Ephrata Cloister
632 West Main St.
Ephrata, PA 17522
(717) 733-6600

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Founded in 1732, by Conrad Beissel, The Ephrata Cloister was one of America's earliest communal societies. Here Beissel and his followers lived quiet lives of prayer and charity. The community consisted of three orders, a brotherhood and a sisterhood, both of which practiced celibacy, and a married order of householders who supported Cloister activities.

While the householders were farmers or craftsmen who lived nearby, the brothers and sisters lived at the Cloister in log, stone, and half-timbered buildings reminiscent of their Rhenish homeland.

The celibate orders practiced rigid self-discipline. They also engaged in farming and various industries such as papermaking and carpentry. One of the Society's outstanding contributions to its communities was the steady flow of books, broadsides, and tracts that rolled off its printing presses.

The Society declined after the Revolution, following Beissel's death in 1768. By 1800 the celibate orders were practically extinct, and in 1814 the remaining householders incorporated the Seventh Day German Baptist Church.

Today visitors can experience the solemn, beautiful surroundings of the Cloister and visit many of its buildings to gain a unique insight into the lives of the members of this religious order. The Visitor Center introduces the Cloister through a slide show and exhibits. The Sisters' House includes a central kitchen on each of three floors. Each sleeping cell here accommodated one sister and was equipped with a bare bench as a bed and a block of wood as a pillow.

The Meetinghouse, which became the Society's place of worship, can be seen, as well as a unique display representing a Householder's Residence. Bread was an important part of the Cloister diet, and the Bake House can be visited. Though the Cloister's Print Shop was probably housed within the Brother's House complex, today it occupies its own 19th century building. The Solitary House is typical of the residence that sheltered members before the large dormitories were built.

The site contains several other buildings and sites, including a Graveyard where many of the earliest members are buried. Throughout the year several special events offer a unique experience for the family.

Visitors can enjoy an Introductory Video and a Guided Tour of the main buildings (smaller buildings are self-guided). Guided Tours are also available for Groups, including School Groups, for an education on the history of the Cloister, Ephrata, and surrounding areas.

Hours: Open Monday - Saturday 9am - 5pm, Sunday 12 - 5. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays in January and February, on Mondays in March, April, November and December. Closed on Easter, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.
Adults (12-64) $10.00
Seniors (65+) $9.00
Youth (3-11) $6.00
Children under 3 FREE.
Groups of 30 or more with advance reservations receive additional discounts. Call for current rates.
Group Reservations: At least 2 weeks in advance.
Lunch: Picnic area available.
Handicapped Access: Partial. Call with your needs.
Directions: I-76 West to Exit 21. Rt. 222 South to Ephrata to Rt. 322 (Main St.) West. About 2 miles to Cloister. 90 - 120 minutes norhtwest of Philadelphia.

Copyright © 1996-2014 by Patrick Tadeushuk. All Rights Reserved.