08 The monastery

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08 The Monastery and Sister Magdalena Told
The Reverend Matthias Jenner came from the respected and wealthy Jenner family of Klausen. In 1677 he became the parish priest of Klausen. Following the building works to ensure the safety of pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Cross, Matthias Jenner began rebuilding Säben itself from 1680. For the time being he kept it a secret that he wanted to found a monastery there. His good contacts with the Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg saw him obtain the agreement of the abbess to send a number of nuns to Säben. On 27 February 1685 the moment at last arrived: five nuns from Salzburg ascended Mount Säben for the first time.

Some 500 nuns, including eleven abbesses, spent their lives at Säben in the 300 years from 1685 to 2021. The last abbess – from 1996 to 2021 – was Mother Ancilla Hohenegger from Langtaufers in the Vinschgau Valley. The decision to abandon the convent at Säben was made in 2021: as there were no new young nuns as entrants, it was no longer thought appropriate to continue the convent community.

One of the nuns, Sister Magdalena Told, nevertheless played a significant part in Tyrolean history. During the Bavarian occupation of Tyrol from 1805 to 1809, her courage saved the convent from further devastation and looting.
To avoid attention, Sister Magdalena secretly dressed herself in a soldier’s uniform and left the convent, travelling overnight via Villanders and the Ritten plateau to Bozen. There she presented herself to the commander of the Bavarian troops. She described the horrors of the devastation at Säben and asked him to withdraw his soldiers: the commander granted her wish.

She was however unable to prevent the Bavarian government from dissolving the monastery on 25 August 1808.