The Ephrata Cloister is easily found at 632 West Main Street, Ephrata, Pennsylvania. It is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and supported by the Ephrata Cloister Associates, a non-profit organization. It is one of the 26 historic and museum sites included on the PA Trail of History.
Years ago I worked there as a tour guide. It was my favorite place of employment out of the various jobs I had while working my way through college.
Recently, I revisited the Ephrata Cloister. Very little has changed since the days when I had donned an imitation cloister habit and guided locals and tourists around the property.
The green grounds are still lush, beautiful, and peaceful. While there, you can easily imagine that you have been transported back in history to the mid 1800’s. In fact, you become so absorbed in the history and story being portrayed, that you are surprised at hearing the sounds of traffic. When jolted back to reality, you remember that the Ephrata Cloister is nestled within the town of Ephrata, PA, and busy Route 222 runs right by the property. Outside the serene Cloister grounds, people are bustling about, living their lives in the 21st century.
The religious group at the Ephrata Cloister was founded in 1732 by Conrad Beissel, whose charismatic personality had attracted loyal followers. At its peak, the community had close to 80 celibate members and approximately 200 family members. Beissel supported a theology of pietism and mysticism in addition to promoting celibacy and lives of self-denial. The congregation followed Sabbath worship and Anabaptism.
The number of members gradually dwindled, and the property was bought by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1941. Nine original buildings survived and were restored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
The historic site includes a guided tour of the Sisters’ House (Saron) and the Meeting House (Saal). Visitors are free to see the museum in the Visitor Center and the remaining seven buildings on their own. On exhibit are original furniture, baskets, ceramics, printed books, and manuscripts.
If you are unable to visit this National Historic Landmark in person, you can take a virtual tour.
The Ephrata Cloister in Ephrata, PA, offers educational programs, special events, and opportunities for volunteering. It has plenty of free, on-site parking with picnic tables. There is an admission charge.
January and February: Wednesday through Saturday, 9 to 5; Sunday, noon to 5
March and April: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 to 5; Sunday, noon to 5
May through October: Monday through Saturday, 9 to 5; Sunday, noon to 5
November and December: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 to 5; Sunday, noon to 5
632 West Main Street, Ephrata, PA 17522
Telephone (717) 733-6600
Fax: (717) 733-4364
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission