Prince Abbey of St. Gallen

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The coat of arms of the Prince Abbey of St. Gallen in the cloister of the Muri monastery. Coat of arms of the abbey (black bear on a golden background), the County of Toggenburg (black mastiff on a golden background) and of Prince Abbot Diethelm Blarer von Wartensee; next to the shields the Saints Gallus and Otmar of St. Gallen; in the upper picture Gallus in prayer and with the bear.
The city of St. Gallen and the monastery district 1642 on a view by Matthäus Merian

The prince abbey of St. Gallen (founded in 719, abolished in 1805) was a Benedictine abbey in what is now Eastern Switzerland and the name for an area that was under the secular rule of the abbot of the monastery in St. Gallen . The monastery of St. Gall was after the monastery Säckingen the second oldest monastery in the field of Alemanni . The abbot of St. Gallen was Prince of the Empire with a seat and vote in the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire until 1798 ; St. Gallen was also the first place that the Swiss Confederation received .

Until the abbey was abolished in 1805, the collegiate church of St. Gallen served as a monastery church.


Foundation and the "Golden Age"

The Carolingian monastery plan of St. Gallen is the oldest surviving architectural drawing in the West. Reichenau , 819 or around 827/830, St. Gallen, Abbey Library, Sign. Cod. Sang. 1092
Reconstruction drawing of the monastery based on the monastery plan by Johann Rudolf Rahn , 1876
A document from King Ludwig the German from 856 for the Abbey of St. Gallen. Stiftsarchiv St. Gallen , documents FF.1.H.106

In 612 the Irish monk Gallus , a companion of Columban of Luxeuil , settled on the Steinach and founded a hermit cell. The actual founder of the St. Gallen Monastery, however, was Otmar , who had been trained and consecrated at the Rhaetian bishopric in Chur . Around 719 he was appointed head of the Gallus cell by the Arbon Tribune Waltram von Thurgau and charged with introducing regular monastic life. The first monks were initially Raetians , later they came more and more often from Alemannic noble families in the area. The numerous donations from wealthy nobles to the Otmars monastery seem to have had the goal of removing local property from the grip of the Carolingians, who are growing stronger in the region . Around 900 these numerous goods comprised a total of 160,000 Jucharten.

The abolition of the Alemannic ruling class in 746 at the Cannstatt Blood Court also affected the monastery, on which the Benedictine rule was imposed in the following year by the Frankish King Pippin the Younger . The monastery property was also affected by Franconian commissioners. When Otmar wanted to sue the king in 759, he was arrested and banished to an island on the Rhine near Eschenz . Now subordinate to the diocese of Constance , it actually became an episcopal own monastery. That only changed under Abbot Gozbert , who in 818 was able to obtain an immunity privilege from Ludwig the Pious and thus to become a monastery directly under the Empire . The monastery, which was previously rather remote from the king, now became a pillar of the Frankish rule in Alemannia . A scriptorium was established where biblical and scientific texts of high quality were prepared. This is where the Gesta Caroli Magni des Notker von St. Gallen originated in 883 . During the "golden" age from 816 to the invasion of Hungary in 926 there was close cooperation with the imperial and imperial authorities. the royal court and a new bloom of the scriptorium.

The St. Gallen Abbey Library has been indirectly identified via the St. Gallen monastery plan since 820 . Outstanding works of illumination such as the Folchart Psalter , the St. Gallen Psalter , the Psalterium Aureum and the Gospel Longum were created there . During the early Middle Ages, St. Gallen was one of the most important centers of occidental culture .

Invasion of Hungary 926

Martyrdom of the Wiborada

The "Golden Age" ended abruptly on May 1, 926, after travelers had reported in the spring that the Hungarians would advance to Lake Constance on their campaigns. Since the dukes in the divided Eastern Franconia could not build up a common defense, they had nothing to oppose the plundering and pillaging gangs. Abbot Engilbert decided to bring the pupils as well as the elderly and the sick to safety in the moated castle near Lindau, which belongs to the monastery . Many of the writings were hidden in the befriended Reichenau monastery . The monks brought themselves and the valuable cult objects to safety in a refuge in the Sitterwald. At her express request, the hermit Wiborada was the only one to remain in the walled-up church of St. Mangen in the abandoned city.

When the Hungarians invaded the city, they found nothing of value. They damaged buildings and altars and burned down the wooden houses in the village. The attackers also found Wiborada, but no entrance to their walled-up hermitage. Fire could not harm her or the church, so the Hungarians covered the roof and killed her. The Hungarians did not dare to attack the monks' refuge because of their inaccessible location. They were even attacked by the monks as they withdrew. After the Hungarians withdrew, the monks returned with the inhabitants and rebuilt the damaged and burned houses.


