St. Georgen Monastery (Stein am Rhein)

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St. Georgen Monastery in Stein am Rhein

The St. Georgen Monastery was a Benedictine abbey in Stein am Rhein in the canton of Schaffhausen , Switzerland . The patron saints of the monastery were Saints George and Cyril of Gortyna . It is one of the best preserved medieval monasteries in Switzerland. The abbey was important for the development of the city of Stein am Rhein. The monastery is a valuable architectural and art monument from the beginning of the 11th century. It was founded in the Romanesque period and rebuilt several times between the 15th and early 16th centuries. The monastery was already closed during the Reformation . Today the Sankt Georgen Monastery Museum is located in the former monastery complex .


Merian 1642: Detail with St. Georgen
Death and lute player and fool and violinist by Ambrosius Holbein. Compilation of the two pictures, which are in the same window reveal and represent a dance of death-like scene.

The St. Georgen Monastery is a well-preserved medieval complex with artistically designed interiors. The late Gothic cloister and the ballroom with a cycle of frescoes from around 1515 are of particular importance. In the window reveal on the west side of the ballroom there are two scenes of the dance of the dead, painted by Ambrosius Holbein . It is about death and lute player and fool and violinist . The two pictures are arranged between large murals, the destruction of Carthage and the Zurzach fair . The artist who created these two paintings is not known, the destruction of Carthage is signed with the initials C.A. The last abbot of the monastery, David von Winkelsheim, arranged for the ballroom to be decorated with motifs from religion and history. Probably because of the predominantly profane character of the pictures, they survived the Reformation iconoclasm of 1525 unscathed. The ballroom is thus one of the earliest examples of the Renaissance in northern Switzerland. The church, the enclosure , the chapter house , the refectory and the dormitory as well as the prelature as the abbots' apartment form a structural unit together with the courtyards and farm buildings.


middle Ages

Hadwig and Burkhard III. as the founder of the monastery in 970

Duke Burchard III. von Schwaben and his wife Hadwig had a Benedictine monastery built next to their castle on the Hegau volcano Hohentwiel around 970 . Hadwig's brother, Duke Heinrich II of Bavaria, was also involved in the foundation . The castle monastery was consecrated to Saint George and had an attached court school ( schola palatina ). Burchard died in 973. Around this time Hadwig then summoned Ekkehard II from the Abbey of St. Gallen on the Hohentwiel to be taught Latin by him. Hadwig was able to maintain her position until her death in 994. But she had no offspring. Therefore, around 1000 the monastery came under the supervision of the later Emperor Heinrich II. , Hadwig's nephew and heir. It was moved around 1005 at the request of the monks from Hohentwiel to the road and water intersection in Stein am Rhein. This should secure this traffic junction. The monastery of St. Georgen was subordinate to the bishopric of Bamberg , which was also founded by Heinrich II . In worldly matters, the monastery was administered by the so-called castellans. These were the ancestors of the Dukes of Zähringen in the 11th and 12th centuries. Since 1146 they were represented by the Barons von Klingen , to whom the bailiwick fell entirely in 1218. The church has numerous elements from the 12th century. The monastery buildings date mainly from the 13th to 15th centuries. Between 1400 and 1480 the chapter house was built in its present form in the closed wing, and the cloister was designed in the Gothic style.


The rising middle class was able to acquire Hohenklingen Castle and bailiwick rights in 1457 . The convent of St. Georgen was incorporated into the citizenship of the city of Zurich as early as 1474, which from 1498 also took advantage of the Kastvogtei. In 1484 the city of Stein am Rhein submitted itself completely to the protection and suzerainty of Zurich. The last abbot David von Winkelsheim (1499-1526) took office in 1499. He extended the monastery complex with his private living quarters towards the Rhine. Their artful furnishings are evidence of the abbot's humanistic education. The ballroom served as a reception room for important guests. It shows a cycle of frescoes from around 1515, which is one of the earliest evidence of the Renaissance north of the Alps.


During the Reformation there was a dispute with the citizens of Stein am Rhein. David von Winkelsheim was therefore compelled to close the monastery on July 5, 1525. The last abbot remained true to the old faith and fled to Radolfzell , where he died the following year and was buried in the parish church. The building was now under the control of the city ​​of Zurich and was inhabited by their officials. In 1614 the official hall was built; There were also changes in the library and dormitory area in order to create representative rooms for the Zurich bailiff Hans Ulrich Stadler on the upper floor of the southern wing of the enclosure. Otherwise the construction status remained unchanged.

