed in the ice cold waters of the Danube River. Afterwards he put his clothes on ever his wet body, marched home and laid himself in bed. At first Kneipp could find no improvement in his condition, but gradually the treatment began to take effect und the tuberculosis was cured.

In 1852 Kneipp was ordained a priest in Augsburg und worked for the next few years as a chaplain in Biberbach und Boos.

In 1855 Kneipp moved to Wörishofen, where he became confessor to the Dominican Convent. In 1881 Kneipp became the parish priest in Wörishofen and although his life was fully occupied by his pastoral duties, he still devotet much of his time to the study of water treatments and herbal medicine. People began to make pilgrimages to Wörishofen to be treated by him and learn his methods. This brought Kneipp permanently into conflict with the law and his superiors.

Kneipp’s famous work “My Water Cure” was published in 1886. It became an international bestseller und four years later was translatet into English. The success of this book brought a flood of people seeking cures to Wörishofen. Over the next few years a bathhouse an various houses such als the Sebastianeum, the Kneippianum and a clinic for children were built.

In 1889 Kneipp published a book called “Thus Shall You Live”. In it he explained his philosophy of life. He also advocatet this on his many lectures tours of Germany and Europe. The pope, Leo XIII, in a private audience in 1893, gave him the title Monsignore und appointed him to the privy chamber.

The years of hard work took their toll and in 1897 Kneipp caught a cold und he died an 17th May aged 75.

Sebastian Kneipp and his teachings

Sebastian Kneipp famous the world over as the “Waterdoctor of Wörishofen”. He was the creator of al holistic way of life and a complex form of naturopathic medicine. While studying theology as a young man, Kneipp treatet the symptoms of severe tuberculosis of the lungs by plunging into the ice-cold waters of a river. Kneipp was not, however, the first person to discover the healing powers of water, but he gave them the highest priority.

Sebastian Kneipp was a simple village priest und lay doctor. Due to his efforts the general public and the scientific world were introduced to a new

form of health education in the form of a simple und natural way of life und naturopathic medicine. As well als the treatment with water, Kneipp was especially interestet in the use of herbal medicine.

In his book “My Water Cure”, which was first published in 1886, he wrote 83 pages about cold water treatments and 49 pages about herbs in the treatment of illnesses.

In addition to this Kneipp was a strong believer in physical exercise, simple food and a regular style of life for body, mind and soul.