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 1227/1228, the king became Vogt of the abbey. In December 1231, Emperor Frederick II issued a Golden Bull confirming his obligations as Vogt of the abbey.
The abbey also frequently bought land in the territory which is now the principality of Liechtenstein, most notably the prominent Red House in Vaduz, which it purchased in 1525 from the heirs of the medieval owners, the Vaisli family.
The abbey's high point was during the 14th century. It survived the Reformation, but lost its independence in 1555, when it became a priory of St. Gall's Abbey.
In 1626 the buildings were severely damaged by fire, and the monks were afflicted by a mysterious illness and the community moved along the valley to a new location at Sidwald near Nesslau, since then known as Neu St. Johann. On the site of the old monastery a parish church was built, with a priest's house.
The new monastery buildings in Nesslau, which were completed by 1680, were in a magnificent Rococo style. Toggenburg was an area of mixed denominations, and the priory was an instrument of the Counter-Reformation under the leadership of the Prince-Abbots of St. Gallen.
The priory was dissolved in 1805. The former monastic church became the Roman Catholic parish church of the parish of Neu St. Johann. The remaining buildings now accommodate a remedial educational centre known as the Johanneum.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. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.