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Benediktinerkloster St. Martin*

7180 Disentis/Mustér
The most important men's monastery of Graubünden, whose sumptuous Baroque construction with two domed towers dominates the valley.

Founded by Bishop Ursicin of Chur around 750 AD over the graves of St. Sigisbert, a Frankish missionary monk, who retreated here around 700 from the Luxeuil Convent, and an indigenous St. Placid. After the destruction of the carolingian complex by the Saracens in 940 AD reconstructed with the help of the Saxon Kings, who supported a large territorial expansion of the convent to safeguard the Lukmanier Pass. A convent state or principality developed that was proximate to the empire and that encompassed the whole upper part of the Oberland (the anterior Rhein valley) and also stretched in its beginnings to the Urseren Valley beyond the Oberalp and all the way into Northern Italy.

After the Reformation turmoil the convent became stronger again under the Abbot Christian von Castelberg (1566-1584) and above all under Augustin Stöcklin (1634-1641). French troops burnt down the convent and village on May 6, 1799. Further convent fire 1846. Incorporation of a humanistic secondary school 1881.

Early Mediaeval complex:
the comprehensive archeological excavations 1906-09 and 1981-83 yielded that as early as 800 AD two carolingian tri-apsidal halls (St. Maria and St. Martin) stood in the area where the present-day convent courtyard and the Church of Mary now stand, both at the site of previous buildings. A chapel of St. Peter lay between the two churches.

The first Church of St. Martin from the beginning of the 8th century incorporated a transverse tunnel with honeycomb-form rotunda, which is interpreted to be the crypt for the relics of St. Placid. The sole window of a building of what reminds one of prehistoric hill tombs (round graves) lets the sunlight shine into it for the longest period on July 11, the festival of St. Placid. The roughly excavated chamber at the end of the tunnel is probably a grave. After the destruction 940 AD the tri-apsidal halls were reconstructed; the Church of Mary somewhat narrower than before. The three apsides of this Romanesque church were incorporated into the new Church of Mary as a crypt in 1895-99 by August Hardegger. The Chapel of Peter newly constructed 1423.

In the rumble of the convent courtyard numerous figurative and ornamental, to a great extent coloured fragmental pieces from the 8th century were found. They belong to the oldest (requisites) examples of this genre in Switzerland; some of which kept today in the convent museum. The St. Placid Crypt was attached to an oratorium in 1983; in the east yard bronze cube and crucifix by Georg Malin 1984.

Convent Buildings:
The south wing and a west transverse wing newly built 1683-95 under Abbey Aldalbert II de Medel (1655-96), burnt 1799 and 1846, construction of the Church of Mary in the north-east wing to include the three Romanesque apsides around 980 AD, west wing and surrounding buildings 1895-99 by August Hardegger, north-west tract (college) 1937-40 by Walther Sulser. The original project, which was intended to have two connected building quarters, remained definitive for the later new construction, so that today the convent complies with the intentions of the Baroque builders. Only the kerb roof of the twenty-arbored south wing was restored as a fifth storey after the fire of 1846.

The interior of the monastery largely dictated by Hardegger's bountiful renovation; especially noteworthy the rosary staircase attached alongside the Church of Mary 1899 (an imitation of the scala regia in Rome) and the chapter house. The interior of the Neo-Baroque Church of Mary, vested with an altar ciborium, was almost totally annihilated by the building of new levels in 1981-84. Refectory with Swiss pine paneling and coffered ceiling by Brother Theodor Stäuble using plans from Venantius Maissen 1949; glass painting 1947-52 by Giuseppe Scartazzini; chandelier by Brother Markus Moser. Late Gothic polyptych altarpiece 1520 in the newly designed abbey chapel also by Maissen.

Monastery church St Martin
Newly built (1696-1712) according to plans drawn up by Caspar Moosbrugger under the auspices of Abbot Adalbert III de Fund, shell completed 1704, consecrated 1712. The fire of 1799 caused the front choir vault to collapse, which destroyed the choir altar. Extensive renovation in the choir 1914 and in the nave 1925-26.

The closed rectangular structure of the monastery church with lesene arranged along the lengths of the walls stands perpendicular to the slope and includes the eastern side of the broad rectangular monastery quad. The façade with two towers which faces the south is separated by cornices into two main storeys and a gable storey attached to the towers. Tuscan pilasters separate the main storey into five axes, in which there are segmental arched windows. The two towers which fit tightly into the façade are crowned by octagonal upper parts with onion-domed roofs. Paintings of a “protective-cloak” figure as well as Saints Martin and George by Fridolin Eggert in the shallow niches of the gabled storey. Columned portal with open segmental gable.

