Monday, 9 April 2012

Sepia Saturday 120; Library;

Stifts Bibliothek St. Gallen, Switzerland

When I lived in Switzerland I have visited the Library many times. It is the most amazing and fascinating place  to visit if you are an aficinonado of books. One can still borrow books there.

Above the entrance to St Gallen Abbey Library, one of the oldest of its kind, is a Greek inscription which translates into English as "pharmacy of the soul".
The monks who founded the library considered books as medicine for the spirit. The 150,000 strong collection, now part of a Unesco World Heritage site, continues to inspire visitors and scholars today.

On entering the library, the visitor is immediately struck by two things – the vast quantity of books and the beauty of the room.

Remodelled in the 18th century, using the monastery's own craftsmen, the library is a heady mix of rich woodwork, ceiling paintings and stucco. The whole room – even on a rainy day - is illuminated by light from 34 windows.

It is said to be one of the most beautiful Baroque libraries in existence.

But only 30,000 of the library's collection – books and manuscripts – can be seen. Some volumes are considered simply too precious to be shown in public.

"There are 400 books here that are more than 1,000 years old.

Ancient treasures include a Latin manuscript of the Gospel and the oldest book in German.

The library also contains the earliest known architectural plan drawn on parchment - of the abbey itself - a copy of which can be seen in the library.

Glass cases hold fine illuminated manuscripts, some of which were done in the monastery.
" There are 400 books here that are more than 1,000 years old. "

The library was founded in 719 and is almost as ancient as the whole abbey site, which can traces it origins to a hermitage set up by Irish monk Gallus.

By the 9th century – the start of the abbey's golden age – the library had already built up a notable collection of books, including works from antiquity.

"St Gallen became rich through bequests of land and property and became very active in the realm of the sciences. Books were written and studied here," 

The monastery became one of the most important north of the Alps, with its influence – and reputation as a place of learning - extending into the German kingdom. 

It is said to be one of the most beautiful Baroque libraries in existence.

After a difficult time during the Reformation – St Gallen became the second Swiss city to turn to Protestantism – the abbey underwent a revival in fortunes in the 18th century when the library was remodelled.

But the jubilation did not last long. In 1798, French soldiers, fresh from the Revolution which toppled France's monarchy, marched though the area and attacked the buildings.

The monks fled, but not before they had taken the library's precious collection of books to safety.

A further blow came in 1805 when the newly formed Canton of St Gallen, eager to end the abbey's considerable influence, decided to dissolve the monastery. No monks have lived at the site since.

It was, however, decided to preserve the library. The whole abbey area, which also contains a magnificent Baroque church, now the cathedral, as well as medieval buildings, became a World Heritage site in 1983.

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  1. Fascinating -- FASCINATING!

  2. I would love to see this sort of library myself. Very beautiful place to be. It is definitely a pharmacy of the soul :-D

  3. WOW!!
    This is the first post I see this week and you've certainly set the bar high!!
    Thanx 4 sharing!! this was amazing!!

  4. What a marvellous library. Pharmacy of the soul - says it all.

  5. Hi Titania,
    grazie per aver pubblicato questo post.
    E' veramente magnifica questa libreria... sono nata a Losanna ( CH ) e sono anche un'amante di libri.... potrei separarmi da mio marito ( eh eh eh !!! ) ma mai dai miei preziosi libri, acquistati in tanti anni !!!
    Credo che potrei ( se potessi ) vivere tranquillamente rinchiusa per sempre in questa libreria, separata per sempre dal mondo esterno !
    By Myriam :)))))))

  6. Wow! As you can imagine, I have seen a fair few pictures of libraries over the last day or two. But that has to be the best, the most opulent,the most colourful. But I suspect that I couldn't read there - far too many distractions.