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Abbey of Saint John at Müstair

Abbey of Saint John at Müstair


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The Abbey of Saint John at Müstair, located in the village of Müstair in Canton Graubünden, Switzerland, is an early medieval Benedictine monastery dating to the late 8th century CE that became an abbey in 1163 CE. It is renowned across Europe and the world for its beautiful, intact medieval design and decor, and UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site in 1983 CE as a result of its splendid mix of Carolingian figurative murals, Romanesque frescoes, and ancient stuccoes. For over 1200 years, the Abbey of Saint John at Müstair has remained a Benedictine religious community.

Origins

The Abbey of Saint John in Müstair (German: Benediktinerinnenkloster St. Johann; French: Abbaye Saint-Jean-des-Sœurs; Italian: Monastero benedettino di San Giovanni; Romansh: Claustra benedictina da Son Jon) is set deep within the southern Swiss Alps in the Val Müstair, which is in Switzerland's Graubünden Canton. Müstair is the only Swiss territory to be in the Adige Basin, and it is Switzerland's easternmost village. The town of Müstair lies very close to the Swiss-Italian border in South Tyrol, and it is also close to the Swiss-Austrian border at Nauders, Austria. The Abbey of Saint John in Müstair is roughly 130 km (80 miles) from Chur, Switzerland and 65 km (40 miles) from Merano, Italy.

Lying between trade & pilgrimage routes, Müstair was an ideal location for a Benedictine monastery that could operate as a hospice, accommodating pilgrims & travelers.

According to local traditions in Graubünden, Charlemagne (King of the Franks from 768-814 CE; King of the Lombards from 774-814 CE; and Holy Roman Emperor from 800-814 CE) founded the monastery at Müstair in the late 8th century CE. Legend states that as Charlemagne traversed the Umbrail Pass between the villages of Bormio and Santa Maria following his coronation as King of the Lombards in nearby Italy in 774 CE, he survived a snowstorm. There and then, Charlemagne decided to establish a monastery on the spot to commemorate his miraculous survival. Dendrochronology confirms that the wood used in the construction of the monastery was felled around c. 775 CE, so the legend could indeed be true. It is likely, however, that it was the Bishop of Chur who founded the monastery at Charlemagne's royal behest; Chur was the traditional capital of Graubünden and remains the canton's largest city too.

Aside from any miraculous survival and piety, Charlemagne undoubtedly recognized the region in and around Müstair as one of strategic and cultural importance. Lying between the trade- and pilgrimage routes, which crisscrossed the Alps between Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy, Müstair was an ideal location for a Benedictine monastery that could operate as a hospice, accommodating pilgrims and travelers in the regions of Valtellina, Tyrol and Engadine. As a religious institution and center, the monastery would be able to tend to the religious needs of the local community as well.

History

A manuscript dated to c. 850 CE from the Abbey Cathedral of St. Gallen confirms that 45 monks lived in the monastery at Müstair around that time. Although many religious properties were sacked and looted when marauding armies of Muslim invaders pillaged alpine passes in what is present-day France, Switzerland, and Italy from c. 850-975 CE, the Abbey of Saint John in Müstair was spared harm or deprivation. Monks nonetheless fortified and reinforced existing structures throughout the 10th century CE.

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The Abbey of Saint John became famous as the site of the “Miracle of the Host of the Holy Blood” incident that took place between c. 1210-1230 CE. According to legend and tradition, a young nun named Agnes took the Eucharist but did not consume it after Mass one day. Rather, she hid it near her chest, where it soon transformed into flesh and blood. This relic brought even more pilgrims to the abbey from the 13th-15th centuries CE. Austrian troops looted the abbey and stole the relic following the Battle of Calven during the Swabian War of 1499 CE. The relic was, however, subsequently returned, but it was lost for good in 1799 CE when the French used the abbey as a military headquarters in their fight against the Austrian Empire. The French vandalized and desecrated most structures and rooms in the abbey during that time.