19th century

From 1806 the building was under the administration of Schaffhausen . The structural substance of the monastery was seriously endangered for the first time in the 19th century. In 1834 the merchant Johannes Peter bought the monastery. He gave it to the city of Stein am Rhein as a school building on condition that it no longer be sold. For the city, however, the monastery became a financial burden. When the new school building was built in 1852, she therefore rented some of the rooms to a silk fabric and ribbon factory. A silkworm farm was maintained in the ballroom and machines rattled in the refectory. The ceiling and wall paintings and in some cases also the floor coverings were severely damaged by the industrial operation. At times the building was also used as a gym and training area for the cadets. When the city suffered considerable financial losses as a result of the bankruptcy of the Swiss National Railway, the monastery building was advertised as a factory or for demolition. The monastery complex then acquired on April 27, 1875, the Protestant pastor Ferdinand Vetter (1811-1888). His son, the Bern professor for Germanic philology Ferdinand Vetter (1847–1924), carried out restorations. He turned the monastery into a small cultural center, where historical research associations and scholars met, and in 1891 placed it under the protection of the Swiss Confederation .

20th century

The sales negotiations with the Federal Department of Home Affairs began as early as 1889. The foundation stone for the final purchase was laid with the establishment of the Gottfried Keller Foundation with a capital of three million francs in 1890. Ferdinand Vetter was called in to draft the deed of foundation. With regard to his monastery, he added the provision "that the foundation is obliged to use its funds for such existing works of art, the public purpose of which the state is permanently assured". In 1926, with the help of the canton of Schaffhausen and the city of Stein am Rhein, the monastery of St. Georgen came from Ferdinand Vetter's estate to the Gottfried Keller Foundation. Extensive restoration and conservation of the buildings took place from 1927 onwards. Adjacent economic buildings and residential houses could be bought and the conversion to a museum took place. The former Benedictine abbey has been owned by the Swiss Confederation since 1945.

Stadtkirche Stein am Rhein - Former monastery church of St. Georg

At the beginning of the 12th century, the construction of the monastery church began, the Romanesque building stock of which is well preserved to this day. Only the western part of the church was originally intended for lay people, four columns with five arcades separated the central nave from the side aisles, the part intended for the monks' convent was raised and was separated from the side aisles by walls. The Liebfrauenkapelle was built in the 14th century as a burial place for the lords of Hohenklingen Castle, which is enthroned above the city. With the Reformation, the monastery church became a Protestant town church in 1583/84. The division into lay and monastery districts was lifted. Originally the church had two corner towers, both of which fell into disrepair in the 16th century. In addition, lightning struck the south tower, so that only the foundations of the north tower were built over to form a late Gothic bell tower (1596–1600). A rich painting (one of which shows the original state of the church with two towers) and artistic wooden figures characterize this church. The last major renovation of the church took place between 1989 and 1992.



  • Maria Becker, Matthias Frehner: The St. Georgen monastery in Stein am Rhein. ( Swiss Art Guide, No. 633). Ed. Society for Swiss Art History GSK. Bern 1998, ISBN 978-3-85782-633-7 .
  • Arnold Nüscheler : The houses of worship in Switzerland. Orell, Füssli, Zurich 1867, p. 29 ff.
  • Agnes Scherer: Swear like Scipio once did - moral philosophical reflection on the concept of Confederation in an early humanistic wall painting cycle of the St. Georgen monastery in Stein am Rhein. In: Journal for Swiss Archeology and Art History , 70, 2013, issue 1, pp. 5–40.
  • Ferdinand Vetter: The S. Georgen monastery in Stein am Rhein. A contribution to history and art history . In: Writings of the Association for the History of Lake Constance and its Surroundings , 13th year 1884, pp. 23-109 ( digitized version )
  • Heinrich Waldvogel: The building gestures of the St. Georgen monastery in Stein am Rhein. Publishing house of the Gottfried Keller Foundation, [Winterthur] 1973.
  • Hans Georg Wehrens: The dance of death in the Alemannic language area. «I have to do it - and don't know what». Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-7954-2563-0 , p. 94 f.
  • Heinrich Kühnlein: The monastery museum in Stein am Rhein . In: The Gazebo . Issue 39, 1896, pp. 657–659 ( full text [ Wikisource ] - about the monastery museum).

Web links

Commons : St. Georgen Monastery, Stein am Rhein  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Georg Wehrens: The dance of death in the Alemannic language area. "I have to do it - and don't know what" . Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2012, p. 94, ISBN 978-3-7954-2563-0
  2. Under the title The Struggle for the Monastery , the secretary of the Gottfried Keller Foundation, H. Meyer-Rahn, described in detail in his report 1932–1945 the transition of the monastery into public ownership.
  3. : Information sheet in the church

Coordinates: 47 ° 39 '31 "  N , 8 ° 51' 35"  E ; CH1903:  706,751  /  279,629