The Convent of St. John in Müstair, which stands in a Swiss valley just across the border from Italy, is an 8th-century Benedictine convent that was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. It earned the honor by having Switzerland's greatest set of figurative murals (c.800 AD), along with important Romanesque frescoes. UNESCO also praised it for being "one of the most coherent examples of conventual architecture of the Carolingian period and the Early Middle Ages."
The Convent of St. John seems to have been founded around 780 by the bishop of Chur at the request of Charlemagne. Records note it as a Bendictine property from the beginning of the following century, but it did not become a convent until 1163.
In later centuries there were some Gothic additions and the frescoes were eventually covered in whitewash. They were revealed again in the 20th century, with the removal of the Gothic ceiling (1908-09) and the whitewash (1947-51).
The Convent of St. John continues to be active today, and the resident Benedictine nuns welcome visitors to their remote hideaway. The convent church is a place of worship for the nuns and for locals, and it functions as the local parish church as well.
What to See
The convent's church is a modest structure with no transept and three apses at the east end. Inside, it contains an astonishing array of important frescoes from the Romanesque period (c.1150-70) and the Carolingian period (c.800-30).
The Carolingian frescoes are the most important known cycle of paintings dating from c.800. They are of a fine aesthetic quality and depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments in ochres, reds and browns. They are only a little later than the frescoes of Castelseprio and San Salvatore of Brescia, and are important for understanding the development of certain themes in Christian art, like the Last Judgment.
Adjoining the church is a high tower, where the abbess once lived, and original furniture can still be seen inside the convent.
Also notable is the residence of Bishop Norbert, in the northwest quarter of the complex, which is decorated with frescoes and stucco-work of the 11th and 12th centuries.
A small museum (displaying some Carolingian carvings and Baroque artworks) and gift shop is run by the convent and helps provide income to the nuns. Their handmade needlepoint is among the products available.
The Benedictine nuns of Müstair open their guesthouse to those seeking a retreat for quiet contemplation. In the spring and fall they also offer professionally guided weeks of fasting, including contemplation, meditation, and yoga.
Quick Facts on Müstair Convent
|Names:||Convent of St. John; Müstair Convent|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||46.629827° N, 10.448760° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Müstair Convent
Below is a location map and aerial view of Müstair Convent. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair - UNESCO World Heritage Advisory Body Evaluation
- Official Website of the Convent of St. John
|Link code:||<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/switzerland/mustair-convent-of-st-john">Müstair Convent</a>|