Interesting Facts about St. Gallen
Built in 719 as a monastic hermitage, the St.Gallen monastery with its imposing, double-towered cathedral has become one of Europe’s most important spiritual centres. Among its most precious treasures is the plan of St.Gallen – a medieval architectural drawing of the monastic complex – and the oldest German dictionary. Many manuscripts were originally written in the monastery and can still be found in its archives today.
The Abbey Library, built in 1758, is a tourist attraction and destination and has one of the most stunning historical reading rooms in the world. The library, which still lends books today, boasts a collection of around 170,000 books. Special tourist draws include the more than two-metre-high 16th-century globe and the Egyptian Schepenese mummy on display in its double sarcophagus which the library has owned since 1836. Schepenese, a priest’s daughter, is thought to have lived from about 650 to 610 BC. The architecture of the Abbey Library is also a sight to behold: the elaborate, vaulted hall with its ornate inlaid floors, wood-panelled bookcases with decorated columns and richly stuccoed ceiling paintings is a splendid example of Baroque architecture.
The city’s rich textile heritage stands in contrast to its monastic splendour. From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, St.Gallen was the leading centre of embroidery – rich American merchants flocked to the metropolis of Eastern Switzerland to buy the fine fabrics. Even today, half a percent of the world’s textile production comes from St.Gallen. For centuries, the lives of the people of St.Gallen revolved around linen production, cotton weaving and embroidery of manufactured fabrics. The textile industry played a significant role in shaping Eastern Switzerland and its influence can still be felt today.
Prominent fashion houses like Chanel, Dior and Armani incorporate St.Gallen embroidery into their designs, and the big-name fashion shows in Paris, Milan or New York all feature haute couture creations made from St.Gallen fabrics. The creations are worn by many celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Michelle Obama, Adele, Madonna and Charlène, Princess of Monaco.