Canton of St. Gallen

For other uses, see Sankt Gallen.
Kanton St. Gallen
Canton of Switzerland

Coat of arms
Map of Switzerland, location of St. Gallen highlighted
Location in Switzerland
Coordinates: 47°20′N 9°10′E / 47.333°N 9.167°E / 47.333; 9.167Coordinates: 47°20′N 9°10′E / 47.333°N 9.167°E / 47.333; 9.167
Capital St. Gallen
Subdivisions 85 municipalities, 8 districts
  Executive Regierung (7)
  Legislative Kantonsrat (180)
  Total 2,025.54 km2 (782.07 sq mi)
Population (12/2015)[2]
  Total 499,065
  Density 250/km2 (640/sq mi)
ISO 3166 code CH-SG
Highest point 3,248 m (10,656 ft): Ringelspitz
Lowest point 396 m (1,299 ft): Lake Constance
Joined 1803
Languages German

The canton of St. Gallen (German: Kanton St. Gallen  Sankt Gallen ; dialectally /saŋkˈalːə/, [3] French: Canton de Saint-Gall, Italian: Canton San Gallo, Romansh: Chantun Son Gagl) is a canton of Switzerland. The capital is St. Gallen.

Located in Northeastern Switzerland, the canton has an area of 2,026 km² (5% of Switzerland) and a resident population close to half a million as of 2015 (6% of Switzerland). It was formed in 1803 as a conflation of the city of St. Gallen, the territories of the Abbey of St. Gall and various former subject territories of the Old Swiss Confederacy.


Map of the historical territories now united in the Canton of St. Gallen: Imperial City of St. Gallen, Imperial Abbey of St. Gallen, County of Toggenburg, Rapperswil, Uznach, Windegg (Gaster), County of Sargans, Pfäfers Abbey, Werdenberg, Lordship of Hohensax, Barony of Sax-Forstegg and Rheintal.

The canton of St. Gallen is an artificial construct of various historical territories, defined by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Act of Mediation in 1803. About half of the canton's area corresponds to the acquisitions of the abbey of St. Gallen over centuries.

The city of St. Gallen became independent of the Abbey in 1405. At the same time, the Abbey lost control of the Appenzell. Conversely, the Toggenburg was acquired by the Abbey in 1468. Both the City and the Abbey were associates (Zugewandte Orte) of the Old Swiss Confederacy, but unlike Appenzell never joined as full members. The territories at Lake Zürich, Walensee and Rheintal remained independent until 1798. In the Helvetic Republic, the northern parts of the modern canton together with Appenzell became the Canton of Säntis, while its southern parts together with Glarus became the canton of Linth.

Early history of St. Gallen

The founding of St. Gallen is based on the Irish monk Gallus (ca 550–620 or 640), who built a hermitage at the river Steinach in 612.[4] Around 720, one hundred years after Gallus's death, the Alemannic priest Othmar built an abbey and gave it the name Abbey of St. Gallen.

In 926 Hungarian raiders attacked the abbey and surrounding town. About 1205 the abbot became a prince of the church in the Holy Roman Empire.[4] In 1311 St. Gallen became a Free imperial city. By about 1353 the guilds, headed by the cloth-weavers guild, gained control of the civic government.[4]

Allies of the Old Swiss Confederacy

In 1415 the city bought its liberty from the German king Sigismund.[4] In 1405 the Appenzell estates of the abbot successfully rebelled and in 1411 they became allies of the Old Swiss Confederation. A few months later the town of St. Gallen also became allies. They joined the "everlasting alliance" as full members of the Confederation in 1454 and in 1457 became completely free from the abbot.[5]

However, in 1451 the abbey became an ally of Zürich, Lucerne, Schwyz and Glarus who were all members of the Confederation. In early 1490 the four cantons supported the Abbot against the rebellious city and the Appenzell. Following their victory the Confederation took ownership of the city of St. Gallen and rejected the inroads of the empire.

Early modern history

Starting in 1526 then-mayor and humanist Joachim von Watt (Vadian) introduced the reformation in the city of St. Gallen. The town converted to the new reformed religion while the Abbey remained Roman Catholic. While iconoclastic riots forced the monks to flee the city and removed images from the city's churches, the fortified Abbey remained untouched.[6] The Abbey would remain a Catholic stronghold in the Protestant city until 1803.

Modern history

Before the 1798 French invasion, the territory of the modern canton consisted of the free city of St. Gallen, the territories of the Abbey of St. Gallen (including Fürstenland and Toggenburg), the free city of Rapperswil, Pfäfers Abbey, Sargans and the independent lordships (bailiwicks) of Rheintal, Sax-Forstegg, Hohensax, Werdenberg, Windegg and Uznach.

In April 1798, the territories of the later canton of St. Gallen were divided between the Cantons of Säntis and Linth of the Helvetic Republic (along with Appenzell, Glarus and parts of Schwyz. However, the two new Cantons had immediate financial problems and were forced to institute a number of unpopular taxes and laws. The Abbey was secularized on 17 September 1798 and the Prince-Abbot Pankraz Vorster fled to Vienna. The unpopular laws and the closing of the Abbey caused unrest throughout the area. When the War of the Second Coalition broke out in 1799, an Austrian army marched into eastern Switzerland and returned the Prince-Abbot to his throne at the Abbey. However, his victory was short lived. The Austrian and Russian armies were defeated outside Zürich and the French Army returned to St. Gallen driving the Prince-Abbot out. In 1803, as part of the Act of Mediation, the area joined the Swiss Confederation as the Canton of St. Gallen.[7] The cantonal constitution of 1803 was revised in 1814. Because of the confessional heterogeneity of the canton's population, the 1814 constitution did unusually organise matters of religion, marriage and education not on a cantonal level but introduced a twofold division (confessional dualism), with separate Protestant and a Catholic assemblies subordinate to the legislative cantonal assembly (Grosser Rat). The constitution was revised again in 1831, introducing elements of direct democracy. Due to continuing confessional squabbles over the organisation of schools, the canton eventually placed education under its authority in 1861. The constitution was yet again revised in 1890, with a stronger emphasis on direct democracy. The 1890 constitution remained in effect, with numerous later changes, until 2001, the date of the latest revision of the cantonal constitution.


Gigerwaldsee, Calfeisental

The canton is located in the north east of Switzerland. It is bounded to the north by Lake Constance (Bodensee). To the east lies the Rhine valley. Over the Rhine are Austria (state of Vorarlberg) and Liechtenstein. To the south, the canton of St. Gallen is bounded by the cantons of Graubünden, Glarus and Schwyz. To the west lie the cantons of Zürich and Thurgau.

The two half cantons Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden are completely surrounded by lands of the canton of St. Gallen.

The main rivers of the canton are the Rhine, Thur, Linth and Seez. The topography changes from the plains, near river Rhine and Lake Constance, towards the mountainous areas of the Alps in the south (Appenzell Alps and Glarus Alps). About one third (619.7 square kilometers (239.3 sq mi)) of the canton is wooded, while nearly half is 9,790.6 km2 (3,780.2 sq mi) is used for farming. 278.6 km2 (107.6 sq mi) of the farm land is alpine pastures. Of the rest of the canton, 259.1 km2 (100.0 sq mi) is considered unproductive while 176 km2 (68 sq mi) is filled with housing or roads.[8]

The altitude above the sea-level varies from 398 m (1,306 ft) (the lake of Constance) to 3,251 m (10,666 ft) (the Ringelspitz). The canton includes portions of the lake of Constance (54 km2 (21 sq mi)), of the Walensee (rather over 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi)), and of the lake of Zürich (10 km2 (3.9 sq mi)), and several small lakes wholly within its limits.[5]

The mountains of the canton include part of a thrust fault that was declared a geologic UNESCO world heritage site, under the name Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, in 2008.

Political subdivisions



Since 2003 the canton is subdivided into 8 constituencies (Wahlkreise) replacing the districts (Bezirke).


There are 86 municipalities in the canton (As of 2009).[9]


