The Abbey of Saint Gall is a religious complex in the city of St. Gallen in present-day Switzerland. The Carolingian-era Abbey has existed since 719 and became an independent principality during the 13th century, and was for many centuries one of the chief Benedictine abbeys in Europe. It was founded by Saint Othmar on the spot where Saint Gall had erected his hermitage. The library at the Abbey is one of the richest medieval libraries in the World. Since 1983 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the 13th century, the abbey and the town became an independent principality, over which the abbots ruled as territorial sovereigns ranking as Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. As the Abbey became more involved in local politics, it entered a period of decline. During the 14th century Humanists were allowed to carry off some of the rare texts.
In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the farmers of the Abbot's personal estates (known as Appenzell, from Latin: abbatis cella meaning "cell (i.e. estate) of the abbot) began seeking independence. In 1401, the first of the Appenzell Wars broke out, and following the Appenzell victory at Stoss in 1405 they became allies of the Swiss Confederation in 1411.
The Abbey library of Saint Gall is recognized as one of the richest medieval libraries in the world. It is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of early medieval books in the German-speaking part of Europe. As of 2005, the library consists of over 160,000 books, of which 2100 are handwritten. Nearly half of the handwritten books are from the Middle Ages and 400 are over 1000 years old.
Lately the Stiftsbibliothek has launched a project for the digitisation of the priceless manuscript collection, which currently (December 2009) contains 355 documents that are available on the Codices Electronici Sangallenses webpage. A late 9th-century drawing of St. Paul lecturing an agitated crowd of Jews and gentiles, part of a copy of a Pauline epistles produced at and still held by the monastery, was included in a medieval-drawing show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York the summer of 2009.
A reviewer noted that the artist had "a special talent for depicting hair, ... with the saint's beard ending in curling droplets of ink." In 1983, the Convent of St. Gall was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "a perfect example of a great Carolingian monastery".