The Abbey Library of St.Gallen

The Abbey Library of St.Gallen

Akris had the honor to capture the second part of the Akris Fall/Winter 2021 Film in the Abbey Library of St.Gallen.



The abbey library is one of the oldest, most important libraries in the world. Dating back to the 7th century, it holds a collection unique for its quality and completeness. The collection of books illustrates the development of European culture and chronicles the abbey’s cultural achievements from the 7th century until its dissolution in 1805. Numerous key specimens of European intellectual history are preserved here in an outstanding condition. The core of the collection is its corpus of Early Medieval manuscripts dating from the 8th to 11th centuries, most of which were produced on this very site.

The Abbey Library holds the witness of the birthplace of the city St.Gallen. The Abbey sprouted from a community of hermitages established by the Irish monk Gallus, who withdrew to the untamed mountain valley of the River Steinach in 612. After the death of Gallus, monks from various regions came to live at this place and the spot grew in importance as a place of worship. A monastery was founded in 747 by St.Otmar and named for Gallus. With it the city of St.Gallen was born. The scriptorium, which can be traced by records back to the mid-8th century, actively enlarged the collection with items produced by monks in the convent.

The existence of its valuable treasures is owed to a woman. Brave, clever, determined, Wiborada, the patron saint of libraries, sought an erudite life, in a time when women could hardly choose to follow their own path. Thanks to her prediction, the books of the library were brought to safety, before the Hungarian attack in 926. The monks took refuge, Wiborada stayed, and died. She is the patron saint of librarians and bibliophiles. As the first woman, first female saint, she was canonized by the Catholic Church/Pope in 1047.



In 1553 a building was constructed especially for the library in the west wing of the abbey, and this was replaced in 1767 by the present structure with the Baroque Hall build and constructed by architect Peter Thumb. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful library interiors in the world.

Its principal hall, from the second half of the 18th century, is a rococo gem, with elaborate woodwork, frescoes depicting the early church councils and the fathers of the church on the vaulted ceiling, and books in precious bindings. The entrance to the library carries the Greek inscription ΨYXHΣ IATPEION, “the healing house of the soul” (Heilstätte der Seele). The Baroque library portal of the Abbey Library was created in 1781 by Franz Anton Dirr. The ceiling painting was created 1762 by painter Josef Wannenmacher. The largest images represent the four first ecumenical councils (Nicea 325, Constantinople 381, Ephesus 431, Chalcedon 451).



The unique earth and celestial globe of the largest surviving globes of the 16th century. But this one is only a copy.

The original globe of the earth and the heavens was stolen by Zurich troops along with manuscripts during the second Villmerger War (April 1712 -July 1712). Since then, there have been repeated disputes. Since the looting of the St.Gallen monastery, the original has been in the National Museum in Zurich. When the people of St.Gallen once again emphatically demanded the return of the cultural asset, an agreement was reached in 2006: Zurich may keep the loot, but must make a copy for St.Gallen. The cost: almost one million francs.

Around 7000 hours of work have gone into making this replica of the globe that was stolen from St.Gallen more than 300 years ago. It is 121 centimeters in diameter and more than 2.33 meters high. The globe shows both: the earth and the stars in the night sky. It comes from northern Germany and was built by globemaker Tilemann Stella (1525–1589).

Special thanks to the Abbey Library of St.Gallen and Dr. Cornel Dora for providing this unique space for the #AkrisFW21 film. Without them it would not have been possible to convey the creative vision of Albert Kriemler and Anton Corbijn in such a meaningful way.



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