Father Kneipp, the “Water Doctor”


Actually I thought my doctor would laugh at me when I gave him my book “Healing with Water.”

“I accept it”, he said, “and I’ll read it.”

He knew I had been to the Kneipp spa city of Wörishofen in Bavaria several times and always came back much improved. He had asked me a couple of years ago what they do there but he couldn’t quite wrap his head around it. A doctor never has enough time to talk of other things but what is ailing his patient right then and there. Some weeks ago I had come back to learn of my test results. The first thing he said was “I read your book. I like it. I have to read more. I’ll get myself a hose…”

Can you understand how I wished I could explain more to him? But no, a doctor is always in a hurry to see the next patient. There is no time. I was inspired by what he said and decided I’ll tell YOU about the history and how the “water treatments” came to influence the health system in Europe during the 19th century.

Bad Worishofen

Remember the cow?

Imagine a little boy, born to a poor weaver’s family in 1821. He had to work as soon as he could walk. His mother collected edible weeds and healing plants. He learned eagerly, and with great interest. At only four years old he had to earn his keep by herding a farmer’s cows out into the meadows. When a cow tripped and hurt her leg when drinking from a small stream little ‘Bastian’ was afraid he would get punished for the cow limping. He watched her stepping into the stream, standing there in the ice cold alpine water, lifting the hurt leg up and after a few seconds putting it back down. It went on for nearly an hour. When driving them home the cow walked normally. He never forgot that experience. At seven years old at dinner, consisting of just boiled potatoes, he reached for the little salt shaker, just as his dad was doing, to sprinkle it over the potatoes. His mom slapped him “You don’t earn your salt yet…” During the winters he had to help his dad in the basement with the weaving. As a young lad he started to spit blood.

“Don’t worry”, his dad said, “all weavers spit blood.”

Cold water foot bath

Children naturally love water

Already at a very young age he expressed his wish to become a priest. They seemed to be well fed and they could be in the beautiful basilica they attended Sundays, any time they wanted. “If God had wanted you to become a priest He would have given you rich parents.” He hardly had any schooling, knew only what the cobbler in the village tried to teach the young to at least be able to read and write. But our little guy was determined to enter the church. One problem was that he had to learn Latin. Nobody wanted to help him until he approached and convinced an uncle, himself a priest in another town. His uncle found a school for him and he taught him Latin in the evenings. As a teenager he got a rampant lung disease and was laid off for a long time. He thought of the cow in the stream and started to jump daily into the cold waters of the Danube. He did not own a towel so he would get dressed quickly and run home as his blood circulation was heating up his body. Incredibly, he recovered and finally, at 27 years of age and against all odds he was accepted at the priest seminary of the university in Munich. Working in the university gardens, having very little food and studying long hours he got TB again. He came across a little book in the university library, written a century earlier by two doctors Hahn (father and son) about the ‘Effect of Water into and unto the Human Body’. He had nothing to lose and started following their program. He could not jump into a river but he used the watering can behind the university garden shed to “water” himself. Again, he harnessed the disease and other students came to him, begging to be treated as well. I don’t have to tell you about the difficulties he got into because of it but despite everything – in 1852 he had reached his goal: He passed the rigorous health test and he was ordained as a priest.

Years later with many ups and downs he became worldwide known as “Father Kneipp – The Water Doctor.” He could never say ‘no’ to a poor soul needing not only spiritual but also physical help and couldn’t afford a doctor. During a cholera epidemic he was the only one looking after the sick, dying and dead. He was referred to as the “Cholera Chaplain”. He was a much loved priest but over time he also developed a system of water treatments. First only the poor, then the aristocrats, even Royals and the rich and famous came to his small hamlet to be “cured”. The church was very annoyed with him since he was supposed to be looking after the souls and not the bodies. To keep the people away he wrote his first book “My Water Cure”. At first, no publisher wanted to print it but finally one was willing and estimated no more than 500 could be sold. The book sold more copies than the Bible and was translated into 17 languages. People did not stop coming. Doctors and pharmacists complained bitterly about him and achieved an order for Kneipp to come to Rome. The church planned to excommunicate him. The Pope interviewed him, dressed as a simple monk the evening before the ‘trial’. Before the ‘monk’ left he asked Kneipp for advice on his sleeping problems and decreed that Kneipp was “driven to help and heal” and not at all for financial gain. The next day the Pope praised Kneipp publicly and assigned him the title ‘Monsignor Kneipp’. As he received the Pope’s blessing the Holy Father announced:

“I want you to go home and keep on healing.”

I will tell you more of the system Sebastian Kneipp developed. His legacy was left to the medical profession with the challenge to “Develop my system further and make it accessible to all.” It is known as “complementary medicine” and saves the insurance companies a bundle.

I was certified as a Kneipp-Therapist in Germany. I wrote my little book “Healing with Water” to help people on the American Continent who knew nothing about this simple method to stabilize their health.
(Available from: Amazon – Chapters/Indigo – Barnes & Noble)

Father KneippFather Kneipp advised:

“He, who has no time to spend a few minutes a day for his health will have to have time to be sick for weeks, months, or even years.”

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About gmroeder

Author: - there was so much I never talked about and now, that my memoir "We Don't Talk About That" is written I can't stop talking about it. And the reviews I get are awesome; so I think this book needed to be written. Interesting that I receive many e-mails from people who read the book and now tell me their similar stories... Did I open "a can of worms?" I think there are so many people who carry a heavy memory load and they do need to "unload". But interesting enough, even more people want to know MORE of my life and therefore I am working on a sequel.