Abbey of St. Gall

The cathedral and library of this 8th-century monastery complex are widely considered to be Switzerland’s greatest works of baroque architecture.

The Abbey of St. Gall is the emblematic landmark of the historic city of St. Gallen. Marvel at the beauty of its baroque cathedral, see displays of antique documents in the library and wander as monks did in the Middle Ages. The earliest mention of the Abbey of St. Gall is from the 8th century. It flourished as a monastery until secularizing in 1805. In 1983 the entire complex was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List of protected monuments.

Overlooking the abbey is the magnificent St. Gallen Cathedral. Admire the arched windows, pediments, pilasters and twin towers of the façade. Enter via a doorway on the northern wall and note the sculptures standing in niches. Inside, appreciate the gilded decorations of the main altar and count the many intricately carved figurines.

Go to the Abbey Library of St. Gall, a public lending library that has a collection of about 170,000 books and manuscripts. These range from 7th-century Irish manuscripts to antique German-language Bibles and poetry by revered monks such as Ratpert. Look for an original architect’s drawing of the abbey and a 2,700-year-old Egyptian mummy. Pay attention to the baroque rococo interior, which features burnished wood furniture. Gaze up at the ceiling frescoes by the Swabian painter Joseph Wannenmacher.

Stroll around the abbey gardens and imagine the monastic life that took place here for almost 12 centuries. See the baroque palace of the previous and current bishop of St. Gallen in addition to the governmental offices of St. Gallen canton. Outside the abbey’s north entrance is the gothic-style St. Laurenzen Church, which presents an interesting architectural contrast to the cathedral.

Find the abbey in St. Gallen’s city center. The St. Gallen Art Museum and Textile Museum are among several nearby attractions. Walk around the complex’s surrounding streets to see examples of burgher homes built between the 1500s and 1700s.

The Abbey of St. Gallen is open daily and has an admission fee. Rent an audio guide for commentary of the complex.

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