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St. Gallen ( ; ; ; ) is the capital of the canton of St. Gallenmarker in Switzerlandmarker. It evolved from the hermitage of Saint Gall, founded in the 7th century. Today, it is a large urban agglomeration (with around 160,000 inhabitants) and represents the center of eastern Switzerland. The town mainly relies on services for its economic base.

The main tourist attraction is the Abbey of St. Gallmarker, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its renowned library contains books which date to the 9th century.

The city has good transport links to the rest of the country and to neighbouring Germany and Austria. It also functions as the gate to the Appenzell Alps.


A view of the city from the nearby hills.
The St. Gallen University is in the foreground, the Abbey of St. Gall is visible above

St. Gallen is situated in the northeastern part of Switzerland in a valley around 700 meters above sea level. It is one of the highest cities in Switzerland and it often receives a lot of snow in winter. The town is nicely situated between Lake Constancemarker and the mountainsmarker of the Appenzell Alps (with the Säntismarker as the highest peak at 2502 metres). It therefore offers excellent recreation areas nearby.

As the city center is built on an unstable turf ground (thanks to its founder Gallus who was looking for a hermitage and not founding a city), all buildings on the valley floor must be built on piles. For example, the entire foundation of the train station and its plaza are based on hundreds of piles.


Founding of the City

The founding of St. Gallen is based on the Irish monkGallus(ca550–620 or 640), who built a hermitage at the river Steinachin 612.

Founding of the Abbey of St. Gall

Around 720, one hundred years after Gallus's death, the Alemannian priest Othmar built an abbey and gave it the name Abbey of St. Gallenmarker.In 926 Hungarianraiders attacked the abbey and surrounding town. Saint Wiborada, the first woman formally canonized by the Vaticanmarker, reportedly saw a vision of the pending attack and warned the monks and citizens to flee.While the monks and the abbey treasure escaped, Wiborada chose to stay behind and was killed by the raiders.

About 954 the monastery was surrounded by walls as a protection against the Saracens, and the town grew up around these walls. About 1205 the abbot became a prince of the churchin the Holy Roman Empire. In 1311 St. Gallen became a Free imperial city. By about 1353 the guilds, headed by the cloth-weavers guild, gained control of the civic government. In 1415 the city bought its liberty from the German kingSigismund.

Freedom from the Abbey

In 1405 the Appenzellestates of the abbot successfully rebelledand in 1411 they became allies of the Old Swiss Confederation. A few months later the town of St. Gallen also became allies. They joined the "everlasting alliance" as full members of the Confederation in 1454 and in 1457 became completely free from the abbot. However, in 1451 the abbey became an ally of Zürichmarker, Lucernemarker, Schwyzmarker and Glarusmarker who were all members of the Confederation.

One of the earliest mayors of St. Gallenmay be among the most colorful, Ulrich Varnbüler. Hans, the father of Ulrich, was prominent in city affairs in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in the early 1400s. Ulrich made his entry into public affairs in the early 1460s and gathered the various offices and honors that are available to a talented and ambitious man. He demonstrated fine qualities as field commander of the St. Gallen troops in the Burgundian Wars.

In the battle of Grandsonin 1476 he and his troops were part of the advance units of the Confederation and took part in their famous attack. (A large painting of Ulrich returning triumphantly to a hero's welcome in St. Gallen can still be seen in St. Gallen).

After the war, he often represented St. Gallen at various Confederation parliaments. In December 1480 he was offered the position of mayor for the first time. From that time on he served in several leading city positions and was considered the intellectual and political leader.

According to Vadian, who understood his contemporaries well, "Ulrich was a very intelligent, observant, and eloquent man who enjoyed the trust of the citizenry to a high degree."

His reputation among the Confederates was also substantial. However, in the late 1480s he became involved in a conflict that was to have serious negative consequences for him and for the city of which he was mayor.
St. Gallen in 1548
St. Gallen in 1642
In 1463 Ulrich Rösch had assumed the management of the abbey of St. Gallmarker.He was an ambitious prelate, whose goal it was to raise the abbey by every possible means to prominence again following the losses of the Appenzell War.

