ABBEY OF ST. GALL (Switzerland)

(With Neidhart/Nithart name bearers)

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1 - Historical Background

The St Gall abbey near Constance was founded around year 612. It was named after Gallus, an Irishman who was a disciple of St Columbanus. He followed him in his exile from the abbey of Luxeuil.and remained in Switzerland while St Columbanus went to Italy. Gallus died around 645. Charles Martel  encouraged the construction of a chapel at the spot where Gallus had his cell and named Othmar to keep the reliques under custody. It is under Othmar direction that the first building of the abbey were built. Later, Pepin son of Charles Martel convinced Othmar to substitute the benedictine rules by those of St Columbanus.

As the abbot of St Gall, Othmar also founded the School of St Gal which quickly became famous in Europe. In addition to the teaching of arts and sciences, the library was continuously developed and the copy of manuscripts for their dissemination was undertaken very early.The abbey hosted, among others, many Irish and Anglo-Saxon monks who came to copy documents for their ons monasteries. At Charlemagne's request to propagate the Gregorian chant, two  singers from Rome, Peter and Romanus were sent by Pope Adrian I to St Gall..Later, Peter went to Metz where he established a Chant-school. Romanus stayed in St Gall and added the "romanian signs" to the romanian chants he had brought back from Rome. The two chant-school of Metz and St Gall, with different teachings became rivals, but St Gall developed as one of the most important chant-school in Europe. Among the chief manuscripts produced at St Gall, one can mention the Antiphonale Missarum, the Antiphonarium Sti. Gregorii, and Hartkers' Antiphonarium.

The  monks at St Gallen, over the years , had to protect themselves against the bishop of Constance who refused to recognise the exemptions and other privileges that had been granted to the abbey. Under the protection of Louis the Pious and until the end of the 10th century it was the peak period for the development and reputation of the abbey. A new church was buit, the library was further enlarged.

Later, over the centuries, the library lost a great deal of its most valuable books, from incursions of the Huns  until 1712 when the Swiss pillaged the abbey and spared nothing. Most of the books were carried off to Zurich, Berne and other places and few were restituted later to the abbey. The monastery was rebuilt, but in 1798 the Swiss secularized the abbey and sequestrated the revenues in 1805, forcing the monks to move to other congregations.

When the Diocese of Constance was suppressed in 1821, the part of it including St Gall was included in the Diocese of Coire. In 1847 it was re-arranged and St Gall became a Diocese of its own: the abbey church became a cathedral and part of the monastic buildings assigned as the bishop's palace.

To-day, the conventual buildings besides the Bishops' palace accomodate the cantonal offices and what remains of the library (about 150.000 books and manuscripts of which 400 are older than a thousant years. The church  was rebuilt between 1755 and 1785 in the rococo style.

The UNESCO has declared it world cultural heritage in 1963.

The Catholic encyclopedia on line was an important source of information for historical details.

2 Inventory of Neidhart/Nithart... various spellings between years 800 and 900

When searching in the monastery registers, several monks can be identified as bearers of the name Nithart in several spelling variants. Lack of precise dating cannot indicate if the name was adopted before or after Nithard was declared Saint  and Martyr....

               Image0.jpg (124379 octets)   Image1z.jpg (166292 octets)   Image8z.jpg (151608 octets)   Image9z.jpg (153984 octets)   Image10z.jpg (160951 octets)   Image13z.jpg (165617 octets)

This is a selection among 17 different pages bearing a name variant:

sgall1545.jpg (67864 octets) 

St Gall 1545, by Heinrich Vogtherr.

abbaye.jpg (91244 octets)    stgbib.jpg (123429 octets)

Postcards of the Abbey of St Gall and of the Library

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