It’s a rainy day in St. Gallen. Or should I say, just a regular spring day in Switzerland. But we don’t let the weather stop us from discovering this small city in the vicinity of Lake Constance and its rich history and culture.
And neither should you. From the Abbey district to an extensive range of museums, you will not get bored in St. Gallen. Even on a rainy day.
After leaving our bags in lockers outside, we put on a kind of giant slippers over our shoes and read the sign forbidding photo shooting. We are now ready to enter the Abbey Library, part of the St. Gallen Abbey precinct, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
After all this preparation we literally slide inside, only to be dazzled by the Baroque hall, considered one of the finest library buildings in the world, and the impressive collection, that puts the Abbey Library of St. Gallen among the most important repositories of manuscripts in the world.
Centuries of human knowledge are carefully stored here, from liturgical studies and book illuminations by Irish and St. Gallen monks, to works on musical and literary history, the Old High German language and the history of law and medicine.
We could be here all day, looking at books that are true works of art and trying to glimpse a little of the wisdom they contain.
We take the lift down to the vaulted cellar of the library, where is the so-called Lapidarium (from the Latin “lapis” for stone). Tha Lapidarium presents an important collection of Carolingian, Ottonian, Gothic and early Baroque architectural sculptures from the former church on this site.
In the hallway next to it, an exhibition tells the story of the St. Gallen Abbey.
In 612, the Irish monk Gallus erected his hermitage on this site. But it was only around 719 that Otmar extended the original hermit’s cell into an abbey, which flourished rapidly.
By the 9th century, the monastic community had already acquired considerable religious, scholarly and economic influence. Thanks to its schools and library, the Abbey of St. Gallen became one of the leading cultural centers of the western world.
The Benedictine monastery enjoyed a second period of glory in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was during this time that today’s both library area and cathedral were built.
St. Gallen Cathedral represents one of the last monumental Baroque monastic constructions in Europe. Its choir stalls, historic organ, paintings and carvings are worthy of a closer look.
Museum im Lagerhaus
Fast forward to the 21st century, we make one last stop at the Museum im Lagerhaus (or museum in warehouse), a foundation for Swiss Naive Art and Art Brut.
In 2016 the museum is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the artist Heidi Zuber, a native of St. Gallen.
Heidi Zuber, a woman of small stature who suffered from rickets, is one of the great swiss naive painters.
One particular painting, where Zuber depicted herself as a giant next to the St. Gallen Cathedral, grabs our attention. It is indeed the perfect portrait of this woman and her small hometown.
Because in life as in history is the size of your legacy that counts.