Through numerous donations, the manorial power of the St. Gallen Monastery in southern Germany assumed a significant extent. The monastery bailiwick and the high level of jurisdiction derived from it fell to the Roman-German Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa in 1180 , making it an imperial bailiwick . In the post-Hohenstaufen period, this imperial bailiwick was in turn pledged piece by piece to nobles from the Lake Constance area, from whom they in turn bought the monastery back. The St. Gallen monastery thus laid the foundation for the development of a closed ecclesiastical feudal state . The monastery state ultimately had many scattered possessions and rights of rule throughout southern Germany and a relatively closed area of ​​rule in what is now the Fürstenland , Appenzell and the Rhine Valley .

Conflicts with Appenzell and the city of St. Gallen

In the 13th and 14th centuries the existence of the monastery was threatened several times by the changeful battles in the context of the Habsburg expansion and domestic power politics in southern Germany. Particularly noteworthy here is the bloody conflict between Abbot Wilhelm I of Montfort and the monastery bailiff, the count and later Roman-German King Rudolf von Habsburg , between 1282 and 1291, in the context of which the king near the abbot town of Wil Burg and Schwarzenbach Castle was founded as a counter-town and appointed a counter-abbot for the monastery. The conflict was continued by Rudolf's successor Albrecht and could not be settled until 1301.

In 1349 the prince abbey gave up direct rule in Breisgau and gave it to noble families as a fief.

During this time the city ​​of St. Gallen managed to free itself from the sovereignty of the abbey. She fought on the side of the rebellious Appenzeller when they successfully revolted against the monastery rule in 1400. Just one year later, the city of St. Gallen rose to become an imperial city . The Appenzell Wars (1400–1429) ended in a disaster for the monastery: Most of the closed manor was lost and Appenzell became independent. When Abbot Eglolf Blarer took office in 1427, the abbey was in poor condition. Following the Old Zurich War , the monastery (1451) and the city (1454) were incorporated into the Swiss Confederation as associated places . In 1455, the up-and-coming city of St. Gallen prepared to take over the entire remaining secular rule of the monastery. However, this undertaking failed due to the determined resistance of the curator Ulrich Rösch andthe people of the church, as the subjects of the monastery were called.

Reformation and absolutist monastic state

Appenzeller and St. Gallen destroy the Mariaberg monastery near Rorschach in 1489
Contemporary map of the abbey from the 18th century
Map of the territories of the abbey in the 18th century

At this low point in the history of the monastery, Ulrich Rösch was elected abbot. With the backing of the federal umbrella locations (Zurich, Lucerne, Glarus and Schwyz) he succeeded in re-establishing the rule of the monastery. Through the collection of new and old legal titles and the purchase of new territories (acquisition of the County of Toggenburg in 1468 ), the monastery state became an early modern territorial state . After the acquisition of the Toggenburg in 1468 , the term “old” landscape became common in the language for the heartland of the abbey between Rorschach and Wil SG , the “ Fürstenland ”. In 1486, after a long right-hand trade with Appenzell, the abbey had to cede the bailiwick over the St. Gallen Rhine Valley to the latter.

When Ulrich Rösch had the new Mariaberg monastery built in Rorschach and planned to relocate the abbey there in order to separate it from the city of St. Gallen, the city of St. Gallen, Appenzell and the church people united in the Waldkircher Bund in 1489 and destroyed the building site ( Rorschacher Klosterbruch ). This blatant violation of the peace provoked an intervention by the four umbrella sites, which successfully defended the rights of the monastery. The monastery was not relocated.

An essential element of the territorial reorganization was, in addition to the creation of new lower courts and offices, the standardization of the law. The old openings and wisdom were collected and uniformly set down in writing. At the same time as the local sources of law, a general order was created that applies to all subjects of the monastery: the land statute of 1468. Thus, a state sovereignty was created from manorial rule, high and low jurisdiction and a uniform status of the people of the church, the subjects of the monastery.

In contrast to the Swiss Confederation , the Prince Abbey of St. Gallen remained closely connected to the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation even after the Swabian War ; the abbots still had their regalia handed over to them by the Roman-German emperor, and the legal norms of the empire retained their validity. The prince abbey of St. Gallen was at the same time legally a member of the empire, but actually, as an assigned location, part of the Swiss Confederation with its seat and limited voting rights in the assembly .

The Reformation started with Joachim von Watt (Vadian) in 1525 in the city of St. Gallen. As early as 1527 the monastery was abolished, the abbot expelled, and the city of Zurich took over the patronage of the old landscape, which was striving for independence and whose population had mostly adopted the new faith. However, the defeat of the reformed federal places in the Second Kappel War in 1531 made it possible to restore the Prince Abbey of St. Gallen (1532). In addition to the openings and the land statute, which had been guaranteed and controlled by the federal umbrella locations since 1525, land or police mandates regulated the lives of the subjects. This made it possible for the monastery state to force all subjects back to the Catholic faith in the Old Landscape by 1572 and to complete the reforms begun by Abbot Ulrich Rösch. At the end of the 16th century, the Prince Abbey of St. Gallen formed a strong, centrally organized and for the time modern territorial state.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the monastery expanded again in Breisgau and, in addition to acquiring land in various localities, in 1621 also regained direct control over Ehaben and Norsingen .

