In around the year 1700, two hermits carved out the rock to create a vast succession of rooms. This romantic and unique place of retreat overlooks the artificial lake of Schiffenen.
Close to the cliffs of the river Sarine, Jean Dupré and his companion Jean Liecht spent more than 20 years carving out the crumbly molasse by hand. They enlarged areas that had already existed since the 15th century to create a vast hermitage, with chapel, sacristy, bell tower, antechamber, woodshed, heated bedroom, kitchen, refectory, boiler room, stairs, workshop, cell, cellar and terrace! The entire structure is 120 metres long. It has everything; a spring, which is accessible from the inside, supplies water, and the little garden provides fruit and vegetables, as well as flowers to decorate the sanctuary.
Monks who broke away from community life, as well as solitary devout lay persons, followed suit and lived as troglodytes. These hermits are known as the "brothers of the forest of Saint Mary Madeleine". Some of these hermits were famous in the region. The last inhabitant of this stone residence left in 1967.
It is possible to observe a rare geological phenomenon here. Erosion has revealed the original structures of the earth, in which vague molasse fossils may be observed. You are walking on dunes that are around 20 million years old! The region at that time was covered by sea.
These caves were very well known to tourists as early as the 18th and 19th centuries: travellers passing through Fribourg appreciated the romantic, wild landscape of the cliffs of the river Sarine. Engravings and guide books cite them as an unmissable curiosity. A clean-up operation carried out in 2005 means that it is safe to visit the area.
Guided tours: available on request from the Catholic parish: +41 26 492 55 03