His restless ambitions offended the political and material interests of his neighbors. When he arranged for the help of the pope and the emperor to carry out a plan of moving the abbey to Rorschachmarker on Lake Constancemarker, he encountered stiff resistance from the St. Gallen citizenry, other clerics, and the Appenzell nobility in the Rhine Valley who were concerned about their holdings.

At this point, Varnbüler entered the conflict against the prelate. He wanted to restrict the increase of power in the abbey and simultaneously increase the power of the town that had been restricted in its development.

For this purpose he established contact with farmers and Appenzellresidents (led by the fanatical Hermann Schwendiner) who were seeking an opportunity to weaken the abbot.

Initially, he protested to the abbot and the representatives of the four sponsoring Confederate cantons (Zürich, Lucerne, Schwyz, and Glarus) against the construction of the new abbey in Rorschach. Then, on July 28, 1489he had armed troops from St. Gallen and Appenzell destroy the buildings already under construction.

When the abbot complained to the Confederates about the damages and demanded full compensation, Ulrich responded with a counter suit and in cooperation with Schwendiner rejected the arbitration efforts of the non-partisan Confederates.

He motivated the clerics from Wilmarker to Rorschach to discard their loyalty to the abbey and spoke against the abbey at the town meeting at Waldkirch, where the popular league was formed.

He was confident that the four sponsoring cantons would not intervene with force, due to the prevailing tensions between the Confederation and the Swabian League.

He was strengthened in his resolve by the fact that the people of St. Gallen elected him again to the highest magistrate in 1490.

An Associate of the Confederation

Ulrich Varnbüler turned out to have badly miscalculated. In early 1490 the four cantons decided to carry out their duty to the abbey and to invade the St. Gallen canton with an armed force. The people of Appenzell and the local clerics submitted to this force without noteworthy resistance, while the city of St. Gallen braced for a fight to the finish.

However, when they learned that their compatriots had given up the fight, they lost confidence; the end result was that they concluded a peace pact that greatly restricted the city's powers and burdened the city with serious penalties and reparations payments.

Ulrich, overwhelmed by the responsibility for his political decisions, panicked in the face of the approaching enemy who wanted him apprehended. His life was in great danger, and he was forced to disguise himself as a messenger and escape out of the city.

He made his way to Lindaumarker and to Innsbruckmarker and the court of King Maximilian.The victors confiscated those of his properties that lay outside of the city of St. Gallen and banned him from the confines of the Confederation.

Ulrich then appealed to the imperial court (as did Schwendiner, who had fled with him) for the return of his property.

The suit had the support of Friedrich II and Maximilian and the trial would drag on for years. It was continued by Ulrich's sons Hans and Ulrich after his death in 1496, and eventually they regained the properties.

However, other political ramifications resulted from the court action, because the Confederation took ownership of the city of St. Gallen and rejected the inroads of the empire.

Thus, the conflict strengthened the relationship between the Confederation and the city of St. Gallen. On the other hand the matter increased the alienation between Switzerland and the German Holy Roman Empire, which would eventually mean a total separation as a result of the Swabian War.

Despite the unpropitious end of his career, Varnbüler is immortalized in a famous woodcut by Albrecht Durer, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution's woodcut collection(q.v.).

Of the Varnbüler sons, the elder (Hans/Johann) became the mayor of Lindaumarker.He is the patriarch of the Baden and Württembergmarker Varnbülers.


Starting in 1526 then-mayorand humanistJoachim von Watt introduced the reformationin the city of St. Gallen. The town converted to the new reformed religion while the Abbey remained Roman Catholic.

While iconoclasticriots forced the monks to flee the city and removed images from the city's churches, the fortified Abbey remained untouched. The Abbey would remain a Catholic stronghold in the Protestant city until 1803.

Helvetic Republic and Act of Mediation

In 1798 Napoleon invaded the Old Swiss Confederationdestroying the Ancien Régime. Under the Helvetic Republicboth the abbey and the city lost their power and were combined with Appenzell into the Canton of Säntis.

The Helvetic Republic was widely unpopular in Switzerland and was overthrown a few years later in 1803. Following the Act of Mediationthe city of St. Gallen became the capital of the Protestant Canton of St. Gallen.

