Müstair convent

Nestling in the remote Val Müstair lies the Benedictine Convent of St. John. If its thick walls could talk, they would tell an exciting and sometimes turbulent story spanning more than 1,000 years. Since the reign of Charlemagne, the strategically located convent would be the setting for major power struggles which had little to do with the Christian beliefs of its occupants. Today, though, peace reigns throughout the convent, where the resident community of twelve nuns go about their daily activities according to the Benedictine maxim of “ora and labora” (prayer and work).

Benedictine convent of St John in Müstair ©Presence Switzerland
Facts & figures


St. John Convent, founded in 780 A.D., originally a monastery before becoming a Benedictine convent in the 12th century.


Val Müstair, canton of Graubünden, Switzerland.

UNESCO inscription



Unique testimony to a civilisation that has disappeared (Criterion 3 of UNESCO Operating Guidelines).


The St. John Convent can trace its history back to the 8th century. Its church which is unchanged since Charlemagne, its exquisitely preserved early medieval frescoes and the oldest towerhouse in the Alps (from the 10th century) offer a glimpse into life in the early Middle Ages and the heyday of Christianity. The frescoes which brought the convent to worldwide attention were discovered in the late 19th century but were only fully uncovered in the 1940s. Since the 1960s the foundation “Pro Kloster St. Johann” has ensured the ongoing and systematic restoration of the convent and its buildings.  

World Heritage and Swissness

The history of the Müstair convent has been shaped by its role as a hospice on an old strategic Alpine trade route. Indeed, the Alps – an area that offers seclusion and retreat but is also an important transit route and meeting point – have shaped the history and myths of Switzerland. Some even claim that they have also shaped the Swiss mentality. According to the Swiss historian, Jean-François Bergier, there are two sides to Switzerland: on the one hand open, yet on the other closed with a fortress mentality, just like the mountains themselves.

This blend of openness and seclusion is also reflected in the lives of Müstair’s 12-strong community of Benedictine nuns. They live, pray and work in silent contemplation, yet welcome visitors. Discover more about Switzerland, its people and its history as well as the importance of the mountains on our website. 

Virtual tour

UNESCO world heritage - Benedictine convent of St John at Müstair
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA