Last Updated on 28/07/2022
The Swiss coast of Lake Constance has fewer attractions and is more boring than the German one. The most worthy object to visit is just Sankt-Gallen, apart from the Stein-am-Rhein and the Rhine Falls, which are actually on the Rhine, and not on the lake. Although from the other end of the lake I would not go for him alone.
The city is located in the hills behind the lake, 15-20 minutes by train from the nearest coastal town of Rorschach. There is absolutely nothing to watch in Rorschach. Its main attractions are the ferry to Lindau and the funicular to the nearest mountain.
St. Gallen itself is a fairly large city, the capital of the canton. However, the historical part is small, you can see it in two or three hours.
Relatively close to St. Gallen is the cable car to Mount Säntis (train + bus, 2 changes, about 1 hour) and Appenzell (50 min non-stop).
A little of history
About 612 the Irish monk St. Gall founded his monastery on this place. A century later, St. Otmar, appointed by King Karl Martel to keep the relics of St. Gall, built the abbey of St. Gall. The monastery soon became famous for its art school. In it manuscripts were copied, the famous library was collected.
Until the 9th century the monastery was in conflict with the abbey on the island of Reichenau until King Louis Saint confirmed its independence. This time was the heyday for the Abbey of St. Gall. Several famous scholars of the time lived in it. A large church was built and a library expanded. Between 924 and 933 the abbey was threatened by a Hungarian invasion. And the library was moved to Reichenau. In 937 it almost completely burned down. Around 954, the abbey was surrounded by walls, within which a city grew. In 1205, the abbots won the title of princes of the church in the Holy Roman Empire.
In 1311 St. Gallen became a free imperial city, and in 1457 he was able to free himself from the power of the abbey. From the middle of the 15th century he was a full member of the Swiss Confederation. In 1526 the Reformation began in the city, and the abbey remained Catholic. In the middle of the 18th century the medieval monastery was destroyed. And in its place were built buildings in the late Baroque style.
After the expulsion of Napoleon, the city became the capital of the Protestant canton of St. Gallen. The remaining monks with the last abbot were expelled from the abbey. From the middle of the 19th century here is the bishopric.
From the 15th century textile production developed in the city. Embroidery reached its peak in the early 20th century, with the appearance of the first embroidery machines in St. Gallen. After World War I, production declined, but still exists, albeit on a smaller scale.
When you arrive by train and go out to the station square surrounded by modern buildings, it is not so easy to figure out where to go in search of the old city. So it is recommended to stock up on a city plan from its website.
You should not expect some very old antiquity from the city. The main tourist destination in St. Gallen is, of course, the former abbey, which is on the UNESCO list of monuments. However, little has survived here from the Middle Ages. It was almost completely rebuilt in the 18th century.
Only the Karlstor gate (16th century) has survived from the city’s medieval walls. They are located behind the former abbey complex.
It is surprising that in a period that cannot be called successful for the monastery, when the abbey was in religious opposition to the city, the abbot was able to carry out construction on such a scale and in such a short time.
The cathedral does not look big from the outside. But inside, it seems very large, perhaps due to good lighting and light colors of decoration – white marble with green stucco molding and large, baroquely lavishly painted plafonds.
In addition to the cathedral, it is proposed to visit the monastery library. Again, don’t expect anything amazing from her. It is a small space created at the same time as the cathedral, decorated with wood and painted plafonds. There are several old manuscripts on display. But the main treasures are, of course, reserved for specialists only.
The library contains more than 160 thousand books, of which 2,100 are handwritten manuscripts and 400 are over a thousand years old. One of the main treasures – the only one preserved from the fall of the Roman Empire to the 13th century architectural plan – the plan of an ideal abbey, created in the 9th century.
Sankt-Gallen old town
The main decoration of the city itself is bay windows. There are exactly 111 of them. Some of them are richly decorated with carvings. The most interesting houses are on Spisergasse, Marktgasse, Kugelgasse, Schmiedgasse.
The city and the abbey can be viewed from above from the tower of the neo-Gothic church of St. Laurentius (Mon-Sat 10.00-15.00).
For those who decide to stay in St. Gallen, we will name some more sights.
Next to the former abbey is the lower station of the funicular, which leads up the hill, where the city recreation area with a lake is located.
Between the old town and the train station, there is a textile museum, where you can see old and modern fabrics and embroidery designs created in St. Gallen.
In the area of St. Fiden (the previous stop of the train) – Wildpark of Peter and Paul, with alpine animals.