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The Mystical Early Pennsylvania Settler Who Lived in a Cave

In the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, in Fairmont Park, you can see a cave that has a history few know today. This was where Johannes Kelpius spent his life waiting for the apocalypse. Kelpius was a devout Protestant who also dabbled in mysticism, astrology, numerology, and alchemy. Ethnically German, he was born in Transylvania in 1667.

While still in Europe, Kelpius read the works of the Pietist Jakob Böhme, who was also a firm believer in the coming apocalypse. Based on both his reading of Revelation which spoke of an exilic remnant of the faithful that was as a “woman in the wilderness,” as well as glowing accounts of the colony of Pennsylvania, Kelpius became convinced that the “Philadelphia” which John of Patmos wrote of was not the historical settlement in Asia Minor, but rather this new metropolis on the American frontier. At the time, this proprietary English colony was the largest private land holding on Earth; it was also marked by an exceptional ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity, truly a remnant of the varied faithful in this wilderness.

Kelpius was convinced that Judgment Day would arrive in 1694. Read about the life of Johannes Kelpius, one of the earliest of many religious pioneers who flocked to the state of Pennsylvania in search of freedom to worship in their own way, at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Flickr user Justin 0 of 0)


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