The St. Gallen Monastery after the new building, 1769

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the abbots of the monastery increasingly pursued a policy that was independent of the Swiss Confederation, which led to the War of the Cross and finally to the Toggenburg War of 1712–1718, which was sparked by the contrast between the abbey and the Reformed inhabitants of Toggenburg. Nevertheless, the abbey flourished again in the 18th century - the most visible sign was the new building of the monastery complex between 1755 and 1767 in the splendid Baroque period by Peter Thumb until 1761, then until 1768 Johann Michael Beer and Johann Ferdinand Beer from 1767 to 1769. The palace building was supposed to be offer the ruling abbots a residence befitting their rank. The late baroque library hall of the abbey library is one of the most representative and beautiful library buildings in the world today. The whole complex has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 .

Downfall 1798–1805

Pankraz Vorster , the last prince abbot of the St. Gallen monastery
Flag of the grenadier company of the abbot troops between 1780 and 1790. Watercolor by DW Hartmann

After the French Revolution of 1789, the subjects of the monastery also demanded more rights and freedoms. With the «Amicable Treaty» of Gossau of 1795, Abbot Beda Angehrn (1767–1796) tried to save the abbey . Despite these reforms, the subjects of the monastery in the Fürstenland founded the Republic of the Old Landscape of St. Gallen in 1798 , and the Toggenburgers also broke up, which ended the political rule of the abbey. The abbot Pankraz Vorster (1796–1805; † 1829) still had the extra-territorial possessions of Neuravensburg and Ehaben with Norsingen as the last areas of control of the monastery. The Helvetic Republic created by France in 1798 also included the former territories of the prince abbey. The Fürstenland became part of the Säntis canton . In May 1799 Abbot Pankraz Vorster returned briefly with Austrian support, but had to give way again after the victory of the French. In 1803 the newly created canton of St. Gallen took over sovereignty. Neuravensburg was lost from the areas in the Holy Roman Empire in the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss.

From 1801, Prince Abbot Vorster resided in exile in Ehaben, which is now the last rulership of the prince abbey with neighboring Norsingen. On May 8, 1805, the monastery was abolished by the Grand Council of the Canton of St. Gallen. After the Third Coalition War broke out in September 1805, Vorster also left Ebringen, which the canton was able to take possession of in the following year with the intention of selling it.

The efforts of the former abbot Pankraz Vorster to restore the abbey, which continued for many years, did not lead to success. The personal enmity between Vorster and the first Landammann of the canton of St. Gallen, Karl von Müller-Friedberg , played an important role. Karl von Müller-Friedberg's father was prime minister of the prince abbey and he himself was the last governor of the abbey in Toggenburg. As such he had released the Toggenburg into freedom in 1798 and held high political offices during the Helvetic Republic . Vorster could not forgive this betrayal throughout his life. Vorster died bitterly in exile in Muri monastery in 1829 - only on his deathbed did he leave Müller-Friedberg, who had asked the terminally ill "former Abbot of St. Gallen" for forgiveness, a positive answer, written by the secretary of the " Abbot of St. Gallen ».

The establishment of the dual diocese of Chur-St. Gallen through the bull Ecclesias quae antiquitate by Pope Pius VII. 1823 is considered to be the definitive end of the restoration efforts, also on the part of the Vatican. From a strictly canonical point of view, however, the bull did not abolish the monastery.

See also : History of the Canton of St. Gallen , History of the City of St. Gallen

coat of arms

The coat of arms of Abbot Ulrich Rösch, flanked by the double coat of arms of the Prince Abbey of St. Gallen and the County of Toggenburg

Main article: Flags and coats of arms of the city and abbey of St. Gallen

The coat of arms of the Prince Abbey of St. Gallen showed an upright black bear in gold. The heraldic figure is reminiscent of St. Gallus , who with God's help was able to command a bear. After the purchase of the County of Toggenburg, Abbot Ulrich Rösch decreed that the coat of arms of the extinct Counts of Toggenburg, a black mastiff with a red collar on a gold background, be united with the abbey.

