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Library at the Abbey of St. Gall is one of the richest medieval libraries in the world

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 9th, 2011
Catholic Online (

From its founding in the 8th century until its dissolution in 1805, The Convent of St Gall, in the eastern Swiss city of St. Gallen was one of the most important Benedictine monasteries in Europe. Considered a perfect example of a great Carolingian monastery, it's recognized as the finest example of Baroque architecture in Switzerland. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The abbey library, in particular is deservedly world-famous. The shelves are the richest and oldest in the world, containing 130,000 books, including precious manuscripts such as the earliest-known architectural plan drawn on parchment.

The convent's story began in 612, when the Irish monk Gallus withdrew into the valley of Steinach to live as a hermit. Gallus appreciated a holy sign and built his hermitage on the spot.

In 747, the abbot Otmar established a community of Benedictine monks around Gallus' hermitage and founded a school of scribes and translators. Abbot Gotzbert established the monastery's famous library in the 830s, and the abbey of St. Gall became one of the most renowned centers of Western culture and science in the following centuries.

The abbey church is now a cathedral and it has been reconstructed several times. The current Baroque church was completed in 1767 after just 12 years of work.

Huge and fully Baroque, St. Gallen's cathedral and its great towers can be seen from throughout the city. The interior is painted white, allowing a clear view of its three aisles, central cupola and extensive decoration.

The murals on the vault were painted by Josef Wannenmacher. In the south altar is one of the oldest bells in Europe: the one brought by Gallus himself from Ireland in the 7th century.

The convent's library contains more than 130,000 volumes, including precious manuscripts dating back to the 8th through the 15th centuries. The famous Plan of St. Gallen Abbey can be seen in a glass case.

While the library's architecture is Baroque, the decoration is Rococo. Murals on the vault include trompe l'oeil depictions of the four great early church councils and a portrait of the Venerable Bede.

Aside from two main attractions of cathedral and library, the Convent of St. Gall includes the bishop's palace, which is still occupied by the Bishop of St. Gallen today, and the canton's administrative offices.

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