The nun

Domenica Dethomas

Priorin Domenica Dethomas im Val Müstairl
In 774, Charlemagne, as a newly crowned king of the Lombards, was caught in a snowstorm on the Umbrail Pass. He vowed to God to build a monastery in the nearest village if he survived the storm. He survived and kept his word: The monastery complex was completed in the same century. Since the 12th century, the monastery of St. John has been an all-women's convent, and from 2013 to 2019 it has been the supreme task of the local nun, Prioress Domenica Dethomas.

«That was a nice scare»

This is how Sr Domenica describes her election as convent prioress. On 13 October 2012, she was elected to the highest office by her fellow sisters, and on 28 January 2013 - on the feast of Charlemagne - she was consecrated prioress by the bishop. Until 2 October 2019, the Münstertal-born nun led the convent of St. Johann in Müstair in a constant presence and with much devotion. The World Heritage Site stands just a few metres from the birthplace of the former prioress, whose greatest step in life was probably not the election as prioress, but rather the decision to dedicate herself to the monastery.

All or nothing

How and why does one actually become a nun? According to Sr Domenica, a strong inner drive often plays a significant role in the decision. Just as Domenica felt called to do about 50 years ago and took the «big step». With all the consequences: she decided to leave family and friends behind - without their understanding - and also accepted giving up small comforts. «I loved wearing beautiful coloured clothes,» the prioress recalls. «But when you enter a convent, you become a new person, so to speak, and a new person also gets a new name,» and so Gina Dethomas became Sister Domenica.

Passionate educator

As prioress, Sr Domenica represented the convent community to the outside world and taught the nuns - including two Filipinas - about religion. This is a task that suits her very well. So the trained kindergarten teacher was allowed to continue practising her profession within the convent walls when she entered at the age of 25. She is still grateful for this privilege today. And probably not only she, because numerous children from Münstertal went to kindergarten at «Sour Domenica» over the past decades - including the famous cross-country skiers Dario and Gianluca Cologna.

Praying for the world - and for the «Flyers»

However, the main task of the Benedictine Sisters is to serve the community. Anyone who wants to commit to this, likes to pray and has a solid religious basis is welcome to join the order. Praying for the world also requires a healthy measure of exchange and contact with the outside world. Despite their seclusion, the sisters learn about what is happening «outside» through the news, media and television. And they make no secret of their enthusiasm for hockey. «Especially the club of the 'EHC Kloten Flyers' always makes it into the prayers of the nuns of Müstair,» Sr Domenica reveals.

Convent of St. John

Attractive everyday life

Sr Domenica does not regret her decision to enter the monastery one bit. The 73 chapters of the Benedictine Rules demand modesty in monastic life. Nevertheless, the nuns' everyday life is extremely fulfilling. This is not least due to the numerous tasks that have to be done in and around the famous monastery. Sr Domenica also spices up the life of the Benedictine nuns of Müstair with a pinch of humour. After all, St. Benedict had written the rules for monks at the time, «...that is, only for men. And so they don't necessarily apply explicitly to us convent women,» jokes the resolute Münstertal woman as she bids us farewell.

Innenhof Kloster St. Johann
Karl der Grosse in der Kirche und Heiligkreuzkapelle.
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In keeping with the theme

UNESCO Welterbe Kloster St. Johann

Benedictine everyday life, cultural cultivation, art and research meet in the monastery of St. Johann. The church houses the largest, best-preserved fresco cycle from the early Middle Ages.

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