A lunette vault with transverse arch which covers the interior embodies the so-called Voralberg engaged pilaster scheme. Galleries encircle this interior room up to the altar in a rhythmic pattern of bays. The entry bay and the three nave bays lead into a broad bay that gives the appearance - because of the receding galleries and the bevelled choir arch pillars - of being a transverse nave. Five steps higher is the ante-choir; and again five steps above that is the altar with its attached sacristies. The two-storied wall niches are connected to each other by corridors; on the ground floor cross-vaulted side chapel, transverse barrel vault over the galleries. Lighting through segmental-arch windows in two storeys and round skylights. Ceiling painting by Fritz Kunz in the choir 1914, in the nave 1925; solely in the vaulting of the side chapels eight monotone medaillons by Francesco Antonio Giorgioli from the original time of construction. The only remaining stucco work by the old Wessobrunner are the composite capitals and the timber framing of the engaged pilasters: the Annunciation Group on the choir arch, the tendrils above the upper window and the entire decoration of the chapels; the stucco work in the choir vault by Alois Wolf 1913-14, in the nave vault by Josef Malin 1925-26.

Furnishings: Regency choir screen by Disentis Brother Josef Bäz (†1737), in the style of the screen in Einsiedeln. Ten altars from the 16th-18th centuries: Early Baroque high altar with a picture of the deposition from the cross by Johannes Selpelius; bought 1888 from Geyersberg in Lower Bavaria. On the right-hand side of choir arch is the Pazidus Altar from the studio of Johannes Ritz with the crest of Abbot Plazidus Zurlauben of Muri, painting of the beheading of the patron saint by Giorgioli 1710; Baroque tabernacle from Cazis. As companion piece to the left is Benedict Altar from the studio Ritz, painting of the patron saint by Franz Karl Stauder the Elder 1710, donated by Abbot Gerold II Zurlauben von Rheinau; tabernacle from Eschenbach (LU).

The altars in the two side chapels next to the transverse nave were taken from the old church: to the right Michael Altar*, one of the finest and purest works of the Early Renaissance donated by Sebastian von Castelberg in 1572. In the superstructure another Late Gothic winged altarpiece, but with immovable wings and a Renaissance frame; pictures by Moritz and Jörg Frosch in the tradition of engravings by Dürer and Aldegrever: Madonna in a radiant mandorla, the donor and his son Johannes at her feet, on the wings the Baptism of Christ, the Saints Sebastian, Matthew, Catherine, Elisabeth and Magdalene, in the predella Barbara with landscape in the background, the trinity in the top section; on the back grisaille of the Evangelists and Prince of the Apostles; coronation crest and antependium 1910.

On the left Catherine Altar created as a companion piece in 1652; paintings of the lives of Saint Sigisbert and Plazidus by Georg Wilhelm Graesner; predella 1910. Joseph Altar, with an elegant acanthus frame around 1712 and an iconographically unusual picture of Saint Sippe by Caspar Wolfgang Muoss 1701. Theophilus Altar, companion piece to the Joseph Altar, painting 1680 with Catacomb Saints Theophilus and Leontius as well as Thomas of Acquinas, Columban, Gallus and Barbara. A stucco work altar of the Sorrowing Mother by Francesco Solari 1735, notable Pietà in the niche from the second half of the 14th century from Lantsch. A - newly refinished - Baroque Petrus Altar with a painting by Fritz Kunz 1930, below this a reliquary for Abbot Gallus Deflorin (1716-24). An Immaculate chapel. Altar with the crests of Abbot Bernhard Frank von Frankenberg (1742-63), wings by Hans Jakob Greutter and Madonna statue from the beginning of the 17th century; on the walls are relic busts of the 17th century.

Early Baroque pulpit with sounding board, turned pillars and niche figures of the Evangelists by Brother Peter Solèr 1717. Organ 1933, restored 1955 and enlarged 1960, re-use of balcony case (Rückpositiv) by Sylvester Walpen 1802; below it Biedermeier style choir stalls with the crest of Abbot Adelgott Waller (1826-46). In the sacristy chapel a Rococo altar with gaily curved contours, perhaps by Plazidus Schmid, with a copy of the Byzantine Madonna in Piscinula in Rome.

Monastic Museum*.
Early mediaeval fragment pieces from the convent grounds. Unrivalled collection of mediaeval sculptures of Graubünden. Notable collection of textiles, among them a mitre of the late 14th century. Liturgical and folkloristic equipment.

(Kunstführer durch Graubünden, Hg. Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte. Eng. translation of the title: Art Guide of Graubünden, ed. Society for the History of Swiss Art, Zurich 2008. This book has only been published in German.)

Die Benediktinerabtei Disentis, Schweizerische Kunstführer GSK, Nr. 524/ 525, Bern 1999.