Monasteries in Switzerland

Abbey of Saint Gall

The Abbey of Saint Gall has existed at least since 747 AD and became an independent principality between 9th and 13th centuries, and was for many centuries one of the chief Benedictine abbeys in Europe. The Abbey of St Gall is 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. The library at ...
Founded: 747 AD | Location: St. Gallen, Switzerland

St. George's Abbey

Around 1007, Emperor Henry II moved St. George"s Abbey from its former location on the Hohentwiel in Singen to Stein am Rhein — at that time, little more than a small fishing village on the Rhine. The move was a means to strengthen his presence at this strategic point, where major roads and river routes intersected. He gave the abbots extensive rights over Stein and its trade so that they could develop it co ...
Founded: 1007 | Location: Stein am Rhein, Switzerland

Capuchin Friary

The Capuchin Friary is situated to the west of the city of Rapperswil, below the Lindenhof of Rapperswil Castle on the shore of Lake Zürich on a peninsula called the Endingerhorn. The friary was established in 1606, consisting originally of only four priests and three brothers (friars), as a Roman Catholic counterpart to the centre of the Reformation in Zürich. The monastic buildings were built by the citize ...
Founded: 1606 | Location: Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland

Appenzell Monastery

A first convent for women in Appenzell was officially mentioned in 1420/21. In 1613, four Capuchin nuns from Wonnenstein and five from Grimmenstein met with the sisters of the old convent to form a new community in Appenzell. The construction of the monastery church took place in 1619-1621. The monastery was built in 1679-1682.
Founded: 1420 | Location: Appenzell, Switzerland

Romainmôtier Priory

Romainmôtier Priory is a former Cluniac priory founded around 450 AD by Romanus of Condat. The monastery church of Romainmôtier is one of the most important examples of Cluniac Romanesque art in Switzerland. Excavations carried out in 1905-15 discovered traces of a church dating from the 5th century, which confirmed this early date. In the 6th century, there is a record of an abbot Florianus who was abbas ex monas ...
Founded: 450 AD | Location: Romainmôtier-Envy, Switzerland

Payerne Priory

Payerne Priory was founded between 950 and 960 by the Burgundy royal family and especially by Queen Bertha of Burgundy. In 965, the Empress Adelaide placed the priory under Cluny Abbey. On 2 February 1033, Emperor Conrad II held an assembly, was elected, and crowned King of Burgundy at the abbey. In the first half of the 12th century, the monks falsified a number of documents as 'Testament of Queen Bertha'. ...
Founded: 950-960 AD | Location: Payerne, Switzerland

Allerheiligen Abbey Church

Kloster Allerheiligen (All Saints abbey) is a former Benedictine monastery in Schaffhausen. Today the convent houses the Museum zu Allerheiligen, an art museum and a natural history museum, the monastery garden, and the buildings of the former convent, including the library. History The development of the city of Schaffhausen is closely linked to the Nellenburg noble family who became extinct around 1100 AD. V ...
Founded: 1049 | Location: Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Capuchin Monastery

The monastery, where Capuchin monks used to live between the years 1595 and 1997, is somewhat hidden in the outer area of the Old Town of Zug. As it became difficult to find new recruits, the Capuchin monks abandoned the site and now the Corporation of Zug is the owner of the monastery, which since 2000 has become the Catholic 'Community of the Beatitudes', to serve the poor and the spread the Gospel.
Founded: 1595 | Location: Zug, Switzerland

Saint John Abbey

The Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair, located in a valley of the Grisons in the extreme south-eastern part of Switzerland, south of the Alps, was founded around 775, probably on the orders of Charlemagne. At the beginning of the 9th century it was noted as being an establishment of religious Benedictines, and became a women’s abbey in the first half of the 12th century. Religious activities have continued unin ...
Founded: c. 775 AD | Location: Val Müstair, Switzerland

Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Priory Church

Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Priory was founded in 1090-1097. The church, built in two stages between the 11th and 12th centuries, was initially dedicated to Saint Sulpice, later to St. Mary Magdalene. It was also used as a parish church in the Middle Ages and was flanked by a priory buildings, now destroyed. The church passed to Protestants following the Bernese conquest of 1536.
Founded: 1090-1097 | Location: Saint-Sulpice, Switzerland

