(Sister Elisabeth provides a Kneipp hydrotherapy to a guest at the abbey retreat in Marienkron April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)

Being blasted with jets of hot and cold water by a 70-year-old nun may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but it has some firm fans. They return year after year to Marienkron, an Austrian health resort 3 km (2 miles) from the Hungarian border.

The regular guests relish the tranquil yet disciplined atmosphere fostered by the Cistercian nuns who run the Kneipp hydrotherapy centre, look after the visitors and offer opportunities for prayer and life-coaching.

But the ethos of Marienkron, a low-profile resort frequented mainly by older guests seeking relief from aches and pains and mobility problems, may not survive once the current generation of nuns is gone.

Just five of the abbey’s 12 nuns are still fit or young enough to work in the resort, and management has already been handed over to a secular director.