town abbey feet zurich
ST GALL (German Sankt Gallen), capital of the above canton, occupies along with its suburbs St Fiden, Neudorf, and Langgasse (to the cast), and Lachen and Vonwil (to the west), an area 4 miles long by 1 broad in the highland valley of the Steinach, which descends north-east to the Lake of Constance. On a pillar in the marketplace are the following details : - Lat. 47° 25' 36" N.; long. 7° 2' 27" E. from Paris (9° 22' 41" Green.) ; height above the sea, 2196.6 feet ; mean annual temperature, 45.6; annual rainfall, 50 inches ; air-distance from Zurich 39 miles, from Geneva 174. The only town - not village - in Europe which has a higher position than St Gall is Madrid. The chief building in St Gall is the abbey, of which (as it was originally arranged) a ground plan and description are given in vol. i. pp. 12, 13. The abbey church, since 1846 the Roman Catholic cathedral, was entirely rebuilt in the latter part of the 18th century in the rococo style. Partly from the desire to include within the choir the tombs of the two founders and partly from the hostility which long existed between town and tonsure, both the towers (217 feet) are placed at the east end and the main entrance is in the north side. The whole church has a length of 400 feet (with the sacristy 454 feet), and a breadth in the nave of 95 feet, a disproportion which is considerably disguised by the arrangement of the interior. Among the internal decorations are two colossal statues of St Desiderius and St Mauritius, the original patrons of the church, whose relics were brought from Scotland. Other buildings of importance are the (Protestant) church of St Lawrence, partially rebuilt (1851-53) according to plans by the Swiss poet Johann G. Muller, the Government offices on the east side of the abbey-court (where Scholl's famous relief of the cantons of St Gall and Appenzell is to be seen), the town-house, the offices of the Mercantile Directorium (a 17th-century institution to which the town owes much of its commercial prosperity), the great cantonal school - comprising a gymnasium, a technical school (preparatory to the polytechnicum at Zurich), and a mercantile school - the cantonal reformatory of St Jacob, the hospitals, and the infantry and cavalry barracks. In the town park, part of which is occupied by the botanic gardens, stands the public museum, containing natural history collections, the industrial collections and industrial drawing-school of the Mercantile Directorium, the picture gallery of the Art Society, and the antiquarian collections of the Historical Society. The museum of the East Swiss Geographical Commercial Society is located in the cantonal school. Besides the abbey library, famous for its ancient MSS. (original of the Niebelungenlied, &c.), there is a town library (Bibliotheca Vadiana), founded by the reformer Joachim de Watt or Vadianus. In spite of its position and climate, St Gall is the seat of extensive industries and trades. About 45,000 persons in the surrounding cantons are engaged in the manufacture of embroidered goods, mainly-muslins, for the St Gall capitalists, who also employ some 6000 or 7000 women in chain-stitch and hand embroidery. In 1872 6384 machines were at work in this department in the town and vicinity, and in 1882 14,883. The value of textile fabrics and embroidered goods annually exported from St Gall is £3,600,000 to £4,000,000. All round the town the meadows are used as bleaching-grounds for the webs. In 1870 the population was 16,675, in 1880 21,438.
The abbey of St Gall was named after its founder, a follower of St Columba, who along with Columban left Ireland on the destruction of Bangor and finally settled down in the midst of the great forest which then stretched from the Lake of Constance to the Santis Mountains, for the purpose of converting the Alemanns. On his death on 16th October 625 this apostle of Celtic Christianity was buried in his oratory, and in the 9th century the spot thus consecrated became the site of the monastic buildings erected by Abbots Gozbert and Grimoald. The foundation was already a wealthy one, and it soon became a great centre of literary and artistic culture, attracting numerous pupils and receiving the homage of dukes and emperors. In the 10th century the abbey and its cluster of houses were surrounded with a wall, which in 954 had to defend the settlement against an attack by a band of Saracens. In the reign of Rudolph of Hapsburg the town obtained a recognition of its communal independence from Abbot Ulrich and from the emperor himself a variety of important privileges. An alliance defensive and offensive was formed in 1312 with Zurich, Constance, and Schaffhausen ; and, although the prosperity of the town received a severe cheek by a great conflagration in 1314, the vigour with which the burghers prosecuted the newly introduced linen manufacture soon made it one of the most flourishing towns of Switzerland. About the middle of the 14th century the burghers began to share in the government of the town ; and in 1457 they bought up all the claims of the abbots to territorial jurisdiction. In 1454 St Gall joined the confederation of the Swiss towns, Zurich, &c. Abbot Ulrich VIII. determined to remove the abbey to Rorschach ; but the inhabitants of St Gall, Appenzell, &c., combined to destroy his new buildings, and, though St Gall was besieged by the abbot's supporters and had to pay grievous damages (1490), the treaty which it signed bound the abbots never to attempt to remove the relics of the founder. The abbey, which had purchased the countship of Toggenburg, passed at the Reformation into the hands of the town (1529), but it was restored to the abbots in 1530 ; and, when in 1712 in the " Toggenburg War" Zurich and Bern devastated the abbey and its possessions, the townsfolk remained neutral. The final dissolution of the abbey occurred in 1793. Under the French, St Gall was the chief town of the canton of Santis.