Rheinau Abbey

Rheinau Abbey (Kloster Rheinau) was a Benedictine monastery in Rheinau founded about 778 and suppressed in 1862. It is located on an island in the Rhine. The foundation of the abbey, on a strategically sheltered bend of the Rhine, is supposed to have taken place in about 778. The abbey is first documented however in the 11th century. In 1114 a Romanesque basilica was dedicated here and in 1120 the still extant ar ...
Founded: 778 AD | Location: Rheinau, Switzerland

Disentis Abbey

Formerly the date of the foundation of Disentis Abbey, attributed to the local saints Placidus and Sigisbert, was held to be 614. The tradition further states that this monastery was destroyed by the Avars in 670, when the abbot and thirty monks were martyred. The abbey, dedicated to Saint Martin, was then supposedly rebuilt by Charles Martel and Saint Pirmin in about 711. The second and current view, based on more subst ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Disentis/Mustér, Switzerland

Ittingen Charterhouse

Ittingen Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery near Warth. It is now used as an education and seminar centre with two museums and a farm. The monastery was founded in 1150 for the Canons Regular. In 1461 the premises were sold to the Carthusians. In 1524, during the Reformation, the monastery was destroyed in the Ittingersturm, but was rebuilt during the Counter-Reformation. In 1798 the officials of the H ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Warth, Switzerland

Königsfelden Monastery

Königsfelden Monastery is a former Franciscan double monastery, which housed both a community of Poor Clare nuns and one of Franciscan friars, living in separate wings. It was founded in 1308 by the Habsburgs. In the course of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland in 1528 it was secularized, and the complex was then the residence of the bailiffs of Bern. On May 1, 1308, King Albert I of Austria was mu ...
Founded: 1308 | Location: Windisch, Switzerland

Capuchin Monastery

A Capuchin monastery was established in Stans in 1583 by Melchior Lussy, who had been sent to the Council of Trent. Initially there was resistance to the poverty, simple habits and beards of this order of Counter-Reformation monks. In 1777 the monks opened a Latin school, which was suppressed from 1798 until 1803 under the Helvetic Republic. The Kollegium St. Fidelis was built by the monks in 1895 and purchased by the can ...
Founded: 1583 | Location: Stans, Switzerland

Weesen Abbey

Weesen Abbey, established in 1256, is the oldest Dominican monastery of nuns in Switzerland. The buildings and the library (about 8,400 works) respectively archives are listed in the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance. In 1259 Count Rudolf IV von Rapperswil, Countess Elisabeth"s father, donated certain duties and lands for the construction of their monastery. Initially, the ...
Founded: 1256 | Location: Weesen, Switzerland

Fischingen Abbey

Fischingen Abbey was founded in 1138 by Ulrich II, Bishop of Constanz as a private episcopal monastery, with the intention that it should offer shelter and hospitality to pilgrims on their way from Constanz to Einsiedeln Abbey. The hermit Gebino was appointed the first abbot. In only six years he had had built a bell tower, accommodation for both monks and nuns, and a guesthouse. At its high point in about 1210, Fis ...
Founded: 1138 | Location: Fischingen, Switzerland

Mariastein Abbey

Mariastein Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Metzerlen-Mariastein. After Einsiedeln, it is the second most important place of pilgrimage in Switzerland. Over the Chapel of Grace ('Gnadenkapelle') now stands a late Gothic three-aisled basilica. The interior is Baroque and the entrance facade classicist. Mariastein originated as a place of pilgrimage in the late 14th century, with the legend of a mi ...
Founded: 1648 | Location: Metzerlen-Mariastein, Switzerland

Engelberg Abbey

Engelberg Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Engelberg, Canton of Obwalden. Founded in 1120 by Count Blessed Conrad of Seldenburen, with the first abbot being Blessed Adelhelm, a monk of St. Blaise"s Abbey in the Black Forest, under whom the founder himself received the habit and ended his days there as a monk. Numerous and extensive rights and privileges were granted to the new monastery by various popes and empero ...
Founded: 1120 | Location: Engelberg, Switzerland

Hauterive Abbey

The land for the Hauterive abbey was donated between 1132-1137 by Baron Guillaume de Glâne (died in 1143, his grave is in the church). After monks moved down from Cherlieu Abbey in northern Burgundy and inhabited the buildings, the Bishop of Lausanne granted permission to consecrate the abbey in 1137. It was then consecrated on 25 February 1138. With support from the local nobility and the Bishop of Lausanne, the a ...
Founded: 1138 | Location: Posieux, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.