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The Silk Route - World Travel: Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair, Switzerland
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Switzerland: Zillis, Mistail, Val Mustair, Guarda & Scuol
Most recent: April 2018

Zillis - St. Martin's Church Mistail - St. Peter's Church Val Mustair Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair Guarda & Scuol
St Martin's church Zillis

 

A fabulous painted ceiling and frescoes dating back a thousand years and more in lovely churches plus the beautiful traditional painted houses of Unterengadine mountain villages.

Zillis - St. Martin's Church

Walensee
Walensee, a stunning lake on the way from Basel to Graubunden.

 

We drove from our home near Basel to the Graubunden, stopping at a very convenient motorway service station for coffee with fabulous views over the beautiful Walensee.

St Martin's church Zillis
St. Martin's Church, Zillis.
The mural is St. Christopher c. 1300.
St Martin's church Zillis
St Martin's church Zillis

We made a slight detour to see the magnificent painted ceiling St. Martin at Zillis. Dating from c. 1150 it is the oldest completely painted wooden ceiling in the west.1

St Martin's church Zillis
St Martin's church Zillis

The panels depict the Life of Christ and seven panels the Life of St. Martin. But they also provide an insight into the lives of the people at the time, their clothing, tools and weapons, how they caught fish, etc.

St Martin's church Zillis

 

St Martin's church Zillis
St Martin's church Zillis
St Martin's church Zillis
St Martin's church Zillis

I love the way the paintings aren't confined by their borders.

St Martin's church Zillis

St Martin's church Zillis


The artist(s) had a wonderfully vivid imagination when it came to the fabulous beasts around the edge of the ceiling.

St Martin's church Zillis

 

Mistail - St. Peter's Church

St Peter's Church Mistail
St Peter's Church Mistail
March 1991

 

This lovely Carolingian church is one of my favourites. It sits in tranquil countryside surrounded by wooded hills. Inside is a bright, peaceful and simple space. The late 8th century building still has its three Carolingian altars, though only remnants of the Carolingian wall paintings. Most of the paintings date from the Gothic era.

St Peter's Church Mistail
St Peter's Church Mistail
St Peter's Church Mistail

The paintings on the north wall above the side entrance are much cruder than the Gothic paintings in the apses and the St Christopher nearby.

 

St Peter's Church Mistail
St. Christopher, patron saint of travellers.


St Peter's Church Mistail
The painting on the right is very unusual, showing agricultural implements, livestock and clothing. The Phaidon Guide calls it a Feast Day Christ.1

 

Val Mustair

Val Mustair
Santa Maria Val Mustair
Val Mustair

We stayed in the village of Santa Maria Val Mustair in 2018 for three nights. We'd been hoping to do the Stelvio Pass but it was still closed due to snow - really far too early, need to come back in summer.

The village has some lovely decorated houses, the nicest are off the main road down towards the river.

Val Mustair
Val Mustair
St. Christopher on the village church.
Val Mustair
Val Mustair
Val Mustair
Val Mustair

 

Val Mustair
Val Mustair
The meadows were covered with cowslips.

 

We did a good walk one morning starting from the village and walking south east up through the meadows then north east towards Mustair, though not going that far. We crossed the small Rom River and climbed up the opposing ridge to walk back towards Santa Maria.

Val Mustair

We skirted the south west edge of Mustair where we came across a small whitewashed church with some fragments of frescoes including St. Christopher - very popular in this region - and a vivid St. Sebastian.

Val Mustair
A small church on the south west side of Mustair.
Val Mustair
St. Christopher
Val Mustair
St. Sebastian
Val Mustair

 

Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair

 

Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
March 1991
Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
Carolingian frescoes on the north wall.
Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
The north apse.

 

 

It is said that Charlemagne founded a monastery here towards the end of the eighth century. In the 12th century it became a convent. The convent church was originally Carolingian - a single space with three apses. It was converted to a Gothic hall church by the addition of two rows of columns to form a nave and two aisles.

Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
Carolingian fresco on the north wall.

 

Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
The south apse.
On the left a statue of Charlemagne.
Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
Fresco in the south apse.







Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair

 

 

What is still remarkable about the church is the series of Carolingian frescoes remaining on the walls, dating back to around 800 AD. Today they have lost much of their colour but are still a remarkable relic of 1200 years ago.

The apses were painted over in the Romanesque period. The central apse was being renovated in 2018 but we had been able to see it on a previous visit in 1991.








Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
Fresco in the south apse.
Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
Romanesque fresco in the south apse depicting the stoning of St. Peter.
Monastery of St. Johann, Mustair
Romanesque fresco in the north apse depicting the crucifixion of St. Peter and beheading of St. Paul.

 

Guarda & Scuol

Graubunden
From the Fuorn Pass looking east towards Val Mustair.

The road through Val Mustair rises in the west to the Fuorn (Ofen) Pass. On a bright sunny morning we drove up to the pass which lies at over 2,000m above sea level, on our way to explore some villages in the Engadin Valley to the north of Val Mustair.

Graubunden

The road from Val Mustair reaches the River En at Zernez, close to where the Upper Engadine becomes the Lower Engadine. Here we turned north.

Graubunden
The road to Guarda, surrounded by mountains.
Guarda
Guarda
Guarda
Guarda

The beautiful village of Guarda stands high on a mountain terrace 1653m above sea level, facing a string of high peaks. There is a car park just outside the village and a short uphill walk brings you to the cobbled streets and traditional painted houses.

Guarda
Guarda
Guarda

Guarda

Guarda

 

The views of the mountains are beautiful and a track connects villages along the mountainside - it would make a fine hike.

Guarda
Guarda

 

Guarda
Guarda
Scuol
Scuol
Scuol

 

 

Eastwards to Scuol, another very attractive village. We were well out of season and barely saw another soul as we wandered the streets of these villages, but in summer they are very popular.

 

Scuol
Scuol

Scuol

Scuol

 

Scuol

 

Scuol
Scuol
Scuol
Scuol
Scuol
Scuol

 

 

References

  1. Switzerland, A Phaidon Cultural Guide, 1985