Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen
Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen


“Abracadabra” – Medicine in the Middle Ages
8 March 2016 - 6 November 2016

The exhibition “Abracadabra” provides a fascinating insight into the history of medicine in the Middle Ages. The exhibits, which are part of the unique collection of manuscripts of the Abbey Library, relate to a wide range of subjects - from medical practices in the Ancient World to the hospital shown on the famous monastery plan through to the urine analyses of Notker the Physician in the 10th century.

The oldest known written example of the word “Abracadabra” can be found in one of the manuscripts kept at St. Gall. In the Middle Ages, the borderline between magic and medicine was difficult to define, and the chanting of this word was supposed to combat malaria, which in those days was widespread north of the Alps. Using the knowledge of the Ancient World, medieval monasteries added the ethical concept of caring, which was rooted in Christian charity. This is borne out by sources such as the Rule of Benedict. On the other hand, the miracles recounted in the legends of the saints present a different attitude to sickness and healing. The exhibition is rounded off by an insight into medical theory and practice during the Late Middle Ages.

We recommend our audio guides well elaborated with detailed information including not only the Abbey Library, but also the Cathedral and other Abbey district spots. Rental cost CHF 5.00 per audioguide.