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 commercially. In this, they were very successful and Stein am Rhein rapidly became a flourishing and prosperous town which, in the 15th century, was itself (if briefly) granted reichsfrei status.
The abbey also prospered and, in the 15th century, completely rebuilt its premises, which remain a significant example of late Gothic architecture in the region. The last and greatest abbot, David von Winkelsheim, who came to power in 1499, completed the building works and added a spectacular suite of Renaissance frescoes that are among the earliest known in northern Europe.
Under the Reformation however, the abbey was secularised and its assets taken over by Zürich. Abbot von Winkelsheim negotiated a settlement with the Zürich authorities, whereby, although control of the abbey was handed over to them, he and the remaining monks would be allowed to remain on the premises until their deaths. Zürich however, suspected the abbot of collusion with the Habsburgs and locked him up in his new rooms. He was able to escape to Radolfzell, but died shortly after, in 1526.
The Gottfried Keller Foundation aims the acquisition of major works from Switzerland and abroad, to entrust them as loans to Swiss museums or to return them to their original locations. Among other, the foundation acquired the St. Georgen Abbey. The collection comprises more than 8,500 paintings, sculptures and other art objects in around 110 museums respectively locations in Switzerland.
The buildings remained unharmed until the 19th century, when they were used by their owners for a number of industrial purposes, during which they suffered considerable damage. A Protestant pastor acquired them, and left them in trust for the community, thus saving them. Since 1945, they have accommodated a museum.
The banqueting hall, or Festsaal, containing the frescoes commissioned by David von Winkelsheim, and the cloisters are of especial interest in a building complex.
The abbey church, which dates predominantly from the 12th century, has also survived intact, and is now a Protestant parish church.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick.