Monasteries in 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

Abbey of Saint-Maurice d'Agaune

The Abbey of Saint Maurice d"Agaune dates from the 6th century. It is situated against a cliff in a section of the road between Geneva and the Simplon Pass. The abbey of St. Maurice is built on the ruins of a Roman shrine of the 1st century BC dedicated to the god Mercury in the Roman staging-post of Agaunum, and first came to prominence as a result of a now disputed account by Eucherius, the Bishop of Lyon. He had ...
Founded: 6th century AD | Location: Saint-Maurice, 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

Kreuzlingen Abbey

Kreuzlingen Abbey was founded in about 1125 by Ulrich I of Dillingen, Bishop of Constance, as a house of Augustinian Canons. In 1144 Pope Lucius II, and in 1145 Emperor Frederick Barbarossa took the monastery under their protection. Kreuzlingen became an Imperial abbey. The abbots, now Imperial prelates, were territorial lords of the small lordship of Hirschlatt north of Friedrichshafen, and this was also their p ...
Founded: c. 1125 | Location: Kreuzlingen, Switzerland

Bellelay Abbey

According to the legend, Bellelay Abbey was founded in 1136 by Siginand, prior of the abbey of Moutier-Grandval, who got lost in the deep forest of the High Jura while hunting a wild boar and was unable to find his way out. He vowed to found a monastery if he managed to return safely to Moutier, which he did four days later. To the monastery he founded in accordance with his vow he gave the name of 'belle laie' ...
Founded: 1136-1142 | Location: Bellelay, Switzerland

Saint Urban's Abbey

St. Urban's Abbey was founded in 1194 on a land grant from the Freiherren of Langenstein and of Kapfenberg. The mother church was Lucelle Abbey. It was first mentioned in 1196 as sanctus Urbanus. The first monastery was a single monk's cell in Kleinroth, which is now in the municipality of Langenthal. In 1195, the first monks moved about 3 km down the valley to establish a larger monastery building. During the 13th centu ...
Founded: 1194 | Location: Pfaffnau, Switzerland

Muri Abbey

The monastery of Saint Martin of Tours at Muri was founded in 1027 by Radbot, Count of Habsburg, one of the progenitors of the House of Habsburg. Rha, a daughter of Frederick, Duke of Lower Lorraine, and Werner, Bishop of Strasburg, each donated a portion of land to a monastery which they established there. A colony of monks was drawn from the nearby Einsiedeln Abbey, under the leadership of Prior Reginbold. On h ...
Founded: 1027 | Location: Muri, Switzerland

Rüeggisberg Priory

Rüeggisberg Priory was founded between 1072 and 1076 by Lütold of Rümligen. He granted the property and estates to Cluny Abbey making it the first Cluniac house in the German-speaking world. Under Cuno of Siegburg and Ulrich of Zell the first cells were built. Construction of the Romanesque church lasted from about 1100 to about 1185, of which there still remain the north transept and parts of the crossing tower. The P ...
Founded: 1072-1076 | Location: Rüeggisberg, Switzerland

La Maigrauge Abbey

La Maigrauge Abbey is a monastery of Cistercian nuns located in Fribourg, Switzerland. In the mid-1250s, a small group of women came together in the region of Fribourg to follow a life of prayer under the guidance of the Rule of St. Benedict. They seem to have been neither Beguines nor aristocrats, as so many foundresses of women"s monasteries were. Their names have not even been preserved. They were giv ...
Founded: 1255 | Location: Fribourg, 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

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

Maria Rickenbach Monastery

Maria Rickenbach Monastery was initially established after a 1528 painting of the Blessed Mother was placed in a hollow maple tree on that site. Subsequently, unable to remove the painting, which came to be considered miraculous, the church and monastery were established around the tree, which is now enclosed by a shrine. In 1857, a small group of women who wanted to follow a monastic way of life acquired the monastery. ...
Founded: 1528 | Location: Niederrickenbach, 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

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

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

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

Frienisberg Abbey

In 1131 Count Udelhard of Saugern granted his land at Frienisberg to the Cistercian Lützel Abbey. In 1138, the Lützel Abbey sent settlers to Frienisberg to found a new abbey. The new abbey remained small and struggled until the first half of the 13th century, when a number of donations allowed it to expand. At its peak, about 300 farmers worked for a total of 1,800 hectares in 45 villages west of Bern. It also owned vin ...
Founded: 1138 | Location: Seedorf, 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

Fraubrunnen Abbey

In 1246, Counts Hartmann the Elder and Hartmann the Younger of Kyburg donated their lands, farms and forests in and around the village of Mülinen, as well as judicial rights over the village itself, to establish a Cistercian nunnery, which was placed under the authority of the abbot of Frienisberg in 1249 or 1250. It was called in Latin Fons beatae Mariae, in German Fraubrunnen, which replaced the existing village&q ...
Founded: 1249 | Location: Fraubrunnen, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and the only surviving royal residence in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family. The original palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg in what was then the village of Lietzow. Originally named Lietzenburg, the palace was designed by Johann Arnold Nering in baroque style. The inauguration of the palace was celebrated on 11 July 1699, Frederick's 42nd birthday.