One of the first acts of the new canton was to suppress the abbey. The monks were driven out of the abbey with the last abbot dying in Murimarker in 1829.In 1846 a rearrangement in the local diocesesmade St. Gall a separate see, with the abbey church as its cathedraland a portion of the monastic buildings being resigned for the bishop's residence.

Gustav Adolf, former king of Sweden, spent the last years of his life in St. Gallen, and finally died there in 1837.

St. Gallen as a center of textile-industry

In the 15th century St. Gallen became successful in producing textiles. In 1714 the climax was reached with a yearly production of 38,000 pieces of cloth. The first depression happened in the middle of the 18th century caused by strong foreign competition and starting cotton production. But St. Gallen was able to catch up and an even more glamorous era arrived.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the first embroidery machines were developed in St. Gallen. In 1910 the embroidery production was the largest export branch (18 percent of the total export value) in Switzerland and more than half of the global production originated in St. Gallen. One fifth of the population in the eastern part of Switzerland lived from the textile industry. World War I and the Great Depressionthereafter let the St. Gallen embroideryfall into a second large crisis.Only in the 1950s a slight recovery started in the textile industry. Nowadays, only a small textile industry can survive in St. Gallen because of high specialization and the production of powerful embroidery machines. St. Gallen embroideries (e.g. by Akris) are still in high demand by the creators of Paris Haute Couture.


St. Gallen is known for its business school, now named University of St. Gallenmarker (HSG).It was ranked as the top business school in Europe by Wirtschaftswoche, a weekly German business news magazine, and is highly ranked by several other sources. Recently, HSG has been building a reputation for Executive Education, with its International MBA recognised as one of Europe's leading programmes, and runs a PhD programme. HSG is a focused university that offers degrees in business and management, economics, political science and international relations as well as business law. It is comparatively small, with about 5,000 students enrolled at present, has both EQUISand AACSBaccredited, and is a member of CEMS(Community of European Management Schools). The university maintains student and faculty exchange programs around the world.

St. Gallen's public school system contains 64 Kindergartens, 21 Primary Schoolsand 7 Secondary Schoolsand about 6,800 students. In addition to the public system St. Gallen is home to the Institut auf dem Rosenberg— an elite boarding school attracting students from all over the world. The Institut provides an education in English, German and Italian and prepares the students to enter the American, British, Swiss, Italian, German and other European university programs.

Culture and Sightseeing

Old houses of St. Gallen
The interior of the Cathedral is one of the most important baroque monuments in Switzerland
Library of St. Gallen
In 1992 St. Gallen was awarded the Wakker Prizefor the city's effort to create a unified structure and appearance in current and future construction..


  • In the modern and somewhat extravagant building of the Theater St. Gallen operas, operettas, ballet, musicals and plays are performed. It has an impressive average utilization of nearly 80 percent.
  • In the nearby Concert Hall with its grand art nouveau style all sorts of concerts (classic, symphony, jazz etc.) are given.


  • Historical and ethnographical museum (collections of regional early history, city history, folk art, cultural history as well ethnographical collections from all over the world)
  • Art museum (painting and sculptures from the 19th and 20th century)
  • St. Gallen art gallery (national and international modern art)
  • Natural history museum (natural history collection)
  • Museum in the storehouse (Swiss native art and art brut)
  • Textile museum (historical laces, embroidery and cloth)
  • Lapidarium of the abbey (building blocks from 8th to 17th century)
  • Point Jaune museum (Mail Art, Postpostism)
  • Beer bottle museum (located at the Schützengarten brewery—the oldest brewery in Switzerland)



