Sunday, June 27, 2010
Medieval Manuscripts in a Swiss Library
The Abbey Library of St. Gall in eastern Switzerland holds over 140,000 manuscripts, including some original parchments dating from the 9th century.
The library has been in existence since 719, and was named after St. Gall, an Irish hermit whose hermitage was on this same spot. After his death, a small church was erected on the site. The church later developed into the Abbey of St. Gall, which came to be an important monastery renowned for its scriptorium and the scholars who worked there. The institution became secularized in the 18th century, after a series of political wars.
The library is one of the richest repositories of medieval literature in the world, and is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site. Many of the manuscripts were copied by Anglo-Saxon and Irish monks. As the holdings of the library became known, Charlemagne requested chanters be sent from Rome to the abbey, and these singers helped spread the use of Gregorian Chant throughout the territory.
Over two thousand handwritten books remain in the library collection, and the digitalization of the priceless collection is still underway. Some of these documents can be seen on the Codices Electronici Sangallences webpage, and at Intuit in UK (register to search and save data), the manuscripts are translated into several languages, including English.
The abbey library interior is in the Rococo style, with carved wood, stucco, and paint exemplary of the period (see picture above). Exhibitions and concerts are held there, and the library is open to the public.