Friedrich crowned himself as King Friedrich I in Prussia in 1701 (Friedrich II, known as Frederick the Great, would later achieve the title King of Prussia). Two years previously, he had appointed Johann Friedrich von Eosander (also known as Eosander von Göthe) as the royal architect and sent him to study architectural developments in Italy and France, particularly the Palace of Versailles. On his return in 1702, Eosander began to extend the palace, starting with two side wings to enclose a large courtyard, and the main palace was extended on both sides. Sophie Charlotte died in 1705 and Friedrich named the palace and its estate Charlottenburg in her memory. In the following years, the Orangery was built on the west of the palace and the central area was extended with a large domed tower and a larger vestibule. On top of the dome is a wind vane in the form of a gilded statue representing Fortune designed by Andreas Heidt. The Orangery was originally used to overwinter rare plants. During the summer months, when over 500 orange, citrus and sour orange trees decorated the baroque garden, the Orangery regularly was the gorgeous scene of courtly festivities.

Inside the palace, was a room described as 'the eighth wonder of the world', the Amber Room, a room with its walls surfaced in decorative amber. It was designed by Andreas Schlüter and its construction by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram started in 1701. Friedrich Wilhelm I gave the Amber Room to Tsar Peter the Great as a present in 1716.

When Friedrich I died in 1713, he was succeeded by his son, Friedrich Wilhelm I whose building plans were less ambitious, although he did ensure that the building was properly maintained. Building was resumed after his son Friedrich II (Frederick the Great) came to the throne in 1740. During that year, stables for his personal guard regiment were completed to the south of the Orangery wing and work was started on the east wing. The building of the new wing was supervised by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, the Superintendent of all the Royal Palaces, who largely followed Eosander's design. The decoration of the exterior was relatively simple but the interior furnishings were lavish. The ground floor was intended for Frederick's wife Elisabeth Christine, who, preferring Schönhausen Palace, was only an occasional visitor. The decoration of the upper floor, which included the White Hall, the Banqueting Hall, the Throne Room and the Golden Gallery, was lavish and was designed mainly by Johann August Nahl. In 1747, a second apartment for the king was prepared in the distant eastern part of the wing. During this time, Sanssouci was being built at Potsdam and once this was completed Frederick was only an occasional visitor to Charlottenburg.

In 1786, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew Friedrich Wilhelm II who transformed five rooms on the ground floor of the east wing into his summer quarters and part of the upper floor into Winter Chambers, although he did not live long enough to use them. His son, Friedrich Wilhelm III came to the throne in 1797 and reigned with his wife, Queen Luise for 43 years. They spent much of this time living in the east wing of Charlottenburg. Their eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who reigned from 1840 to 1861, lived in the upper storey of the central palace building. After Friedrich Wilhelm IV died, the only other royal resident of the palace was Friedrich III who reigned for 99 days in 1888.

The palace was badly damaged in 1943 during the Second World War. In 1951, the war-damaged Stadtschloss in East Berlin was demolished and, as the damage to Charlottenburg was at least as serious, it was feared that it would also be demolished. However, following the efforts of Margarete Kühn, the Director of the State Palaces and Gardens, it was rebuilt to its former condition, with gigantic modern ceiling paintings by Hann Trier.

The garden was designed in 1697 in baroque style by Simeon Godeau who had been influenced by André Le Nôtre, designer of the gardens at Versailles. Godeau's design consisted of geometric patterns, with avenues and moats, which separated the garden from its natural surroundings. Beyond the formal gardens was the Carp Pond. Towards the end of the 18th century, a less formal, more natural-looking garden design became fashionable. In 1787 the Royal Gardener Georg Steiner redesigned the garden in the English landscape style for Friedrich Wilhelm II, the work being directed by Peter Joseph Lenné. After the Second World War, the centre of the garden was restored to its previous baroque style.