St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek. Foto/photo: Wikipedia

Oldest Library of Switzerland

The beginning of libraries lies in the civilizations in Egypt, Iraq and Iran around 3000-1000 BC. In ancient Greece, libraries were available in temples or in sites that were used for scientific research and teaching in grammar schools and academies. The Library of Alexandria was perhaps the most famous.

Besides, there were already private libraries of rulers, scholars or writers. In Rome and many provincial cities of the Empire, local elites established public libraries as acts of euergetism.

Monasteries became the sole educational institutions after the fall of the Roman Empire and the consolidation of ecclesiastical power in the 6th century,

Their libraries gradually became scriptoria, book illumination and writing workshops in Italy, Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The collecting of (antique) manuscripts and copying of texts and book illumination reached a peak in the 9th century, at the time of the Carolingians. The oldest still existing libraries in Europe date from this period.  The Abbey Library in St. Gallen has existed since the middle of the 8th century. The abbot of Reichenau Abbey probably commissioned the famous design for a monastery complex at that time.

The architecture, decoration and furnishings (Baroque from the eighteenth century) of one of the oldest medieval monasteries and libraries in Europe are a monument and a treasure of medieval and later (illuminated) manuscripts, books and other writings.