Convent of St. Gallen

In the rarefied and studious atmosphere of the impressive Baroque library, surrounded by thousands of precious books, the power of knowledge is almost tangible. The convent was established in the 7th century by the Irish monk Gallus. By the early Middle Ages, its school and learned monks would transform it into one of the most exciting centres of culture in Europe. Without the monastery, the town of St. Gallen would have never been founded.

The library of the Convent of St. Gallen is one of the richest and oldest in the world. ©Presence Switzerland
Facts & figures

What

Library and convent complex. Founded in 621 and reached the height of its influence in 9th and 10th centuries. Secularised in 1805.

Where

Town of St. Gallen in the canton of the same name, Switzerland

UNESCO inscription

1983

Why

Outstanding example of a type of building which illustrates a significant stage in human history. Exhibits an important interchange of human values on developments in architecture (Criteria 2 and 4 of UNESCO Operational Guidelines).

Background

The Benedictine Abbey of St. Gallen was one of the most important monasteries in Europe from the 8th to the 18th century. The Baroque architectural ensemble that we see today was built between 1755 and 1768 on the site of the earlier Carolingian monastery. The church (today a cathedral), the archives and the library are worthy of particular note. The library is a living record of 12 centuries of intellectual endeavour. It is a repository for hundreds of books hand written on parchment and of inestimable value, including the oldest known architectural plan dating back to the 9th century. Today the library is one of the most important abbey libraries in the world. Around 170,000 books and other media are catalogued here and can be consulted in the library’s reading room.

World Heritage and Swissness

Between the book covers of the St. Gallen Abbey library hides a treasure trove of knowledge. In a country with no raw materials to speak of, greater importance is given to knowledge, money and prosperity. Education, research and innovation are, in fact, the country’s main resources. Switzerland invests heavily in education and actively promotes and supports research and development – an approach which has clearly paid off. Examples of Swiss innovation are many, ranging from Velcro® to the superconductor. You can find out more about Swiss education and research in our articles and in the Resources section of our website.

Virtual tour

UNESCO world heritage - Convent of St Gall
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA