Black and white photograph of Sebastian Kneipp
Black and white photograph of Sebastian Kneipp

A life in motion: Who was Sebastian Kneipp?

Sebastian Kneipp's life story is closely linked to his life's work. Perhaps his writings on a healthy life, his holistic 5-pillar philosophy would never have been written had it not been for this one trigger: Sebastian Kneipp falls seriously ill with tuberculosis. The disease, then also known as consumption, was often fatal.

But his illness forced Sebastian Kneipp to look into various healing methods. When he succeeded in curing the disease with cold water infusions from the Danube, his spirit of research was ignited.

The life of Sebastian Kneipp in video

In the course of his life, Kneipp developed the knowledge of the healing effects of water and medicinal plants into a systematic teaching based on his own findings and research.

The priest and naturopath thus created a holistic concept of life that views people, their habits and their natural environment inseparably as a balanced unit.

But how exactly did the son of a Bavarian weaver come to be nicknamed "water doctor" or "herb priest" - and after years even to fame far beyond the country's borders? Whole books could be written about this. But we will content ourselves here with the most important stages in the life of our namesake.

The life story of Sebastian Kneipp:

1821

Sebastian Kneipp was born on May 17, 1821 as the son of a house weaver in Stephansried (Bavaria).

1842

Kneipp develops the desire to become a clergyman at an early age. Dr. Matthias Merkle, a distant relative, and the local priest and botanist Christoph Ludwig Koeberlin support him in realizing his wish: they teach him Latin and introduce him to the world of herbal medicine.

1844

Together with his patron Merkle, Kneipp moves to Dillingen, where he attends grammar school.

1846

In the 19th century, apartments usually consist of one room, usually several people share one bed. Perfect living conditions for diseases such as tuberculosis. Sebastian Kneipp also falls ill in 1846, but this does not prevent him from completing his A-levels in just four years.

1849

Kneipp begins to study theology, but the illness increasingly gets to him. By chance he discovers a book by the doctor Johann Siegmund Hahn about the healing power of cold water.


Impressed by the findings contained in the book, Kneipp tried it out for himself in the cold Danube. A bath lasting only a few seconds and a subsequent short sprint lead to an astonishing result: Kneipp feels fresh and refreshed. He repeats the short baths over the next few days and supplements them with half-baths and casts. His state of health then improves steadily.

1852

In the meantime completely cured of tuberculosis, Kneipp graduates at the age of 31 and shortly afterwards becomes a priest. Meanwhile, he deepens his previous knowledge of the healing power of water and applies his forms of treatment to patients for the first time. Among them: A woman suffering from cholera, whom he cures.

Sebastian Kneipp becomes increasingly popular among the population and makes a name for himself as the "cholera chaplain" and "water doctor". Doctors and pharmacists, on the other hand, observed his actions critically. They dislike the fact that Kneipp helps the sick quickly and free of charge. They filed charges against him. However, Kneipp is acquitted in court.

1855

His knowledge brought Kneipp increasing prominence. In 1855 he was transferred to Bad Wörishofen, where he caused a further sensation: by means of his water treatments he cured an entire herd of cattle of foot-and-mouth disease. As an agricultural advisor, he deepens his knowledge and writes it down in non-fiction books.

1855-1889

In the course of his research, Kneipp adds further healing methods to his previously developed and revised forms of therapy. He develops a holistic health concept for body and mind.

1886

Kneipp recorded his observations and results in his book "Meine Wasserkur" (My Water Cure). In addition to explanations of his water treatments, the book already contains a chapter on herbal medicine. The demand for treatment with him continues to grow as a result. Soon up to 150 patients a day are on his doorstep.

The water given by the Creator to mankind and the herbs selected from the plant kingdom make up the essence of curing diseases and making the body healthy.

Reverend Sebastian Kneipp
Sebastian Kneipp

1889

Kneipp publishes his second book "Thus Shall You Live". In it he describes his holistic health concept with the five pillars.

1891

The foundation stone of the Kneipp® brandis laid: Sebastian Kneipp transfers the rights to develop pharmaceutical and cosmetic products based on Kneipp's philosophy and to market them under the name "Kneipp" to his long-time friend Leonhard Oberhäußer, a pharmacist from Würzburg.

1893

In 1893 Kneipp received a very special honour: Pope Leo XIII appointed him papal secret chamberlain and gave him the title "Monsignor".

1894

Kneipp publishes "My Testament", which summarises all his previous research findings.

1897

Kneipp died on 17 June 1897 at the age of 76. His findings and the therapy concept derived from them continue to have an effect to this day and are considered a milestone in medicine. His findings are still the foundation of the Kneipp® brand and Kneipp products.