Kloster St. Petersinsel. Photo/Foto: www.bielersee-tourismus.ch.

Monastery on St. Peter Island

The first monastery on St. Peter Island (St. Peterinsel/île de Saint-Pierre) in Lake Biel (Canton Bern) was built in Merovingian times (the 7th and 8th centuries). This benedictine building was later extended with a rectangular choir.

In the 11th century, the monastery became a convent of the powerful Order of Cluny. The intended large basilica with three naves was never built, but the foundations show a direct relationship with the monasteries of Cluny II (980) and Romainmôtier III (1028).

The monastery was incorporated into St. Vincent’s Abbey in Bern in 1484. The monastery complex is a hotel and restaurant nowadays.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) lived on the island in 1765 and wrote: “I have stayed several times in enchanting places, but to none have I owed such truly happy hours, and to none have I mourned so much as to St. Peter’s Island”  (De toutes les habitations où j’ai demeuré et j’en ai eu de charmantes, aucune ne m’a rendu si veritable heureux et ne m’a laissé de si tendres regrets que l’île de Saint-Pierre, from “Rêveries du promeneur solitaire” 1778, Jean-Jacques Rousseau).

An archaeological trail shows the history of this monastery complex and the remains from the Celtic, Roman and Merovingian periods, including pile-dwellings, Roman finds and sarcophagi from the Merovingian period.

(Source: Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern/Archäologischer Dienst des Kantons Bern).