St. Gallen

St. Gallen
  • Approx. 70,000 inhabitants.
  • Founded in the 7th century.
  • This town is very green - over 50% is parkland.

Brief historic overview

At a population of over 70,000, St. Gallen is one of the biggest towns in the Lake Constance region and is considered the cultural and economical centre of East Switzerland. It lies between two lines of hills, Rosenberg in the north and Freudenberg in the south. Sitterschlucht Gorge forms a natural border to the town in the west; in the east flows Steinach River, which, historically speaking, marks the town centre.

The monk, St. Gallus, a pupil of the Irish missionary Columban von Luxueil, built a hermitage on the River Steinach in 612, in order to convert the Alemanni to Christianity. After Gallus' death, the her-mitage went to rack and ruin, but remained a place of pilgrimage. In 719, the Alemanni priest, Ot-mar, founded an abbey at this place of pilgrimage and called it St. Gallen. In the Early Middle Ages, it was a place of refuge for Irish scholars and artists, who had left their homes to flee from Viking attacks; the monastery began to flourish for the first time.

In 1805, the monastery was dissolved by decree of the constitutional council of the canton of St. Gallen. St. Gallen experienced an economic boom that began in the 14th century with the textile industry, providing employment to a majority of the town's population. Farmers grew hemp and flax; spinners, weavers and bleachers processed the raw materials. Traders sold finished goods that were of such a high quality, they could be marketed in as far off places as Paris, Venice and Prague. 

In St. Gallen, the abbey grounds comprise some of the best sights. This area, with a church and library, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. Thanks to Mühleggbahn, a funicular lift that connects the old town centre with the southern hills, the nearby recreational area, Drei Weieren, is easily reached. Close to the mountain station is the "High Route", a path that offers fantastic views of the town.

Sights in St. Gallen

St. Gallen - Lapidarium

Abbey library and Lapidarium

The abbey library of the former Benedictine Monastery of St. Gallen is the oldest library in Switzer-land and one of the biggest and oldest monastery libraries in the world. Together with the St. Gallen Abbey and complex, the library was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Many manu-scripts have been written here since the 8th century, which were required for worship, school and administration. In 1805, St. Gallen Abbey was dissolved; the library continued to be used, however, as a museum and as a specialist library for medieval studies. Roughly 400 manuscripts date back to times before the 11th century, including the oldest book in Germany, Abrogans. The library's book hall, built between 1758 and 1767, is considered the most beautiful non-ecclesiastical Baroque hall in Switzerland. Since 1836, the library has owned an Egyptian mummy, Shepenese, who is supposed to have lived from 650 to 610 BC. An important collection of medieval architectural sculptures can be viewed in the Lapidarium. Works from the Carolingians, Ottonians and Spolia are exhibited dating back to the 15th - 17th centuries.

St. Gallen - Abbey Church

Abbey Church

St. Gallen's abbey church was built between 1755 and 1766 as the church to the monastery of St. Gallen and fulfilled this task until the monastery was disbanded in 1805.  Since the middle of the 19th century, the church has been the cathedral for the newly created diocese of St. Gallen. The new building of the church became necessary because of the state of disrepair the old 9th century monastery church had fallen into. Peter Thumb, who was the architect of the pilgrimage church of Birnau, oversaw the work and had the Longhouse and the Rotunda built. St. Gallen Abbey Church is one of the last major sacral buildings of the Late Baroque period and, together with the Abbey Grounds, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.