A heavyweight of cultural history

Some things are made to last forever. One of them is the songbook from the St. Katharinental Abbey in what is today the canton of Thurgau.

Andrej Abplanalp

Andrej Abplanalp

Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

Some things are made to last forever. One of them is the Gradual from the St.Katharinental Abbey in what is today the canton of Thurgau.The late Gothic hymnal was created in 1312 and was used in the abbey for approximately 500 years. Because it was kept locked away between uses, the Gradual is in excellent condition and the colours of the precious miniatures adorning the pages have lost none of their brilliance.The book was opened only while the nuns sang from it during Mass. They would stand on the choir steps so that they could all read from the book at the same time. The name “Gradual” derives from the Latin word gradus meaning “step”. The book is almost half a metre tall to enable all the nuns to read the liturgical chants.

This Gradual is one of the most valuable manuscripts in Switzerland. Weighing thirteen kilograms, it is also a true heavyweight of cultural history.

Gradual, 1312, from the St. Katharinental abbey in Diessenhofen. All pictures: Swiss National Museum

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Swiss National Museum

Three museums – the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins and the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz – as well as the collections centre in Affoltern am Albis – are united under the umbrella of the Swiss National Museum (SNM).