Monasteries in 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

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

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

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. John's Abbey

St. John"s Abbey in the Thurtal was a Benedictine monastery originally established in the mid-12th century. The oldest written record of it is dated October 4, 1152, when Pope Eugene III took the monastery into his protection. The pope confirmed the monastery"s possessions and free election of its abbot and Vogt. On October 24, 1178, Pope Alexander III confirmed the abbey"s extended possessions. In ...
Founded: 1152 | Location: Alt Sankt Johann, Switzerland

Kappel Abbey

Kappel Abbey is first mentioned in 1185. The abbey was founded by the Freiherr of Eschenbach. The name was derived from a chapel in which, according to a foundation legend, hermits used to live. Between the 13th to 15th Centuries the Abbey received several Imperial and Royal privileges. On the site of the original church (of which parts are preserved in the present structure), a new church was started in about 1255 ...
Founded: c. 1185 | Location: Kappel am Albis, 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

Schänis Abbey

Schänis Abbey was founded in the 9th century. According to the report of a monk from Reichenau Abbey the founder was believed to be Count Hunfried of Chur-Rhaetia, who was said to have promised Charlemagne to make the foundation for the worthy safekeeping of a precious reliquary cross containing a fragments of the True Cross, as well as an onyx vessel containing some of the Blood of Christ. Such evidence as is ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Schänis, 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

Wettingen Abbey

Wettingen Abbey was a Cistercian monastery founded in 1227 and dissolved during the secularisation of 1841, but re-founded at Mehrerau in Austria in 1854. Count Heinrich II of Rapperswil bought lands in Wettingen sometime after 1220, and gave it the name Wettingen, believed to be named after his wife"s family von Wetterau. He had married in 1220 to Mechtidis von Wetter, her brother was Count Lutold I von We ...
Founded: 1227 | Location: Wettingen, Switzerland

Pfäfers Abbey

According to the chronicles of Hermann of Reichenau, Pfäfers Abbey was founded in 731. The founding legend refers to the itinerant bishop Saint Pirmin, with the first documentary mention of the abbey in 762. The monastery controlled the important route through the Kunkels Pass to the passes into Italy in the Graubünden. Early history In 840, Emperor Lothair I, king of Northern Italy and, nominally, Emperor of ...
Founded: 731 AD | Location: Bad Ragaz, Switzerland

Fahr Monastery

Fahr monastery is first mentioned in AD 1130. The lands were donated by the House of Regensberg. From the very beginning, the nunnery has been ruled by the Abbot of Einsiedeln; the nuns are governed in their daily life by a prioress appointed by the abbot. The bailiwick rights were first held by the Regensberg family, after 1306 by the citizens of the municipality of Zürich, and from 1434 to 1798 by the Meyer von ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Dietikon, Switzerland

Mount Zion Abbey

Mount Zion Abbey (Berg Sion) is a Premonstratensian nuns" abbey built on scenic rocky spur above the Gaster valley in 1761 by the priest Joseph Helg. It was built along a pilgrimage route from the churches on Lake Constance to Einsiedeln Abbey. The Loretto Chapel was built in 1763-65. A year after the chapel was completed three sisters moved from Schussenried Abbey in Germany to the new Abbey. The Abbey&quo ...
Founded: 1761 | Location: Gommiswald, 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

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

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

Wurmsbach Abbey

Wurmsbach Abbey is a monastery of Cistercian nuns located in Bollingen, a locality of Rapperswil-Jona. Count Rudolf of Rapperswil gave his castle of Wurmsbach together with a considerable area of land in 1259 for the foundation of a religious house and the abbey was established. It was initially a dependency of the Cistercian monks of Abbey of St. Urban in Wettingen. The abbey church was dedicated in 1281.  ...
Founded: 1281 | Location: Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland

Bonmont Abbey

Bonmont Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery in Chéserex. The abbey was founded between 1110 and 1120. The oldest surviving document mentioning the abbey is a deed of gift from the lords of Divonne and Gingins in 1131. In 1131, the foundation stone of the abbey church was laid. Construction continued until the end of the 12th century. The church was built during the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture ...
Founded: 1110-1120 | Location: Chéserex, 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

Claro Abbey

Claro abbey was founded in 1490 on the initiative of Scolastica de Vincemalis, a Benedictine religious of Milan who on 13 May 1490 became the establishment's first abbess. The monastery grew rapidly, and by 1516 was home to 16 nuns. In 1559, the religious were charged by decree of Pope Paul IV to relaunch and supervise Seedorf Abbey in the Canton of Uri. Intended for the education of girls, the buildings were enlar ...
Founded: 1490 | Location: Claro, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.