February 27, 2024

When the Irish monk Gallus came to Switzerland in 612BC, he stumbled among the wild vegetation of the Mülenenschlucht gorge and promptly fell into a thorn bush. While extricating himself from the nettles he came nose-to-nose with an angry bear none too pleased to have its midday nap interrupted. Soon thereafter Gallus fell ill and almost died. Being Irish, he took this series of unfortunate events as a sign that he had found a new home. “This is where I will stay,” he is said to have uttered upon regaining consciousness. And apparently heaven didn’t steer him wrong: Gallus built himself a monk’s cell and spent the remainder of his life as a hermit wandering the forests surrounding Lake Constance. A hundred years later a monastery was set up in the same place. It would go on to become one of the most important medieval schools of learning in the Western world, and the Canton of St. Gallen grew up around it. This spring marks the 1,400th anniversary of Gallus’s arrival. Under the quirky banner of Gallusjubiläum, the UNESCO world heritage city will be honoring their patron saint through to the  end of Autumn. Even the taciturn Swiss, it turns out, owe a bit of their pluck – and luck – to the Irish.

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