The last prince-bishop of Chur, Karl Rudolf von Buol-Schauenstein (r. 1794-1833 CE), saved the Abbey of Saint John in Müstair from dissolution in 1810 CE, but the Abbey became a priory instead under the leadership of a prioress.

The Art & Architecture of the abbey

The Benedictine Convent of Saint John at Müstair offers the visitor a mélange of different artistic and architectural styles, ranging from Carolingian and Romanesque to Gothic and Rococo. The convent consists of a conventual church which dates from the Carolingian era (c. 800 CE), the Saint Cross Church, the ancient residence of the Bishops of Chur, two geometric courtyards, and an early medieval residential tower that was redesigned and reconstructed by the Abbess Angelina von Planta in 1499 CE. (The Planta Tower is the oldest fortified-residential tower in the Alps, however, as it was first constructed by monks in c. 960 CE.) Abbess Angelina von Planta was also responsible for the transformation of the convent church, which had a single nave in Carolingian style, to that of a high triple-nave hall church between the years 1488-1492 CE.

It is in the conventual church that one can observe and admire the Carolingian frescoes that date back to the first half of the 9th century CE. Although the Carolingian frescoes and murals have lost their hue and some of their vibrancy due to the ravages of time, they remain the most important preserved Carolingian frescoes in situ in Europe. The Carolingian frescoes depict King David, various Christian saints, including Peter, Paul, Stephen, and John the Baptist, as well as scenes from the life and death of Jesus Christ. The Swiss architect Walther Sulser and Professor Linus Birchler discovered Romanesque wall paintings that date to c. 1200 CE between 1947-1951 CE. Those can now be seen in the abbey's museum.


Benedictine Convent of Saint John, Müstair, Switzerland

The Abbey of Saint John is an ancient Benedictine monastery in the Swiss municipality of Val Müstair, in the Canton of Graubünden. By reason of its exceptionally well-preserved heritage of Carolingian art, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.

The Carolingian Renaissance is deeply in debt to the success of Charlemagne as a king and patron, and the driving force behind what we see in St John Abbey. Throughout history, art, education and leisure have all only truly thrived in times of peace, although war is often the most important factor for technological change. In the early Middle Ages the constant conflicts between the Frankish Kingdoms hindered the artistic progress previously enjoyed by the Romans when their empire was at its height. Under Charlemagne's prosperous kingship, the introduction of a new peacetime monastic order began, paving the way for the frescos and architecture seen at Saint John Abbey.

As a devout Christian, Charlemagne wished to further the ability for his people to be both educated in the teachings of the church, and for his kingdom to be stable. One of the many ways that he achieved this was through his patronage of many monasteries throughout the Frankish Kingdom. The monasteries served as a training ground for missionaries, who were to be sent to the newly conquered areas of his empire and effect their conversion to Christianity. His goals were mostly focused on education, and his mission as king was to provide the basis for the education of the clergy so they could, in turn, educate the parishioners. These monasteries served as canvas for much of the art and architecture of the Carolingian Renaissance.

The Carolingian artisans were known to be skilled painters, jewelers, and goldsmiths. Their aptitude for extensive and grandiose decoration was often used to decorate the manuscripts that were written by monks at abbeys such as St John’s. Such skilled and advanced artistry further highlights the importance of peace as a canvas for improved art and architecture in a civilization. As it is possible to see from the Pictures of St John's frescoes, painting was also a large part of the Carolingian Renaissance. The Carolingian style of painting was founded in Roman, Christian and Germanic styles. The manner in which figures were portrayed was clearly Roman in style, the subject matter very often Christian, and the geometric designs and animal figures were Germanic in nature. Depictions from the gospels, as well as those of King David were particularly popular, as well as some Carolingian kings, and of course Christ in majesty.

