Carolingian Renaissance on Exhibit at Saint Gall Abbey

May 07, 2019

The most ancient Carolingian architectural design drawing has been put on public display at St. Gall Abbey (Switzerland), on April 12, 2019, in the setting of a new permanent exhibition unveiled at the abbey.

The plan is traced in red ink, on five pieces of parchment sewn together. An authentic witness to the architectural concepts and artistic traditions of the Carolingian period, this document is of an inestimable value.

Mabillon, the great knowledgeable Benedictine of the 17th Century, was one of the first to point out the importance of the St. Gall Plan, of which he made an engraved reproduction.

The St. Gall Plan is dedicated, in the margin, to a person by the name of Gozbert, a religious who directed the work on the abbey between 816 and 837. For the record, St. Gall Abbey, founded in 613 and noted for its library, was for several centuries one of the most important monasteries in Christendom.

In 1983, it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, as a “perfect example of a great Carolingian monastery.”

The interest in the St. Gall Plan, explains Hans Reinhardt in the Bulletin monumental (Paris, 1937) [an archeological review], is that it represents “one of the most curious and most important steps in the great technical and artistic tradition that leads from late antiquity up to the Middle Ages.”