Along the Rhine River, in the historic Stein am Rhein, is the Benedictine Abbey of Saint George. Until the Reformation in 1525, it was used by monks as a religious retreat. This site is now a Swiss historic site.
When you visit the Abbey, you can take a tour of the museum and the garden attached to it. This abbey is not only a museum, some small events related to Saint George or the region also take place here.
Overview: Saint George’s Abbey
Saint George’s Abbey was founded in 970. Duke Burkhart III and his wife Hadwig of Swabia founded the abbey. The Duchy of Swabia was one of the medieval German duchies.
Saint George’s Abbey has always had just a small monastic community. In the five hundred years it was around, there were never more than twelve monks.
The Abbey’s church and cloister is Romanesque. Romanesque architecture is described as a fusion of Roman, Carolingian and Ottonian, Byzantine, and local Germanic architecture. Prior to Gothic architecture, it was Europe’s main architectural style.
From the 14th century on, the Romanesque cloister was replaced by Gothic buildings. When the construction was finished in the early 16th century, the most beautiful furnishings were created.
Due to the reformation, the abbey was secularized on July 5, 1525.
Guide: Saint George’s Abbey
Calefactory and Refectory
Calefactory, or Warming Room, is one of the oldest parts of the abbey, dating from the 12th to 13th centuries. It was the only heated room where monks gathered in winter.
In monasteries, the refectory is a dining room. Saint George’s Abbey has an old and a new refectory. Built by Abbot Konrad II Goldast, the old refectory dates back to the 12th century. It was right next to the kitchen, bakery, wine press, and storerooms. In the time of Abbot Jonnes I Send and Johannes II Singer, a new refectory was built. The room was heated by a stove, just like secular dining halls.
Cloisters are the core of the abbey. They’re surrounded by everything else. Many monasteries have similar-looking cloisters.
The cloisters were built in stages, first with the north and east wings. Then came the west and south wings. Those vaulted ceilings were installed by the last abbot of Saint George’s Abbey, David von Winkelsheim.
You can find a medicinal herb garden in the Abbey garden. Next to the New Refectory is the exit for the Gardens. The gardens look out over the Rhine River and you can see Werd Island from there.
The pathways echo those in the baroque ornamental garden here in the 18th century. Some of the plants at the Abbey’s garden are sage, catnip, pennyroyal, thyme, milk thistle, lavender, rose, iris, bitter orange, juniper, and more.
The Chapter house is where monks get their religious instruction. Every day they read a chapter of Regula Benedicti, the Rule of Saint Benedict.
There’s a button in the middle of the room that lets you watch the history of Saint George.
Dormitory and Chambers
Most of the monks’ sleeping quarters are on the upper floor. It was probably built during the time of Abbot Jodokus. It is located close to the chapel so the monks can go directly to prayers after waking up. You will see here the anteroom to the dormitory, Abbot’s residence, and the chambers of Abbot David, and Abbot Jodukus.
There are also a couple of chambers on the lower floor where the abbots lived.
The banqueting hall is the most beautiful room in the abbey. There’s great Renaissance art in this room, commissioned by Abbot David von Winkelsheim. These murals tell the story of ancient Rome.
The banqueting hall was where important guests were hosted. Here are some of the scenes of this room:
- The Building of Carthage
- Hannibal’s Oath
- The Building of Rome
- Saint Sebastian and Saint George
- The Virgin and Christ Child
- Saint Christopher and Archangel Michael
- The Zurzach Fair
The Abbot’s Chapel
The Abbot’s Chapel dates back to the monastery’s original Romanesque construction. It was renovated under Abbot David von Winkelsheim in 1505.
How To Get To Saint George’s Abbey
To get to Saint George’s Abbey, simply head over to Stein am Rhein. It is a few minutes away from the train station on foot. You can turn right after crossing the bridge. You can also access it coming from the old town center.
|By Train||Stein am Rhein from Schaffhausen, Winterthur, Konstanz|
|By Bus||Stein am Rhein from Frauenfeld, Singen|
|By Ship||Stein am Rhein from Schaffhausen, Steckborn, Reichenau, Konstanz, Kreuzlingen|
Opening Hours: Saint George’s Abbey
Saint George’s Abbey is open from April to October, Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
The museum is closed from November to March.
Final Thoughts: Saint George’s Abbey
Visit Saint George’s Abbey – it’s one of the best-preserved Medieval monasteries. Built around 970 by Duke Burkhart III of Swabia, the abbey has been renovated over the centuries. The building is one of the most important Swiss architectural monuments, dating from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
Now that the abbey isn’t being used by monks, it’s open to visitors interested in seeing how monks once lived. Rooms in the abbey are well-preserved and give a good idea of how they used to be. There is also small garden outside with a picturesque view of the Rhine River, as well as flowers and herbs.
The building also contains one of the most important painting cycles of the early modern period in one of the rooms.
- Saint George’s Abbey Stein am Rhein Guide. Swiss Confederation Federal Office of Culture FOC.
- Zurich to Stein am Rhein Train: All You Need To Know
- The Pretty Town of Stein am Rhein, Switzerland
- Abbey of Saint Gall: UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. Gallen, Switzerland
- A Quick Guide to Einsiedeln Abbey and the Black Madonna
Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.