Clay pastor Felke: A pioneer of natural medicine

Pastor Emanuel Felke had always had a predilection towards medicine. During a diphtheria epidemic in 1890, he treated people with homeopathic remedies. The results were remarkable. Later, he packed people in clay, prescribed them seated baths and advised them to exercise in the fresh air and adopt a vegetarian diet. The Felke-Kur was born.

It soon earned Emanuel Felke (1856–1926) a reputation that extended well beyond national borders. Spa guests came from all over Europe to Repelen in what is now North Rhine Westphalia, where he then practised. There was a Felke movement, a Felke club and a Felke method. The clay pastor, as he was known, had become a cult figure, and also an annoyance to those who felt threatened by him.

He became a target for orthodox medicinal practitioners and moral guardians because his spa guests wandered around naked. This was nothing short of scandalous at a time when men and women were normally buttoned up from head to toe. But the Felke-Kur came to an abrupt end with the First World War, as all the sanatoriums were converted into military hospitals. Emergency medicine replaced alternative methods. Did this mean the end of him practising natural medicine?

Rescue came in the form of Bad Sobernheim. In 1915, Felke moved to the town on the Nahe and got a second wind in terms of his treatments. He gradually built up the spa there and developed his clay methods into a recognised natural medicinal practice. Emanuel Felke died in 1926 as a highly respected, honorary citizen of the town.

Clay on the barefoot trail in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe

Clay on the barefoot trail in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe

The Felke-Kur is very much still alive in Bad Sobernheim. This town in its wonderful Nahe region setting has not only preserved the memory of the famous clay pastor, it has also refined his methods into a holistic treatment regime. Bad Sobernheim can be proud to call itself a Felke resort, the only one in Germany and the newest spa resort in Rhineland-Palatinate.

The treatments today are still based on the methods developed by the legendary clay pastor. Every Felke-Kur begins with a seated bathe in an open-air pool. This is followed by an outdoor exercise session with as few textiles on the body as possible. Finally, it is the turn of the clay packs that made Emanuel Felke famous, which are applied topically to the joints, the back and the stomach. Pure relaxation!

Soothing Felke-style clay bath in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe

Soothing Felke-style clay bath in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe

Clay pool on the barefoot trail in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe

Take the whole family through the clay pool on the barefoot trail in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe

Nutrition still also plays a key role: vegetarian food with healthy herbs is an important element of any Felke-Kur. It is used for arthrosis and osteoarthritis, venal and spinal column conditions, fatigue and metabolic illnesses. The three wellness hotels, BollAnts – Spa im Park, Hotel Maasberg Therme & Golf Resort and Menschels Vitalresort Englischer Hof, are all devoted to the Felke-Kur. An extensive barefoot trail based on the clay pastor’s teachings was also opened in 1992, making for a very natural and meditative experience.

As well as theology, Emanuel Felke studied medicine for a couple of terms. He was familiar with the teachings of Sebastian Kneipp and those of Samuel Hahnemann, the inventor of homeopathy. He always looked deep into his patients’ eyes to discover the depths of their suffering. “Here’s looking at you, kid”, a bit like Humphrey Bogart in ‘Casablanca’.

Relax on a lounger in the spa garden at BollAnts Spa im Park in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe

Relax on a lounger in the spa garden at BollAnts Spa im Park in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe

More leisure tips in and near Bad Sobernheim:

Bad Sobernheim

Enjoy your time in the Felke town of Bad Sobernheim on the barefoot trail or with a treatment in one of the leading medical wellness hotels in Rhineland Palatinate.

Book a holiday in the holiday region Nahe-Glan

Book your holiday in the holiday region Nahe-Glan now and enjoy the friendliness and hospitality of your hosts.

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