Sankt Gallen, Abbey of

views updated


Former Benedictine monastery lying south of Lake Constance, on the upper Steinach River, in the city of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, Diocese of Sankt Gallen. Founded in 612 by the Irish hermit St. gall, it was given its present appearance by Prince-Abbot Celestine II, Gugger von Staudach, who had the extant late baroque abbey church and library built in 1760 according to the plan of the Vorarlberg architect Peter Thumb. The predecessor of this baroque church was a large Carolingian basilica with transept, square choir, apse, and crypt; it was erected after 830 at the direction of Abbot Gozbert (816837). Abbot Ulric VIII Rosch (146391) had the basilica decorated with a late Gothic choir portico (completed in 1483).

Most of the monks in the original monastic settlementunder the diocese of Churcame from Raetia, but King Dagobert I (628638) put the monastery under the rule of the Alemanns, and subsequently, the monastery was repeatedly destroyed in the struggles between Alemanns and Franks at the turn of the century. Only under the Alemann othmar, who became abbot of Sankt Gallen in 720, did the monastery become historically important. Holdings steadily increased: reports under Abbot Gozbert spoke of holdings stretching into northern Switzerland, extending from Swabia to north of the Danube, and in Breisgau. Abbot Othmar founded the hospital and scriptorium; he introduced true cenobitic life at Sankt Gallen in 720 and the benedictine rule in 747 or 748. To preserve the free status of the abbey, Othmar resisted Frankish rule, which was established over the monastery in 741. For this he was arrested by the Frankish Count and died in prison in 759. Upon his death, the bishop of Constance, embodying a personal union of offices, was made abbot of Sankt Gallen, but the abbey begged Louis the Pious for aid, and in 818 he granted it immunity and raised it to the status of an imperial abbey. This marked the beginning of the abbey's intensive cultural development.

The most important MSS produced in the Sankt Gallen scriptorium belong to the 100-year period under Abbots Gozbert; Grimald (841872), who was simultaneously archchancellor of Louis the German; Hartmut (872883); and Solomon (890920), who was also bishop of Constance. The blueprint of Sankt Gallen was drawn c. 820, probably as an ideal blueprint for a rich, populous monastery. The sketch, with its exhaustive explanations, gives an excellent picture of a Carolingian monastic plant. In planimetric outline, it shows completely and in detail the arrangement of work rooms, living quarters, and outbuildings around church and cloister (see monastery). The MS illuminations produced at the abbey during that century are marked by imaginative ornamentation, influenced by Irish 9th-century illuminations, examples of which reached Sankt Gallen through the Irish monks on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Gall. (Irish miniature work is still to be found in the monastery library.) Through the 11th century Sankt Gallen produced important poets and scholars such as Tutilo, notker balbalus, notker labeo, and the four ekkehards. Their individual works are still preserved in the large monastery library and archives, which contain an exhaustive collection of medieval Biblical and liturgical writings, as well as works on Latin philology, history of literature, art, law, and medicine.

In the investiture struggle, Sankt Gallen, under Abbot Ulric of Eppenstein (10771121), later patriarch of aquileia, became involved in clashes deleterious to the abbey by siding with the imperial party. Schismatic elections of abbots and the attendant party strife among the monks led to the cultural decline of the monastery. frederick barbarossa tried unsuccessfully to stem this decline by granting the abbey once again a special legal status as a newly privileged imperial monastery. But revival began only about the mid-15th century, especially under Prince Abbot Ulric VIII, an energetic organizer, who established the monastic domain of Sankt Gallen as an associate state of the Swiss Confederation; the city of Sankt Gallen became independent of the monastery in 1455. In 1525 the city joined the Protestant cause in the Reformation; the abbey remained Catholic. One result of this was the destruction of the entire stock of medieval works of art held by the monastery. In 1805 the monastery was suppressed. Politically, the monastic state was dissolved, and the city of Sankt Gallen became the capital of the canton of the same name. The area formerly belonging to the monastery was placed under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Diocese of Constance until 1814. Then for a short time there was a dual Diocese of Chur-Sankt Gallen; in 1847 an independent Diocese of Sankt Gallen was erected.

See Also: blarer; sfondrati.

Bibliography: j. m. clark, The Abbey of St. Gall as a Centre of Literature and Art (Cambridge, Eng. 1926). a. fÄh, Die Schicksale der Kathedrale St. Gallen seit ihrer Erbauung (Einsiedeln 1928). w. ehrenzeller, St. Gallische Geschichte im Spätmittelalter und in der Reformationszeit, 2 v. (St. Gallen 193138). a. bruckner, ed., Scriptoria medii aevi Helvetica (Geneva 1935) v.2, 3. t. mayer, "Konstanz und St. Gallen in der Frühzeit," Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte 2 (1952) 473524. Urkundenbuch der Abtei St. Gallen, ed. h. wartmann et al., 6 v. (Zurich-St. Gallen 18631950). e. a. lowe, Codices latini antiquiores (Oxford 1934) 7:893997. k. gruber, "Der karolingische Klosterplan von St. Gallen. Neue Forschungsergebnisse," Bodenseebuch 37 (1960). Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons St. Gallen, v.3.2 Das Stift, ed. e. poeschel (Basel 1961). j. duft, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 195765) 9:144147.

[w. grape]