Newly Swissed Online Magazine

St. Gallen – The Irish Monk, the Bear, and the Bread

Gallus Lamp

There are only so many ways to survive freezing Swiss winters.

Visiting a Finnish sauna is usually an instant cure, but the heat does not last all the way to home. Opening a bottle of white wine (Riesling-Sylvaner from Zürichsee), piling some Berner Hobelkäse onto my plate (a curly cheese with authentic flavor that even my cat would close his eyes from 3 yards away) and lighting my Gallus Light - a magical lamp from St. Gallen - will do the trick!

The result is an instant Swiss mini apéro with candle light for a romantic winter day!

Gallus Lamp

I love this glass light with rotating flame because it slowly winds me down. The Gallus lamp is actually hypnotizing to watch this candle flame as it quietly revolves at a tranquil speed of about 80 rotations per minute. This is the rate of a calm person’s heartbeat.
St. Gallen - The Irish Monk, the Bear, and the Bread, Gallus LampThis bold but yet simple idea was engineered in St. Gallen, the city famous for the best business school in Switzerland and a UNESCO World Heritage site for the Abbey of Saint Gall.

The Abbey is a huge religious complex, including an amazing medieval library with shiny, deep mahogany shelves.

When I visited last year, the library had a special exhibit of its oldest collection of chants and carols in chorus. Interestingly, they had been written without musical scores or notes but rather simple phonetics followed by curving lines, showing tunes and length of the sound. This was way before karaoke was invented in Japan...

Legend of Saint Gall

Legend of St. GallAmong the library’s treasures was a series of ivory book covers engraving the legends of Saint Gall, an Irish missionary who crossed the Bodensee (Lake Constance) about 1400 years ago. Saint Gall established a hermitage which later became the Abbey, and with continuous growth turned into the current city of St. Gallen.

My favorite story about this adventurous Celtic Saint is about a wild bear threatening the Saint’s early settlement. Saint Gall tamed the bear by ordering him to collect wood to build a log cabin - in exchange for a loaf of bread. A loaf of bread! This was no Grizzly bear, that's for sure! The holy bear whisperer even succeeded to make the bear promise not to return...

Mesmerized by the dancing flame of the Gallus light, I cannot help wondering about the bread that the Irish monk baked for the hungry bear.

Was it a St. Galler bread? The bread Dimitri is crazy about? Why did the bear never return? Did he think the bread was a sort of meat, freshly grilled but tasting like nothing? Did he think “thanks, but no thanks” if asked for a refill?

My thoughts keep rotating around the mysterious light, and my glass is empty.


Mamiko truly loves to discover Switzerland through the Newly Swissed "frame" with her Japanese eyes for details and a spark of American curiosity. She wants to connect Newly Swissed with businesses and organizations in Switzerland and expand the network.

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