It is believed that the abbey was established ca. 780 by a bishop of Chur, perhaps under orders from Charlemagne. It was built during a wave of monastery construction that included the nearby monasteries at Cazis, Mistail, Pfäfers, and Disentis. The abbey was located along the Val Müstair pass over the Alps from Italy and was fortified to allow it to control the pass. In 881 the abbey passed over to be completely under the control of the Bishop of Chur. During the early years of the abbey, in the early 9th century, a series of frescos were painted in the church. Later, in the 11th and 12th centuries, the abbey experienced a second expansion and new paintings were added or painted over the old frescoes. These paintings were only rediscovered in the 20th century.

In the 10th century, the church tower was added to the abbey church. During the expansion of the 11th century, the bishop of Chur enlarged his residence at the monastery. A fine tower home, cloister, and the double chapel of St. Ulrich and St. Nicholas were added. During the expansion, the two-story residence chapel of the bishop was also decorated with extensive stucco and fresco work. At some time in the 12th century, the occupants of the abbey changed from monks to nuns. This change is first mentioned in 1167, but it happened sometime before this date. The first abbess known by name is Adelheid, attested between 1211 and 1233.

The Swabian War, which was an attempt by the Habsburgs to assert control over the Grisons and key alpine passes, started at the convent. On 20 January 1499, Habsburg troops occupied the surrounding valley and plundered the convent, but were soon driven back by the forces of the Three Leagues at the Battle of Calven.

Following the raid, an armistice was signed between the Habsburgs and the Three Leagues. However, this armistice only lasted a few days before the conflicts broke out between the Three Leagues' Old Swiss Confederacy allies and the Habsburg troops. These raids quickly escalated into the Swabian War, which ended in September 1499 with the Treaty of Basel granting virtual independence to the Swiss Confederacy.

About 1500 the abbey church was modified from a single-nave Carolingian construction into a three-nave late Gothic church. Shortly thereafter, in 1524 and 1526, through the Ilanzer Articles, the League of God's House was able to weaken the temporal power of the bishop, which had the indirect effect of reducing the income of the abbey. Consequently, there was limited construction on the abbey following this.

In the spirit of the Council of Trent the bishop issued a series of reforms governing religious life between 1600 and 1614. The reforms included new regulations as to who could receive the sacraments and the publication of the breviary. Other policies, such as the requirement in the Benedictine Rule for common sleeping areas, were also relaxed in this era.


Map of Benedictine Convent of St. John

A day trip to Müstair is absolutely recommended to anyone staying in the center or south east of Switzerland. The drive out there, across the Flüela Pass and through the Swiss National Park, is very scenic. I just had to stop my rental car a couple of times to take pictures of the natural surroundings. There are several picturesque villages too, and hiking paths. I combined the visit of this WHS with one to the Albula Railway on the same day &ndash in hindsight it would have been better to divide this over 2 days, so to enjoy both sites more.

The Convent is easy to find in Müstair: it&rsquos the prominent building complex at the far end of town, white and light grey in colour. In the morning it&rsquos only open between 10 and 12. There were quite a lot of visitors already present when I arrived at 10.45. Numerous Italians among them, as this is close to the border with Italy. I was a bit confused where to start my tour &ndash I had read the reviews below and did not want to end up at the museum/convent while the church is the most impressive part.

However, there&rsquos another sight directly at the entrance: the double chapel, housed in a small white building. This also has mural paintings from the Carolingian and romanesque periods. The interior is being renovated at the moment, and it can take years for it to be finished. While a guided tour was being conducted, I was able to peek in and became interested. So after paying up I could join the remaining part of the informative session about restoration and the several mural layers that have been found. Another highlight of the chapel is the original wooden ceiling.

After the tour finished, there were maybe 20 minutes left before the convent would close for lunch. I was somewhat in doubt about what I had just seen: was this the main part of the church, or &ldquojust&rdquo the chapel. The answer became clear immediately when I walked into the main building &ndash the church is what the chapel could look like in years. Here the murals almost fully cover the walls. Most of them are in very good repair, with bright colours (these are the romanesque paintings I guess). The church interior is quite small and very atmospheric.


Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair

The Convent of Müstair, which stands in a valley in the Grisons, is a good example of Christian monastic renovation during the Carolingian period. It has Switzerland's greatest series of figurative murals, painted c. A.D. 800, along with Romanesque frescoes and stuccoes.

Outstanding Universal Value

The Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair, located in a valley of the Grisons in the extreme south-eastern part of Switzerland, south of the Alps, was founded around 775, probably on the orders of Charlemagne. At the beginning of the 9th century it was noted as being an establishment of religious Benedictines, and became a women’s abbey in the first half of the 12th century. Religious activities have continued uninterrupted until the present day, with the abbey becoming a priory in 1810. Today, the convent ensemble comprises the Carolingian conventual church and the Saint Cross Church, the residential tower of the Abbess von Planta, the ancient residence of the bishop, including two rectangular courtyards. To the west the courtyard is surrounded by cloisters, two entrance towers and agricultural buildings.

The property reflects both the history of its construction and the political and socio-economic relations in this region and throughout Europe over more than 1200 years, and thus provides a coherent example of Carolingian conventual architecture over time.

The conventual church houses the most important cycle of frescoes of the Carolingian era conserved in situ. The creation of these frescoes is dated around the first half of the 9th century. The church, which is conserved for the most part in its Carolingian style, was initially destined as a space to be decorated with paintings: representations of the history of Christ decorate its entire perimeter, the apses and the inner walls. The scenes are laid out in a decorative way with elements connected by thematic and spatial correspondence and represent an outstanding example of Christian iconography.

Criterion (iii): The conventual ensemble is one of the most coherent architectural works of the Carolingian period and High Middle Ages, with the most extensive cycle of known paintings for the first half of the 9th century. The figurative paintings of the Roman era, and especially the Carolingian period, are particularly important for understanding the evolution of certain iconographic Christian themes, such as the Last Judgement.

The property comprises the entire monastic ensemble and the annex elements for agricultural exploitation located within the walls of the ensemble. The property includes all the requisite elements to express its Outstanding Universal Value.

Historical and archaeological researches have determined all the restoration work in strict respect of the original substance since the 1947-1951 campaign. The property fulfills the conditions of authenticity not only with regard to the material substance, but also from the functional perspective: the convent is still a religious centre for Benedictine sisters.

Protection and management requirements

The property benefits from legal protection at all State levels and therefore benefits from the highest possible protection. Federal protection is inscribed in the land register and the competent authority of the Confederation must grant its approval for all work foreseen at the site. The Cantonal listing also ensures the conservation under the competent cantonal authority and forbids any demolition. The property is located in a protected zone in the local town plan for the commune. The boundaries of the property are located in a non-constructible zone and guarantee maintenance of the landscape values of the property.

The “Pro Kloster Müstair” Foundation that exists since 1968 is responsible for the management and conservation of the property. It comprises a foundation council, a directorate and a director. In particular, it establishes and implements the plans for conservation and archaeological research, as well as the funding, communication and development plans. It establishes the annual budget for the property and in its capacity as site manager, plans and controls maintenance and restoration work.

A convention between the Foundation and the Benedictine sisters regulates the management and coordination of the different needs and requests, concerning scientific and archaeological research, as well as maintenance of the ensemble, the religious function, agricultural exploitation and visitor expectations. Regular and close contact with the competent authorities at all State levels guarantees a use of the property that has conservation as its primary concern.
Long Description

The Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair, in the upper valley of the Canton of Grisons, bears exceptional testimony to a Carolingian civilization and art which has disappeared. It is one of the most coherent examples of conventual architecture and painting of the Carolingian period and the early Middle Ages.

This convent was, most likely, founded around 780 by the Bishop of Chur at the behest of Charlemagne. It is noted from the beginning of the 9th century as being an establishment of Benedictines. It did not become a convent until 1163.

The most important construction of the monastic complex, including two cloisters, is the church, dedicated to St John the Baptist. Formed by a simple rectangular hall some 20 m long, it is closed at the east by three tall semi-circular apses, adorned on the exterior by blind arcades.

