Constructed from 1755-70, St. Gallen Cathedral is one of the last monumental sacred buildings in Europe of the late baroque period and features eastern and western rotundas that symmetrically frame the nave and chancel. In 1983 the Abbey was declared a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site.
The monastery of St.Gallen was the heart of the northeast Switzerland city in the Steinach valley near Lake Constance. The cathedral is part of the original benedictine monastery complex with a history going back to the 7th. century when the Irish monk Gallus settled in the Steinach canyon. From this arose a monastery in 719, which in 800 blossomed religiously, economically and culturally. Its story began in the 8th century during the Carolingian period. From 747 to 1805, it functioned as an abbey. The entire complex of the abbey was considered either a separate principality or a city-state home to 70000 people. The Abbey Cathedral survived both the reformation and French Revolution, but under the influence of Napoleon in 1805, when the Canton of St.Gallen was established, both the monastery and its political rule were dissolved.
The church, like the neighbouring abbey library, built after the plans of Peter Thumb and decorated by the best South German artists of the day. The present abbey cathedral was completed in 1766 and the renowned architect Johann Caspar Bagnato was involved in the planning. The cathedral has a very airy feeling as it is very light inside. The baptismal font reflects the frescoed ceiling. The painter of the vault paintings was Josef Wannenmacher and the stucco works are a work of the brothers Johann Georg and Matthias Gigl.
Hmmm what else? There are over 800 putti and angels in the whole cathedral. The towers are 68 meters high. There are two bells in the north tower. The bell «Dreifaltigkeitsglocke» is over 8000 kg, made 1767 by Peter Ludwig Kaiser and has the deepest bell sound of Switzerland. And seven bells hang in the south tower.
Have a seat and quietly admire the frescoes and paintings on almost every square inch of the interior, including on the ceiling! There’s ornate stucco work everywhere you look, the ceilings are covered with frescoes, there are sculptures on almost every surface and the color scheme of turquoise and beige. Even if you’re not religious, just spend a few moments in here; you’ll be mightily impressed with what you see!
Insider: The oldest bell in Switzerland (610)
Look for the oldest bell, from the seventh century! It is preserved in the cathedral on the right side of the altar (you have to look through the iron grid). The bell brought by Gallus on his seventh-century journey from Ireland is one of the tree oldest surviving bells in Europe! It was donated to the monastery in 1786. They used it as a hand bell to exile evil spirits. On the mantle of the bell is painted «Gallus and the bear» as well a quote.
Insider: The 3-dimensional foot of Gallus
In the cupola of the rotunda, paradise, 60 saints are arranged on spiral cloud bands. Look for the seated figure of Gallus and along the edge of the ornate plasterwork of the dome painting, check out the feet which protrude into space intended to give the work a 3-dimensional impression.
There are two to crypt (a chapel under a church) beneath the Cathedral but I was never in there and it’s not open to the public. Maybe it’s only a rumor, I don’t know for sure… The eastern crypt goes back to the 9th century. The tomb of St.Gallus, containing a piece of his skull, is in the east crypt, while the west crypt houses the tombs of St.Otmar and since 1966 the Bishops of St.Gallen.
If you visit a DomVesper (every Tuesday, 5.30 p.m.) you can also sit in the front of the choir chairs. The choir stall, comprising historic organ and 84 beautifully carved seats is an artwork in itself.
Photo, Audio Guide, no entrance fee
There is no charge and you can take photos as long as there is no service going on. You can get an audio guide by visiting the tourist information office nearby or in the Abbey Library.
Where to find?
If you want more information, you can ask the tourist information or wikipedia.
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