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January 9, 2019

Switzerland: Abbey of Saint Gall

Abbey of St. Gall

Returning from Vaduz Liechtenstein to Saint Jean de Losne France we made a minor detour to visit the city of St. Gallen Switzerland. The purpose of the visit was to see the Abbey of Saint Gall, a historically important religious complex that is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

A monastery has existed in St. Gallen since the 8th Century; the roots go back to the Carolingian-era. Though the monastery is seriously old, the style of the convent and associated buildings is not. The original medieval complex was demolished and rebuilt from 1755 to 1768 in the distinctive Baroque style that can be seen today. (It must be distinctive as the cathedral served as the inspiration for a hot air balloon!)

Inside the cathedral

A pedestrianized street in the town

The religious campus is connected internally by grass lawns and paved paths. On a sunny Swiss day it is a pleasant place to hang out. On the outside there is a buffer of open spaces and pedestrianized streets between St. Gallen’s old town and the monastery. These open zones allow for better views of the outside of the complex. Near the abbey the old town is car-free also generally improving the quality of the visitor’s experience.

For sure the outside of the abbey complex is attractive. But the biggest draws are on the inside. The interior of both the cathedral and the library must be experienced. Both are spectacular and are individually worth stopping in St. Gallen to see.

Because it is more unique, the library is particularly notable.

A selfie was the the best we could do in the library.

Constructed in the Rococo style between 1758-67 the Abbey Library of Saint Gall is one of the richest and oldest in the world. Some suggest that it is the most beautiful library in Europe. The library is noted also for its holdings of precious manuscripts including the earliest-known architectural plan drawn on parchment.

We spent a considerable amount of time inside the library sliding about in oversized felt overshoes required to protect the parquet floors. Unfortunately we have no pictures of the inside to prove we were there. Photo taking inside the abbey’s library was forbidden. This one you’ll have to see on your own.

Inside Kirche St. Laurenzen


We visited St. Gallen and the Abbey of Saint Gall at the end of May 2018. Before we arrived we made a decision to not spend the night in St. Gallen. In retrospect it would have been a good place to stay for an evening or two.

Entrance to the Kathedral St. Gallen is free (I think). It costs 12 Swiss Francs to see the inside of the library but it is worth it.

The cathedral’s towers

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