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Carolingian Churches
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Kirche St. Peter* Mistail

Mistail | 7451 Alvaschein
A Carolingian church in a lonely position above the Albula gorge, built around 800 or a bit earlier on the former foundation walls of an older sacral construction. Oldest and best preserved complex of the Rhaetian tri-apsidal hall type.

Originally a women’s cloister, first mentioned in 926 and closed in 1154. By means of archaeological digs between 1968-69 and 1983-84 evidence of numerous previous buildings to the north and south of the present day complex has been found; further to the north a convent and to the south a memorial (preserved under protection). The tower and sacristy are from before a later consecration in 1397. The ossuary is from an indeterminate date. Restoration 1968-79.

Broad hall with three horseshoe shaped apses, the middle one being somewhat broader; evidence of a fourth apse on a north annex was found on the foundation walls in 1943. On an eastern gable of the nave, above the slate roofs of the apses the remains of the Carolingian bell truss can be seen. One high round-arched window under each of the apse calottes; two such windows in the south and west walls. Round-arched west entrance next to the Baroque tower, which stands apart and replaces the Carolingian tower; in the north wall, a round, arched door. Flat Baroque wooden slat ceiling dated 1640, hung onto the roof truss by means of a carved anchor beam. In the apses are three Carolingian block altars out of stone.

Significant wall frescoes in four layers:

1. From the Carolingian period, sparse remains of painting along the walls of the nave and in the south apse related in style to the ones in Müstair.

2. Gothic frescoes in the upper-Italian character from ca. 1400/10 created by the so-called Mistail master, one of the few remaining examples of the ‘soft style’ in Switzerland; in the middle apse is Christ Pantocrator, surrounded by four angles with lecterns (= Evangelists) and the evangelists’ symbols; below these along the first strip are the Apostles, in the second strip are Saint George with the dragon, a holy knight (perhaps Saint George as a young knight) and an epiphany; on the north wall is an extraordinarily large Christophorus picture.

3. Seemingly archaic paintings most likely by a local master, dating probably around 1397 on the north wall; Saint Gallus, consecration of the church by Peter and the so-called Sunday Christ.

4. Fragments of a 17th century Baroque painting on the front walls of the middle apse.

(Kunstführer durch Graubünden, Hg. Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte. Eng. translation of the title: Art Guide of Graubünden, ed. Society for the History of Swiss Art, Zurich 2008. This book has only been published in German.)

Literature St. Peter Mistail GR, Schweizerische Kunstführer GSK, Nr. 254, Bern 1979.