“Especially interesting for people who are interested in Central European history – it is like stepping back in time.”
Abbey Library of St Gall – Switzerland
The Abbey Library of St Gall, founded in 719, is a must visit for any book, history or art lover – it is one of the oldest and richest libraries in the world, boasting intensely decorated walls, floors and ceilings, breathtaking handwritten books filled with beautiful calligraphy and accompanied by the stunning Baroque Cathedral. Included in the 2,000 manuscripts held by the library, dating from the 8th to the 15th century, there is the earliest-known architectural plan drawn on parchment. In addition, you will find the fascinating 2,700 year old Egyptian mummy Shepenese. Upon entering the library, above the entrance, you will notice a Greek inscription which translates as “pharmacy of the soul”, this was due to the monks who founded the library considering books as medicine for the spirit (we won’t disagree there!). The library consists of two floors, with a balcony running around the upper level. Due to it being illuminated by the light of thirty-four windows, even a rainy day does not diminish the beauty of the library.
The experience is well organised, with guided tours, as well as audio guides available for CHF10 per person. Visitors are prohibited from bringing in bags and cameras, and required to wear soft overshoes to protect the floor.
There is also a public lending library, owning over 170,000 books and other media. While books printed after 1900 can be borrowed, all other books prior to this date can only be viewed in the Reading Room, which has wifi and a computer for finding information in the St. Gall library catalog.
Also don’t miss the chance to visit the Cathedral – both the library and cathedral reflect twelve centuries of continuous activity.
To see more of the world’s most beautiful libraries, check out our feature here!
Hours: Everyday 10:00am to 5:00pm
Hours of the lending library: Monday to Friday 8:30am to 11:45am and 1:45pm to 5:00pm
Telephone: +41 71 227 34 16
Admission: CHF12 per person