Monasteries in 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

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

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

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

Churwalden Abbey

Churwalden Abbey is a former Premonstratensian abbey, abandoned after the Protestant Reformation and was formally dissolved in 1803/07. The abbey was founded under a provost around 1150 or 1164 by the Freiherr von Vaz. The abbey church of Saint Mary already stood on the site and was first mentioned in 1149 as S. Maria in silva Augeria. The vogt over the abbey lived in the nearby Strassberg Castle. Soon after its founding ...
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Churwalden, 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

Cazis Abbey

Cazis monastery was founded at the beginning of the 8th century by the Bishop Viktor II of Chur. In 1156 it was converted to the Augustian rule. In 1526, after the Reformation, the monastery was dissolved. In 1647 the monastery was rebuilt by Bishop Johann VI as a Dominican interior priory, but in 1768 destroyed by fire. In 1855 a girls" school and in 1955 a housekeeping school was founded.
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Cazis, Switzerland

Eschenbach Abbey

Eschenbach Abbey was founded as a nunnery in 1285 and was moved to the current site in 1309. In 1588 the nuns joined to the Cistercian Order. The guest house was built in 1612 and new monastery church in 1625. The new neo-Baroque monastery church was built and consecrated in 1910. The famous sundial, largest of its kind in Switzerland, was built in 1683.
Founded: 1309 | Location: Eschenbach, 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

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.