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Austrian Town Seeks Professional Hermit

The beautiful locale makes up for the spartan lifestyle expected of successful applicants

The Saalfelden hermitage (Pinzgauer via Wikimedia Commons)
smithsonian.com

For more than 350 years, a quiet, little hermitage has sat above the Austrian town of Saalfelden. Built out of a cave on a rocky outcropping above a nearby castle, the small, simple dwelling is one of Central Europe’s last remaining hermitages to be continuously occupied. And now, the town is looking for someone new to move in.

Saalfelden officials recently put out a call for a new resident to take over caring for the hermitage after the most recent occupants decided to go back to his normal life as a pastor and psychotherapist, according to The Local. But just because the town is looking for a new hermit doesn’t mean that they’re looking for shy, solitary people.

“The applicants need to know that the Saalfelden hermit does not lead a lonely life,” local priest Alois Moser tells the Agence France-Presse. “Many people come and want to confide in someone. He has to be there for them.”

That’s not to say that the Saalfelden hermit lives a life of luxury. While the hermitage’s inhabitant will have the residence and adjoining chapel to themselves, there is no heat or running water, Cara Giaimo reports for Atlas Obscura. No digital delights are allowed, either—the hermit is banned from furnishing the place with either television or computer.

“Life in the hermit’s cell is spartan, but the nature is very beautiful. I met lots of nice people and had good conversations,” said Thomas Fieglmueller, the most recent hermit to stay in the site, according to the AFP. “But there was also criticism from apparently arch-conservative Catholics because I didn’t have a cowl or a beard…Maybe I was the wrong person.”

In keeping with the religious nature of the hermitage, the town is seeking out someone with a “Christian outlook” to take over for Fieglmueller, The Local reports. Previously, the site was overseen by a Benedictine monk, who lived in the hills above the town for 12 years. Potential applicants are also warned that the position is unpaid and part-time, since the lack of utilities means the hermitage is only habitable from April to November.

That might make the gig seem a bit less desirable to some, but the role is quite prestigious in the local community—and the selection process can get heated. According to The Local, in the 1970s a man startled the resident hermit when he fired a shotgun into the door. As it turned out, the gunman was a local who had previously applied for the job and had been turned away. The hermit left shortly after.

If the position sounds like a perfect fit for you, it’s time to get writing—Saalfelden is only taking applications by post (no email) and the deadline is March 15, 2017. The lucky winner will be chose by Moser and the town’s mayor, who will rigorously screen applicants to make sure they pick someone with the right personality for the job.

If you get the position, you can add a line few can claim to your resume: professional hermit.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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