After being appointed imperial abbey in the 9th century, Sankt Gallen advanced to become one of the most important monastic centers in Europe. With its famous abbey library, the abbey embodies the epitome of monastic culture of the Middle Ages. The abbey district with the magnificent baroque cathedral forms a unique historical ensemble.
St. Gallen Monastery: Facts
|Official title:||Benedictine monastery St. Gallen|
|Cultural monument:||Benedictine abbey of the 17th / 18th centuries Century with a famous monastery library with the inventory of around 170,000 books as well as 1,650 early prints and manuscripts, including “Casus Monasterii Sancti Galli” and the “Nibelungenlied”|
|Country:||Switzerland, Canton of St. Gallen|
|Location:||St. Gallen, in a narrow pre-alpine valley near Lake Constance, east of Zurich|
|Meaning:||the most perfect example of a large Carolingian monastery complex with an extensive, very valuable library from the late baroque period|
St. Gallen Monastery: History
|at 720||Founding of a monastery|
|1205-1805||Abbots also imperial princes|
|1524||Reformation in the city of St. Gallen|
|1755-66||Cathedral church with the 10th century crypt, the burial place of all St. Gallen bishops|
|1758-67||late baroque monastery library|
|2000-2003||extensive restoration of the collegiate church|
|2012||Events in the context of the 1400th anniversary of Gallus|
In the field of tension of power
According to zipcodesexplorer, Switzerland was not yet born when the Irish wandering monk Gallus set off south with some brothers. He had a dream in the pre-alpine Steinach Valley between Lake Constance and Säntis. The wild nature suddenly turned into stone towers and the soft, green moss pelts into places where many people hurried around. The place seemed favorable to him, and in 612 he built a hermitage with a wooden prayer house and associated sleeping quarters for the pious brothers. A good century later, Alemanne Otmar was the first St. Gallen abbot to take over the leadership of the Brethren and introduced the Benedictine rules.
The monks did not limit themselves to prayer, but worked hard according to their rulebook, tilling the land, buying surrounding lands, building cities, doing brisk trade, levying customs duties and minting their own coins. The success of the Benedictines drew more and more monks to the foothills of the Alps, which gradually became a center of occidental science and culture. The abbey library, designed with the exuberance of the playful Rococo, provides information about the spirit and sphere of activity of the monastery: around 170,000 books, some artfully bound in gold and ivory tablets, including 1,650 early prints. The Italian author Umberto Eco, who was on the trail of the abysses of monastic life in the “Name of the Rose”, would have enjoyed this huge conservatory of knowledge.
But success and power weaken, and every cocky winner works towards his downfall. The monastery discipline slackened, and some of the abbots no longer even wore their monastic robes. Although the Benedictine rule called for a departure from worldly life and simplicity, the abbots lived in luxury instead of modesty, got involved in political intrigues, acquired the title of prince and created themselves both in episcopal Constance and in the bourgeoisie of the city, which was under the influence of the monastery powerful rivals. The monastery experienced its bitterest defeat with the introduction of the Reformation in St. Gallen. Now the monastery and the city were distancing themselves. In order to visibly regulate their legal and property relations, they drew a dividing wall between the monastery district and the city. So that the abbot could leave the monastery without St.
In the 18th century, with a new heyday in the Baroque, a breathtaking display of splendor began. Within eleven years, the double-towered cathedral rose up as a warning to heaven. With the pair of towers and the bulging choir front on the forecourt, its facade embodies strength and severity. Inside, sandstone and woodwork form a solemn connection. The pompous high altar boasts, stucco work lick the vaults, and figurative paintings hang full of pathos under the ceiling sky. In addition to all the reliefs, busts and statues, the artfully carved confessionals and the walnut choir stalls form the highlight of the decoration.
While the abbots worked on the expansion of feudal power and its architectural expression in the monastery, the world outside was changing. The French Revolution reached St. Gallen, and here, too, old authorities and orders were called into question. The abbots braced themselves with all their might against the new powers, but could not prevent the dissolution of the monastery in 1805. The separation wall was broken off. After the ghost of the revolution had disappeared, the monastery complex was built with the current horseshoe shape with the prospect of an independent diocese. The old contrasts are now united in the monastery complex: The cantonal government resides in the east wing of the former Benedictine abbey, and a bishop has taken over the abbot’s living quarters.