  • Drei Weieren (three artificial water basins from the zenith of the textile industry with art nouveau-bath houses; reachable by the Mühleggbahn (train) from 1893). The Drei Weieren are a water park by day and a gatheringplace of the youth by night. This results in many complaints about noise, drug abuse and vandalism by people who live in the vicinity. Locals jokingly call the three basins "Lakes with the most THC in the country". The youth who spends their time there claim that the Drei Weieren are a place where they can spend their time in a consume-free environment.
  • Convent of St. Gall with the famous library and abbeymarker (UNESCOmarker World Heritage Site)
  • Bank Wegelin, the oldest bank in Switzerland, founded in 1741
  • Tröckneturm Schönenwegen; the tower was built 1828 and was used to hang up freshly colored cloth panels for drying.
  • Protestant church Linsebühl, an impressive new renaissance building dating from 1897
  • University of St. Gallenmarker (HSG; University for Business Administration, Economics and Law with an excellent reputation in the German-speaking world), founded 1898.
  • Embroidery exchange, splendid building with the god for trade Hermes on its roof.
  • Public bath, the oldest public bath in Switzerland dating from 1908.
  • Catholic church St. Martin in the Bruggen district; the concrete church built in 1936 was at that time highly modern.
  • 1992 the city of St. Gallen received the Wakker Prize.
  • Stadtlounge (City Lounge) - a pedestrianised area in the central city designed to represent a loungeroom, but in the street.[48625] German only, pictures are universal though. The Stadtlounge was designed by Pippilotti Rist.
  • Synagogue St.Gallen - Built by the architects Chiodera and Tschudy, it is only synagogue in the Lake Constance region that is preserved in its original state.


Regular Events

  • The St. Gallen Symposium attracts about 600 personalities from economy, science, politics and society to the University of St. Gallen every year. It hosts the world's largest student essay competition of its kind with about 1'000 participants of whom the 100 best contributions are selected to participate in the St. Gallen Symposium. The St. Gallen Symposium will next take place in 2010 from 6 May to 7 May for its 40th anniversary. The subject of the forthcoming "3 Days in May" is "Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change".
  • OLMA, traditional Swiss Fair for Agriculture and Nutrition in autumn as well as numerous other exhibitions at the OLMA Fairs St. Gallen.
  • Openair St. Gallen in the sitter valley.
  • Children Feast, originally a product from the textile industry. It is organized every third year.
  • Nordklang Festival takes place in multible sites around St. Gallen


  • The football team FC St. Gallen is based in the city and plays in the Super League, Switzerland's highest football division. It is the oldest football club in Switzerland and second oldest in continental Europe, founded in 1879.


The A1 motorway links St. Gallen with St. Margrethenmarker, Zürichmarker, Bernemarker and Genevamarker.In 1987 the city motorway was opened, which leads the traffic through two tunnels (Rosenberg and Stefanshorn) almost directly below the city center.

St. Gallen has its own small airport Airport St. Gallen-Altenrheinmarker, residing at nearby Lake of Constancemarker with regular flights to Viennamarker and other destinations.

St. Gallen is closely tied to the national Swiss Federal Railways network and has InterCity connections to Zürich and the Zurich International Airportmarker every half an hour.St. Gallen is the hub for many private railways such as the Südostbahn (SOB), connecting St. Gallen with Lucernemarker, the Appenzeller Bahnen with connections to Appenzell and the Trogenerbahn to Trogenmarker, which also serves as a tram in downtown.

The town has a dense local bus transportation system operated by the VBSG, which is well established on the valley floor and less on the hills. As St. Gallen is located near the Appenzell mountain area, it offers also many Postauto(post bus) connections. The agglomeration also has its own S-Bahn System (overground local trains).

The large urban area Zürich is about 80 km south-west of St. Gallen and is reachable by car in about 50–90 minutes depending to traffic and by train in 65 minutes (by ICN).


See also


  1. ">
  2. Switzerland is Gallen History accessed 20 November 2008
  3. University of St Gallen, International MBA rankings accessed 29 April 2009
  4. mentions that there are only 7 "true" German MBA with international appeal, of which HSG is one
  5. University of St Gallen, Doctral programs accessed 29 April 2009
  6. University of St Gallen portal accessed 29 April 2009
  7. University of St Gallen-MBA Programme accessed 29 April 2009
  8. St Gallen Public School Office accessed 29 April 2009
  9. Swiss Federation of Private Schools website accessed 29 April 2009
  10. Wakker Prize accessed 11 May 2009
  11. Schützengarten brewery accessed 14 November 2008

Newspaper articles

Auf Pantoffeln in goldene Zeitenin St. Galler Tagblatt

External links

The Abbey of St. Gall

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