In the church, the removal of the Gothic ceiling (1908-9) and of the whitewash (1947-51) brought to light important vestiges of frescoes dating from the Romanesque period (approximately 1150-70) and, more important still, from the Carolingian period. This is, in fact, the most important cycle of painting which is currently known dating from around 800. These figurative paintings (scenes from the Old and New Testaments), of a fine aesthetic quality, painted in a limited range of ochres, reds and browns, postdate the frescoes of Castelseprio and San Salvatore in Brescia. They are particularly important in understanding the evolution of certain Christian iconographic themes, such as the Last Judgement. The panels are framed with painted strips of garlands and ribbons, and culminate at the top in a large cornice that reproduces an architectural feature. Sadly, the cycle has suffered considerable damage, both because of ill-conceived restorations and because of the repainting of the apses, which probably took place between 1165 and 1180, whereas the frescoes on the side walls, with the Stories of David, were removed and placed in the Landesmuseum in Zürich.

Other precious artworks preserved in the Benedictine complex date from successive centuries: dating from the Romanesque period are, in addition to the frescoes preserved in the church's apse area, the large statue in painted stucco depicting Charlemagne (1165), located in the choir, and on the left wall of the same room a fine Romanesque relief depicting the Baptism of Christ (1087).

Within the enclosure walls of the monastery are found other early elements, among them, in particular, in the north-west quarter, the residence of Bishop Norbert with its remarkable decor of frescoes and stucco-work in the two-storey chapel (11th and 12th centuries).

The other rooms in the abbey, which for the most part date back to the 18th century, are located around the main cloister and contain documents, models related to the religious complex, reliquaries, robes, and object of sacred art, dating from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

During the Gothic and Baroque periods, it was subjected to major modifications, like the rest of the complex: two rows of columns divided the interior into three aisles, a matroneum was installed, and the original wooden ceiling was replaced by a vaulted roof on the exterior, in the 15th century, adjoining the right-hand side of the church, a stout tower with a square plan was built, a tower-house for the Abbess of the convent.


The Abbey of Saint John Muestair, Benedictine monestary, Canton of Graubuenden, Switzerland - stock photo

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Carolingian Architecture in the Early European Middle Ages

Carolingian architecture is characterized by its attempts to emulate late Roman classicism, early Christian, and Byzantine styles.

Learning Objectives

Locate Carolingian architecture as it relates to pre-Romanesque, Roman classicist, Late Antique, early Christian, and Byzantine styles

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Carolingian churches are generally basilican like the Early Christian churches of Rome , and commonly incorporated westworks .
  • The gatehouse of the monastery at Lorsch, built around 800 CE in Germany, exemplifies classical inspiration for Carolingian architecture built as a triple-arched hall dominating the gateway. The arched façade is interspersed with attached Roman- style classical columns and pilasters above.
  • Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel at Aachen combines the styles of the Western Roman and Byzantine Empires with contemporary innovations to create a unique Carolingian architectural style.
  • The exterior of a westwork consists of multiple stories between two towers, while the interior includes an entrance vestibule, a chapel, and a series of galleries overlooking the nave . The westwork of the Corvey Abbey is one of the few intact surviving examples from the Carolingian period.

Key Terms

  • spolia: The repurposing of building stone for new construction or the reuse of decorative sculpture on new monuments.
  • westwork: The main entrance of a church, named for its (usually) west-facing orientation.
  • Carolingian architecture: A style of northern European pre-Romanesque architecture belonging to the period of the late eighth and ninth centuries. It was a conscious attempt to emulate Roman architecture and thus borrowed heavily from early Christian and Byzantine architecture. However, innovations make this a distinct style all its own.

Carolingian architecture is the style of northern European pre-Romanesque architecture belonging to the Carolingian Renaissance . During the eighth and ninth centuries, the Carolingian dynasty (named for Charlemagne) dominated western Europe politically, culturally, and economically.

