At the entrance to the cemetery, right by the main road, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is not to miss. The chapel was built right with the Carolingian convent, thus is more than 1200 years old. Very interesting is the cloverleaf ground plan, also that two chapels are placed one on top of another. The upper chapel has frescos from the 9th and 10th century. There is also a woodcarved ceiling from 1520 inside.
The chapel is still closed for restoration but the works make good progress and will soon be finished. In the meantime there are guided tours about weekly in summer for the interior. Please see the "events" on www.muestair.ch for further information.
As I mentioned in the intro I was able to see different rooms on my two visits of the museum. Picture 5 was taken on my first visit; it is not to see anymore as far as I know. The woodpanelled room, one of the Bishop's apartment's rooms, is very beautiful. It is the one with the oriel to the courtyard where you can wander around (see first tip).
The museum is highly interesting. First you enter the northern of the two other, smaller courtyards and walk along the former cloisters (the nuns have moved to the southern courtyard) where you can catch a glimpse of the chapel of St. Ulrich and St. Nikolaus (one chapel above the other) which was built as part of the Bishop's residence from 1035. Finest early Romanesque architecture! Unfortunately not to visit :(
You then enter the Planta tower, the oldest preserved secular building in the Alps, fortified and used as residence, built in 960. The name was give by abbess Angelina von Planta who commissioned the restoration of the tower after the fire in 1499. You can see the dorms with cells of the nuns, the refectory, some more beautiful, woodpanelled rooms and an excellent exhibit of Carolingian works of art, mostly marble reliefs.
For opening hours and admission fees see their website. Basically it is open all year round except 25 December but only for 2-3 hours in the mornings and afternoons. Admission was 12 CHF in 2011.
The main attraction of the convent is the church, and in the church *the* sight are the famous frescos from about the year 800 but also these from the Romanesque period, created 1150 - 70. Some of the Carolingian frescos were covered by the Gothic vaulted ceiling that was built 1492, restorers re-discovered them when going up to the attic in the 19th century. In 1908 and 09 these frescos were removed and brought to the Swiss National Museum in Zürich where you can still see them. The other Carolingian frescos were hidden under the Romanesque frescos and only uncovered in 1947 (when the Romanesque frescos went on the same way to Zürich).
It's not the place to write in detail about the frescos here - go and see yourself or do a search on the internet. Just that much: Both the Carolingian and the Romanesque frescos are among the greatest existing anywhere. It's not just one fresco, they are cycles with many scenes that cover all the walls, culminating in the apses. The Carolingian frescos are rather dark, in red-brown colours, impressionistic and made to see from a distance while the Romanesque frescos are bright, colourful, expressionistic.
You will be fascinated by the frescos, but please don't miss the rest of the interior of the church: The statue of Charlemagne is an excellent work, created about 1170. Also see the relief on the northern wall from the 11th century (Christ on the crest of wave), the late Gothic tabernacle and the Baroque side chapel dedicated to St. Mary with the altar painting from 1621.
The legend says that Charlemagne founded this convent but in reality it was the Bishop of Chur. Due to recent archeological research we know it was about the year 775 that the first buildings were erected. Not much is left of those except for the church and some cellars and walls. Some other buildings are not much younger, though, like the Planta tower which is said to be the oldest secular building in the Alps, dating from the late 10th century.
About the year 1100 the Benedictine monks left the monastery and nuns of the same order moved in. The convent grew and was economically and spiritually successful with a few bad times - so in 1499, the war between the Bündner people and the Tyroleans - until the French troops caused some serious damage in 1799 and finally the Hapsburg government confiscated all the property that the convent owned in Austria. 15 nuns (I think) live in the convent at present and it seems they are back on a successful path.
A long flight of buildings borders right to the main road through the valley, a tower with a gate leads into the large courtyard - to the left side economy buildings like barn etc., on the right side the main buildings of the convent, on the opposite side of the gate (north) is another gate tower that leads to the fields and pastures and to a hiking path. The main entrance gate by the road is nicely decorated with a painting that shows the world upside down - a donkey playing the bagpipe in front of a noble guy. Three sculptures depict Immaculata, St. Benedict and Sta. Scholastika.
You're free to wander around in the courtyard and also to stroll over the cemetery to the right of the convent from where you have the best view of the church and Planta tower. The entrance to the museum as well as the church entrance are far right from the gate tower to the courtyard.
These frescoes were for centuries hidden under other paintings and this way conserved in such a great state. They were uncovered in the year 1947, about 1150 years after they were painted.
At this time the Byzantine influence was still quite strong in the religious art in Western Europe but competing with the Irish influence which is well noticeable in the frescoes in the St. Prokulus church in Naturns, about a 50 km down from here in the Vinschgau in South Tirol, which are from the same period and even a couple of years older than the frecoes here in Müstair. - I hope to build a page on Naturns and St. Prokulus soon.