Archaeologists have discovered numerous artifacts from the stone age and the Bronze Age in the Einsiedeln area. However, it appears from these artifacts, some of which are about 12,000 years old, that the area was thickly wooded and only used by hunters. Until the Early Middle Ages there were no permanent settlements in the area.
St. Meinrad, of the family of the Counts of Hohenzollern, a Benedictine monk from Reichenau Island in Lake Constance on the German/Swiss border came to the region in 835 seeking seclusion. He established his hermitage on the slopes of Mt. Etzel. When he arrived in the area, he had with him a wonder-working statue of the Virgin Mary which he had been given by the Abbess Hildegarde of Zurich. Near his hermitage, he established a small shrine to house the statue, which became a small pilgrimage site. According to legend he died in 861 at the hands of two robbers, Richard and Peter, who coveted the treasures offered at the shrine by pilgrims. The robbers were then followed by two ravens into town and drew attention to them with loud squawking. This is the reason, for the two ravens on the village flag.
During the next eighty years Saint Meinrad's hermitage was never without one or more hermits emulating his example. One of the hermits, named Eberhard, previously Provost of Strasburg, erected a monastery and church there, of which he became first abbot. Work on the monastery is said to have begun in 934. Following a miraculous vision by Eberhard, the new church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Growth of the town
While the town of Einsiedeln is first mentioned in 1073, monastery and the area around were settled earlier. At the time of the foundation of the Abbey, the local hunters and small farmers of the forest, placed themselves under the authority of the noble-born Abbot. The surrounding population was known as Waldleute (forest people)