Carolingian architecture is characterized by its conscious attempts to emulate Roman classicism and Late Antique architecture. The Carolingians thus borrowed heavily from early Christian and Byzantine architectural styles, although they added their own innovations and aesthetic style. The result was a fusion of divergent cultural aesthetic qualities.

The gatehouse of Lorsch Abbey, built around 800 CE in Germany, exemplifies classical inspiration for Carolingian architecture, built as a triple-arched hall dominating the gateway, with the arcaded façade interspersed with engaged Corinthian columns and pilasters above. In addition to the engaged columns and arcades , the apse-like structures on either side of the gatehouse recall the ancient Roman basilicas , which were the sites of important government events.

Lorsch Abbey: Lorsch Abbey (800 CE) demonstrates the Roman classical inspiration the Carolingians took for their architecture, with a triple arch hallway dominating the gateway and interspersed with engaged classical columns.

By contrast , the Palatine Chapel in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), with its sixteen-sided ambulatory and overhead gallery, was inspired by the Byzantine-style octagonal church of San Vitale in Ravenna. The chapel makes use of ancient spolia , conceivably from Ravenna, as well as newly carved materials. The bronze decoration is of extraordinarily high quality, especially the doors with lion heads and the interior railings with Corinthian order columns and acanthus scrolls. Like San Vitale, the Palatine Chapel is a centrally-planned church whose dome serves as its focal point. However, at Aachen, the barrel and groin vaults and octagonal cloister vault in the dome reflect late Roman practices rather than the Byzantine techniques employed at San Vitale. Its round arches and massive supporting piers draw from Western Roman influence. A multicolored marble veneer creates a sumptuous interior. A monumental western entrance complex called the westwork is also drawn from Byzantine architecture.

Palatine Chapel in Aachen, interior view: The Palatine Chapel in Aachen (792-805) demonstrates the Byzantine influence on Carolingian architecture, evidenced by its octagonal style.

Carolingian churches are generally basilican like the Early Christian churches of Rome, and commonly incorporated westworks, arguably the precedent for the western façades of later medieval cathedrals . A westwork (German: westwerk) is a monumental west-facing entrance section of a medieval church. This exterior consists of multiple stories between two towers, while the interior includes an entrance vestibule, a chapel, and a series of galleries overlooking the nave. The westwork first originated in the ancient churches of Syria.

The westwork of Corvey Abbey (873-885), Germany, is the oldest surviving example. Like the gate house from Lorsch Abbey, the westwork of Corvey consists of a symmetrical arcade of three round arches at the base . This arcaded pattern repeats in the windows on the second and third stories. The heavy masonry throughout the façade recalls the massive appearance of the interior of the Palatine Chapel. On the upper stories of the center and towers of the westwork, a range of modified classical columns divide and accent the windows, also round arches.

Corvey Abbey: The westwork is the only surviving architectural component of the original Carolingian monastery.


Abbey of Saint John at Müstair - History

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Department für Bauen und Umwelt

Journées romanes, Saint-Michel de Cuxa, 6-11 juillet 2015. La peinture murale à l'époque romane. 15 conférenciers internationaux. Visites en Roussillon, Catalogne, Andorre.

Journées romanes, Saint-Michel de Cuxa (France), july 6-11th, 2015. Mural painting in Romanesque period. 15 international top speakers. Visits in Roussillon, Catalonia and Andorra.

Diades romàniques 2015, Sant Miquel de Cuixà. 6-11 juliol. La pintura mural en l'època romànica. 15 ponents internacionals. Visites a Rosselló, Catalunya, Andorra.

