Kneipp Cold Water Cure

In 1855, Father Sebastian Kneipp, a Catholic priest, became known as a man who could cure illness with applications of ice-cold water. Having cured himself of severe tuberculosis with cold water applications, he applied the principle to curing other diseases as well. He became well-known throughout Europe. His clients included the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Pope Leo XIII. In America, Kneipp Societies became the forerunners of today’s AANP (American Association of Neuropathic Physicians).

The Life of Father Kneipp

Sebastian Kneipp was born in 1821 in a small town in Bavaria, Germany, approximately 50 miles west of Munich. Like his father, he was to become a weaver. By age 12 years, he already worked full-time in his father’s business, but in his heart he wanted to become a priest. His father said, “We have no money to send you to university. If God had wanted you to become a priest, he surely would have given us the money to send you to school.” But the young Kneipp did not give in. With the help of a mentor he managed to enter preparatory school at age 23 and university four years later. While a student, he contracted severe tuberculosis, a disease thought to be incurable. Applying the principles of the healing powers of water, as discussed in a book by Johann Sigmund Hahn, Kneipp cured himself of the disease. He did so by immersing his body in the ice-cold water of the Danube River for a few seconds several times a week. In 1852 Father Kneipp was ordained, and three years later he settled in Bad Woerishofen.

Father Kneipp settles in Bad Woerishofen

When Kneipp began an intensive study of the healing powers of cold water and certain plants Bad Woerishofen was a small village with 969 residents in 1855. Upon conclusion of his studies, Sebastian Kneipp was certain that in order to be healthy the human body needed physical exercise, a healthy diet and in balance of body, mind and soul. To achieve health in his patients, he started a humble practice. Initially, his sole implements for affecting cures consisted of a wooden tub, a ladle and a watering can. He had many successes and his fame grew. In 1886, Father Kneipp published a book, entitled, “My Water Cure” which has been republished many times and translated into many languages.

Statue of Father Sebastian Kneipp in Bad Woerishofen, Photo by J. Elke Ertle © 2014

Statue of Father Sebastian Kneipp in Bad Woerishofen Photo by J. Elke Ertle © 2014

The Town of Bad Woerishofen

Germany has 378 spa towns. Sixty-eight of them offer the Kneipp method of healing. Today, Bad Woerishofen has 14,000 inhabitants,165 clinics and hotels, 160 miles of foot- and bicycle baths, thermal pools, herb and aroma gardens, a barefoot and a forest trail, tennis courts and golf courses. The town’s thermal pools, which include water-rich in sulphur, iodine and salt, are said to help alleviate chronic joint pain and circulatory disorders. I have only visited a few of Germany’s spa towns, but Bad Woerishofen has a special spot in my heart. It is beautifully manicured and a low-key and peaceful place to decompress and regenerate while taking long walks and listening to open-air afternoon concerts.


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