Abbey library of Saint Gall

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Abbey library of St. Gallen
LocationSt. Gallen
Coordinates47°25′22″N 9°22′35″E / 47.4228°N 9.3764°E / 47.4228; 9.3764Coordinates: 47°25′22″N 9°22′35″E / 47.4228°N 9.3764°E / 47.4228; 9.3764
art museum
memory institution
monastic library Edit this on Wikidata
Heritage designationclass A Swiss cultural property of national significance Edit this on Wikidata
Part ofAbbey of Saint Gall Edit this on Wikidata
Member ofKalliope Edit this on Wikidata
CountrySwitzerland Edit this on Wikidata

The Abbey Library of Saint Gall (German: Stiftsbibliothek) is a significant medieval monastic library located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. In 1983, the library, as well as the Abbey of St. Gall, were designated a World Heritage Site, as “an outstanding example of a large Carolingian monastery and was, since the 8th century until its secularisation in 1805, one of the most important cultural centres in Europe”.[1]

History and architecture[edit]

The library was founded by Saint Othmar, founder of the Abbey of St. Gall. During a fire in 937, the Abbey was destroyed, but the library remained intact.[2] The library hall, designed by the architect Peter Thumb in a Rococo style, was constructed between 1758 and 1767.[3] A Greek inscription above the entrance door, psyché iatreion, translates as "apothecary of the soul".


The library collection is the oldest in Switzerland, and one of the earliest and most important monastic libraries in the world. The library holds almost 160,000 volumes, with most available for public use. In addition to older printed books, the collection includes 1650 incunabula (books printed before 1500), and 2100 manuscripts dating back to the 8th through 15th centuries; among the most notable of the latter are items of Irish, Carolingian, and Ottonian production. These codices are held inside glass cases, each of which is topped by a carved cherub offering a visual clue as to the contents of the shelves below; for instance, the case of astronomy-related materials bears a cherub observing the books through a telescope.[4] Books published before 1900 are to be read in a special reading room.[5] The manuscript B of the Nibelungenlied is kept here.

A virtual library has been created to provide broader access to the manuscripts: Codices Electronici Sangallenses. This project has been expanded to include codices from other libraries as well and is operating under the name e-codices. Currently, more than 600 manuscripts from the Abbey library of Saint Gall are available in digital format.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Abbey of St. Gall". UNESCO World Heritage List. 2019. Retrieved 29 Jan 2019.
  2. ^ Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. New York, New York: Skyhorse Publishing.
  3. ^ "Abbey library of St. Gallen /Stiftsbibliothek (Abbey Library) St. Gallen". 2017-01-19. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  4. ^ "Where to Go". Berlitz: Switzerland Pocket Guide. Princeton, NJ: Berlitz Publishing Company. April 1999. pp. 40–41. ISBN 2-8315-7159-6.
  5. ^ Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. New York, New York: Skyhorse Publishing. p. 288.


  • Beat Matthias von Scarpatetti: Die Handschriften der Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen. Codices 547–669. Hagiographica, Historica, Geographica 8.–18. Jahrhundert. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 978-3-447-04716-6.
  • Beat Matthias von Scarpatetti: Die Handschriften der Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen. Codices 1726–1984 (14.–19. Jahrhundert). Beschreibendes Verzeichnis. Verlag am Klosterhof, St. Gallen 1983, ISBN 978-3-906616-02-5.
  • David H. Stam, ed. (2001). International Dictionary of Library Histories. Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 1579582443.

External links[edit]