Federal election results

Percentage of the total vote per party in the canton in the Federal Elections 1971-2015[10]
Party Ideology 1971 1975 1979 1983 1987 1991 1995 1999 2003 2007 2011 2015
FDP.The Liberalsa Classical liberalism 23.6 25.1 27.6 27.5 24.0 20.0 17.0 16.9 14.7 13.6 12.3 14.3
CVP/PDC/PPD/PCD Christian democracy 44.0 43.3 44.1 40.8 39.4 35.8 31.0 26.2 22.2 21.4 20.3 16.6
SP/PS Social democracy 14.6 15.1 18.0 16.3 11.4 13.1 16.2 17.1 18.4 14.7 16.7 14.2
SVP/UDC Swiss nationalism * b * * 1.9 * * 8.4 27.6 33.1 35.8 31.5 35.8
Ring of Independents Social liberalism 7.0 8.0 8.2 10.2 10.1 9.3 4.1 1.9 * * * *
EVP/PEV Christian democracy 3.0 * 2.1 * 2.3 * 1.7 1.3 1.5 2.0 1.8 1.8
GLP/PVL Green liberalism 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.1 6.0 4.9
BDP/PBD Conservatism * * * * * * * * * * 3.8 3.6
PdA/PST-POP/PC/PSL Socialism * 0.4 * * * * * * * * * *
POCH Progressivism 0.4 0.5 * * * * * * * * * *
GPS/PES Green politics * * * * * 6.2 4.9 4.0 7.1 6.4 6.4 5.7
FGA Feminist * * * 3.3 5.3 c * * * * * *
SD/DS National conservatism * 2.2 * * 2.1 3.1 2.0 1.4 0.8 0.7 * 0.3
Rep. Republicanism 7.0 5.4 * * * * * * * * * *
EDU/UDF Christian right * * * * * * 1.0 1.0 1.1 1.0 1.2 0.9
FPS/PSL Right-wing populism * * * * 5.1 12.6 10.2 1.0 * * * *
Other 0.3 * * * 0.2 * 3.4 1.8 1.3 1.2 * 1.9
Voter participation % 62.0 53.5 45.0 44.0 43.6 42.9 41.0 43.6 42.8 46.8 46.8 46.5
^a FDP before 2009, FDP.The Liberals after 2009
^b "*" indicates that the party was not on the ballot in this canton.
^c Part of the GPS


88% of the population is German-speaking.[11] The main centres of population are the capital St. Gallen (69,700 inhabitants), Jona (18,100), Wil (17,500) and Gossau (17,000). [12] As of 2007, the population included 97,461 foreigners, or about 20.9% of the total population.[13] The majority of the population (as of 2000) is Roman Catholic (52%) while a large minority is Protestant (28%).[14]


Agricultural activity consists predominantly of dairy farming and cattle breeding in the mountainous areas. In the plains fruit and wine production are important, but there is also mixed farming.

Industries of the canton include optical goods, pyrotechnics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Tourism plays an important role in the many resorts. There is a thermal spa in Bad Ragaz and another in St. Margrethen and a great number of winter sports facilities.


Higher educational institutions include the Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil and the University of St. Gallen.

Notes and references

  1. Arealstatistik Standard - Kantonsdaten nach 4 Hauptbereichen
  2. Swiss Federal Statistical Office - STAT-TAB, online database – Ständige und nichtständige Wohnbevölkerung nach institutionellen Gliederungen, Geburtsort und Staatsangehörigkeit (German) accessed 30 August 2016
  3. "St. Gallen". – Das Portal der schweizerischen Ortsnamenforschung. Zurich, Switzerland: Schweizerisches Idiotikon.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "St Gall". The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 24. New York: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company. 1911. p. 4. Retrieved 2008-11-15.
  5. 1 2 "St Gall (canton)". The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 24. New York: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company. 1911. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 2008-11-15.
  6. Switzerland is Gallen History accessed 20 November 2008
  7. St. Gallen (Canton) in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  8. Swiss Federal Statistics Office (2008). "Arealstatistik – Kantonsdaten nach 15 Nutzungsarten" (Microsoft Excel). Retrieved 2009-01-15.
  9. "Liste officielle des communes de la Suisse - 01.01.2008". Office fédéral de la statistique. Retrieved 15 December 2008.
  10. Nationalratswahlen: Stärke der Parteien nach Kantonen (Schweiz = 100%) (Report). Swiss Federal Statistical Office. 2015.
  11. Federal Department of Statistics (2008). "Wohnbevölkerung nach Hauptsprache, nach Kantonen und Städten". Retrieved 2009-01-16.
  12. Swiss Federal Statistical Office - STAT-TAB, online database – Ständige und nichtständige Wohnbevölkerung nach institutionellen Gliederungen, Geburtsort und Staatsangehörigkeit (German) accessed 30 August 2016
  13. Federal Department of Statistics (2008). "Ständige Wohnbevölkerung nach Staatsangehörigkeit, Geschlecht und Kantonen" (Microsoft Excel). Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  14. Federal Department of Statistics (2004). "Wohnbevölkerung nach Religion" (Interactive Map). Retrieved 2009-01-15.
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