Exploring History: A Day with ‘The Last Abbess’ Author Sandhya Hasswani in Bad Säckingen

Saturday, 8 June 2024 – Bad Säckingen, Germany

The Cornell Club of Switzerland spent the day in “The Trumpeter’s City” with
Sandhya Hasswani, author of the historical novel, Die letzte Äbtissin – The Last Abbess, and Adelheid Lang, archivist of St. Fridolin’s Cathedral.

The novel is centered around the life and times of Mari-Anna Franziska von Hornstein, the last abbess of the abbey at Bad Säckingen. St. Fridolin’s Cathedral is central to Mari-Anna’s story. The archives of the cathedral were an important source for Sandhya Hasswani’s research. Although the focus of the day was a historical tour of the High Rhein in the 18th century, we also learned about the legend surrounding St. Fridolin, an Irish monk who, through a vision in a dream, was commanded by St. Hilarius to found the abbey on an island in the Rhein. This was in the 6th century. In the 18th century, the abbey at Bad Säckingen was a religious community that included daughters of aristocratic families, parish priests, and all other persons serving a role in support of the community. The Abbess was the person in charge and held a high aristocratic rank, herself.

The program included a tour of St. Fridolin’s cathedral, led by Adelheid Lang, who has been the cathedral’s archivist for more than 20 years. Her deep knowledge of the history of the cathedral, parts of which date back to the 11th century, and historical events surrounding its evolution were evident during the 75 minutes that we spent with her exploring the public parts of the cathedral and some places behind the scenes.

Die letzte Äbtissin is written in Standard German and so is accessible to anyone speaking the language. Sandhya Hasswani has also achieved recognition and received several prizes for her essays and stories in the Alemannic dialect of her region. She surprised us at the end of the day by offering an English translation of her newest book, Die Kleine Seerose – The Little Water Lily. It is a book of verse for children, beautifully illustrated – and this was the second surprise! – by the author herself. Her books are available directly from her website (https://www.sandhya-hasswani.com/shop), from bookstores in Germany, and from Amazon.de.

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