300 x 300 μm2 resolution) SR excited X-ray fluorescence (XRF) with an excitation energy of 9 keV. For some selected elements (Ca and Fe) X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy was used as well. Ca and Fe have the highest fluorescence intensity for all investigated points (at least 26 per sample) for all three samples and thus they are besides Si the most abundant elements. There are correlations between the XRF intensities of Mg, Sr and Ca and Fe and Si indicating chemical bonds between these elements. As there is no positive correlation between the intensities of Al, Si and Ca significant contributions of Calcium-silicates and Calcium-aluminates as sources for hydraulic setting can be ruled out. The analysis of the Ca-K-edge XANES spectra showed that calcite is the dominant form for Ca in the samples however for “white spots” Ca is also available in the form of vaterite and for “dark spots” in the form of hydroxyapatite. Also Fe is observed in different forms in the white and dark spots: for both types of spots valence +3 as in Fe2O3 is the dominant form however, in white spots fits are significantly improved by adding contributions from Fe3O4 and for the dark spots by adding FeO. The above summarized observations are correct for the Carolingian samples as well as for the Gothic sample. No significant age dependent differences were observed.

F. Dell'Acqua, R. Silva (eds.), La vetrata in Occidente dal IV all’XI secolo. Atti delle giornate di studi, Lucca, Villa Bottini, 23-24-25 Settembre 1999, Il colore nel Medioevo. Arte Simbolo Tecnica. Collana di studi sul colore 3, Lucca, Istituto Storico Lucchese-Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa-Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Italia, 2001.

The pdf of the volume is too heavy: if anyone is interested, I can send it via Dropbox.


Benedictine Convent of St John in Müstair

According to legend, the monastery complex in Val Müstair in the canton of Grisons, was founded in the 8th century by Charlemagne and was never fully destroyed. Well preserved, it still reveals building styles from several eras, and holds art treasures from more than twelve centuries. The wall paintings in the convent church were decisive for its acceptance on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is the largest and best-preserved fresco cycle from the early Middle Ages. The nuns are still active in the convent today in the spirit of &ldquoora et labora&rdquo, pray and work. Convent life, cultivation, the museum, research and restoration all merge to form a unique whole. Cultural Heritage since 1983.

World Heritage Days

Plan your visit

History

The Val Müstair, in the canton Graubünden, connects the Fuorn Pass and the Vinschgau Valley, in the Italian province of South Tyrol. Today it is a very quiet place, but not in the past. In the 1st century AD the Via Claudia Augusta passed nearby, linking the Po Valley with the north of the Alps, over the Resia Pass. At the time of Charlemagne (742 &ndash 814), this road and the nearby passes acquired strategic importance. Charlemagne, already King of the Franks, defeated the Lombards at the siege of Pavia in 774 and became their King. In 788, he further extended his reign by vanishing the rebellious Tassilo III, Duke of Bavaria. The Müstair and Vinschgau valleys, both under the control of the Bishop of Chur, were therefore like a wedge drive between these two territories. No doubt the Benedictine monastery of St John was also built to secure the passage between north and south.

A number of elements indicate the importance of the monastery&rsquos founder: the mentioned historical context but also various archaeological finds and dendrochronological datings which show the oldest timber to be from the year 775, as well as the sophisticated design and the overall dimensions of the building &ndash the original Carolingian abbey was bigger than today&rsquos convent. Thus according to local tradition, the founder was none other than Charlemagne himself. And indeed the King was generous towards the Church of Rome which he also used as an instrument for the accomplishment of his political objectives. It is also possible however that the actual founder of Müstair was the Bishop of Chur, acting on behalf of Charlemagne and with the latter&rsquos financial support.

The monastery was conceived from the start as both a place of worship and a residence for persons of consequence. It was the Bishop&rsquos secondary seat, in the southwest of his diocese. The Carolingian monastery had a church with a single hall, three apses and annexes. A cloister and a farmyard garden were adjacent to the church.

Did you know?

&bull St John&lsquos monastery in Müstair is a centre of benedictine life since 1246 years.

&bull If you counted the number of psalms recited in the monastery until now, you would come to the amazing total of 9 804 375.


The Abbey of Saint John Muestair, Benedictine monestary, Canton of Graubuenden, Switzerland - stock photo

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Watch the video: Revitalizing the Saint Johns Abbey Church (June 2022).


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