Mariannhill Monastery

1882 Abbot Francis Pfanner – South Africa

Abbot Francis Pfanner

The Trappist Prior, Father Francis (Wendolin) Pfanner, founded a monastery during the Christmas season of 1882 in the English colony of Natal in South Africa. He called it Mary-Anne-Hill (Mariannhill). The energetic son of a farmer, born in 1825 at Langen in the Austrian Vorarlberg, had got the necessary experience by founding Mariastern in the then Turkish Bosnia. A forceful speaker and writer, he inspired many young people for the austere life in mission land.

Already in 1885 the monastery was made an abbey. Francis Pfanner, its first abbot, chose as his motto the word of St. Paul: “So run that you may obtain the prize!”. He spread a net of mission stations over the southern part of Natal and beyond, with his monks and with the assistance of the community of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, which he founded.

A great problem was the conflict between mission activity and the Trappist rule with its long prayers in choir, partly at night, its absolute silence and rigorous fasting. The conflict became so acute under his successors that the Trappists saw the dismissing of its greatest abbey from the order as the only solution. Pope Pius X made the separation in February of 1909, shortly before the founder died. Then Mariannhill developed step by step into a mission congregation. Now it was possible to erect places of formation in Europe and America, and to train candidates in the homeland.