About Trappist Trail

Set in the misty hills of the southern Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal is home to a series of mission stations built by Trappist monks roughly a century ago. The ten mission stations, each of which has its own beauty, belong to the beautiful Mariannhill Monastery set in the hills. All the work of one man – Franz Pfanner.

Trappist monks, as a rule, speak only when necessary, and regard idle talk as something to avoid. They are cloistered contemplative monks who follow the Rule of St Benedict. The other name for them is the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. Their order arose as a reaction to the relaxation of practises in Cistercian monasteries around the year 1664, although it was only in 1892 that they officially formed an independent monastic order.

Today there are 170 Trappist monasteries and convents in the world. Their lives revolve around dedication to contemplation and prayer, not the salvation of other souls.

Abbott Pfanner, who was regarded as a rather eccentric, and determined religious figure, arrived in Port Elizabeth in 1880 to become the founder of the first Trappist Monastery in sub-Saharan Africa. After failing to establish an initial attempt on the banks of the Sundays River, he moved his monks to Natal where they lived in Mariannhill just outside Pinetown. By 1885 it was an abbey and Pfanner its first abbot.

After being invited by Chief Sakayedwa of Polela to set up an outstation just beneath the Drakensberg Mountains, it was not long before a series of communities spread across southern KwaZulu-Natal – the only place in the world Trappists ever built missions.

Today's Trappist Trail visits each of these, led by historian Steve Kotze who is also a skilled orator and, by all accounts, gives incredible life to the story that starts at Centocow, moves to Lourdes mission station, continues to Emaus (where Pfanner spent his last 15 years) and on.

The tour costs around R1200 per person, including two nights' accommodation, meals and refreshments. One can also do a one-day guided self-drive trip that includes Mariannhill Abbey and five of the mission stations.

Need to Know

WhereThe tour starts at Marianhill Monastery just outside Pinetown, Durban, KwaZulu Natal

WhenBy arrangement.

How muchPrices on request.

Telephone+27 (0)82 318-2243

OvernightStay nearby in Pinetown, in KwaZulu Natal

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Additional Reading

For an excellent first hand review and article about the Monastry, see our article at "Mariannhill Monastery – a gentle space of beauty and peace".

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