Detail map of St. Gallen, Sankt Gallen, Switzerland,Reichenau, Reichenau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany Overview map of St. Gallen, Sankt Gallen, Switzerland,Reichenau, Reichenau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

A: St. Gallen, Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, B: Reichenau, Reichenau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

The Library of St. Gallen, One of the Oldest, Largest, and Most Significant Medieval Libraries

719 CE
St Gallen3

Old and new in the baroque Library of St. Gallen--built in the southern German Rococo style.

The library in the Abbey of St. Gall. (View Larger)

In 719 the Benedictine Abbey of St. Gall, Switzerland, was founded on a site that had been used for religious purposes since 613.

"Around 613 an Irishman named Gallus, a disciple and companion of Saint Columbanus, established a hermitage on the site that would become the Abbey. He lived in his cell until his death in 646.

"Following Gallus' death, Charles Martel appointed Othmar as a custodian of St Gall's relics. During the reign of Pepin the Short, in 719, Othmar founded the Abbey of St. Gall, where arts, letters and sciences flourished. Under Abbot Waldo of Reichenau (740-814) copying of manuscripts was undertaken and a famous library was gathered. Numerous Anglo-Saxon and Irish monks came to copy manuscripts. At Charlemagne's request Pope Adrian I sent distinguished chanters from Rome, who propagated the use of the Gregorian chant.

"In the subsequent century, St. Gall came into conflict with the nearby Bishopric of Constance which had recently acquired jurisdiction over the Abbey of Reichenau on Lake Constance. It wasn't until King Louis the Pious (ruled 814-840) confirmed the independence of the Abbey, that this conflict ceased. From this time until the 10th Century, the Abbey flourished. It was home to several famous scholars, including Notker of Liège, Notker the Stammerer, Notker Labeo and Hartker (who developed the Antiphonal liturgical books for the Abbey). During the 9th Century a new, larger church was built and the library was expanded. Manuscripts on a wide variety of topics were purchased by the Abbey and copies were made. Over 400 manuscripts from this time have survived and are still in the library today" (Wikipedia article on Abbey of St. Gall, accessed 01-17-2009).

The Abbey contains one of the oldest, largest and most significant medieval libraries, consisting of 2100 codices. It is the only major medieval convent library still standing in its original location. 400 of the codices in this library date before 1000 CE. Digital facsimiles of these manuscripts are available from the Codices Electronici Sangallenses.

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