Famous monks

Famous abbots

(see also the list of abbots of the St. Gallen monastery )


The monastery of St. Gallen in the early modern chronicle

Early modern chroniclers were already grappling with the history of the St. Gallen Monastery: At the suggestion of the Zurich chronicler Johannes Stumpf , Joachim Vadian wrote his Shorter Chronicle of the Abbots of St. Gallen around 1545 . Fifteen years after completing his Larger Chronicle , in which he dealt with the period from 1200 to 1491, he presented the history of the city and monastery of St. Gallen between 720 and 1200 here. In 1604, the St. Gallen monastery librarian Jodocus Metzler completed his history of the at the Alemanni famous monastery of St. Gallus . The Ittingen Carthusian and chronicler Heinrich Murer drafted his remarks on the St. Gallen monastery with regard to his unfinished project of a Theatrum Ecclesiasticum Helvetiorum (clerical scene of Helvetia).

See also


  • Georg Thürer : St. Gallen history, state life and economy in the canton and city of St. Gallen from prehistoric times to the present, in 2 volumes . St. Gallen 1953.
  • Alfred Meier: Abbot Pankraz Vorster and the abolition of the Prince Abbey of St. Gallen. Diss. University of Friborg. Freiburg 1954 (Studia Friburgensia NF 8).
  • Erwin Poeschel (arrangement): The art monuments of the canton of St. Gallen. Volume 3. The city of St. Gallen. Part 2: The pen (= The art monuments of Switzerland. Vol. 45). Birkhäuser, Basel 1961.
  • Walter Müller: Land statute and land mandate of the Prince Abbey of St. Gallen, on the legislation of a spiritual state from the 15th to the 18th century. St. Gallen 1970 (Communications on Patriotic History 46).
  • Johannes Duft , Anton Gössi, Werner Vogler: St. Gallen . In: Helvetia Sacra , III / 1/2 (1986), pp. 1180-1369.
  • Bernhard Anderes: The St. Gallen Abbey District . Published by the Office for Cultural Maintenance of the Canton of St. Gallen. 2nd Edition. Buchhandlung am Rösslitor, St. Gallen 1991, ISBN 3-908048-14-1 .
  • Philip Robinson: The Prince Abbey of St. Gallen and its territory (=  St. Gall culture and history. 24). St. Gallen 1995, ISBN 3-908048-25-7 .
  • Peter Ochsenbein (Ed.): The St. Gallen Monastery in the Middle Ages. The cultural bloom from the 8th to the 12th century. Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-8062-1378-X .
  • Hanspeter Marti: Monastery culture and enlightenment in the prince abbey of St. Gallen (= Monasterium Sancti Galli. Volume 2). St. Gallen 2003, ISBN 3-906616-55-X .
  • Dieter Geuenich: Monks and convent of St. Gallen in the Carolingian period. In: Alemannisches Jahrbuch , 2001/2002, pp. 39–62 ( full text as PDF ).
  • P. Erhart, J. Kuratli, K. Schmuki, F. Schnoor, E. Tremp (eds.): Gallus and his time. Life, work, afterlife. St. Gallen 2015.
  • Alfons Zettler: St. Gallen as an episcopal and royal monastery . In: Alemannisches Jahrbuch , 2001/2002, pp. 23–38 ( full text as PDF ).
  • Prince Abbey of St. Gallen - Fall and Legacy 1805/2005 . St. Gallen 2005, ISBN 3-906616-75-4 .
  • Albrecht Diem: The "Regula Columbani" and the "Regula Sancti Galli". Reflections on the Gallus Vitus in their Carolingian context. In: P. Erhart, J. Kuratli, K. Schmuki, F. Schnoor, E. Tremp (eds.): Gallus and his time. Life, work, afterlife. St. Gallen 2015, ISBN 978-3-905906-13-4 , pp. 67–99.

Web links

Commons : Prince Abbey of St. Gallen  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rudolf Schieffer : Episcopal and Monastic Caritas in the Middle Ages. In: Christoph Stiegemann (Ed.): Caritas. Charity from early Christians to the present day. Catalog for the exhibition in the Archbishop's Diocesan Museum in Paderborn. Petersberg 2015, pp. 138–145, here: p. 144.
  2. Jakob Boesch: The history of the Bernang court and the municipality of Bereck . Ed .: Political Community Berneck. Rheintaler Druckerei und Verlag AG, 1968, p. 6-9 .
  3. Bernhard Stettler (ed.): Joachim von Watt (Vadian): The smaller chronicle of the abbots Abbey and city of St. Gallen from the beginnings to the beginning of the modern era (719-1532) from a Reformation perspective . St. Gallen Culture and History, ed. from the Historical Association of the Canton of St. Gallen and the State Archives St. Gallen, Volume 37, 2013. ISBN 978-3-0340-1124-2 .
  4. ^ Franz Xaver Bishop: Metzler, Jodokus. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . (2009).
  5. ^ Heinrich Murer: Chronicle of the St. Gallen Monastery . Cantonal Library Thurgau Y 103 ( digitized version ).

Coordinates: 47 ° 25 '23 "  N , 9 ° 22' 38"  E ; CH1903:  746,266  /  254279