Local History

Solothurn/Soleure, Zeitglockenturm. Bold/Phote: TES.

A Short History of Solothurn

Solothurn (Soleure) has a long history dating back to the Celts and Roman times. The Celtic name of the settlement was Salodurum (watergate), a name adopted by the Romans. After obtaining the status of free imperial city (freie Reichsstadt) of the Holy Roman Empire in 1281 (after the last Duke of Zähringen) the city acquired the territory of the present canton of Solothurn in a process of centuries (the last enlargements date from 1530). The capricious borders of the canton indicate a complicated process of many centuries. Territory was disputed by (noble) families, (powerful) abbeys, other cities (cantons) and other contenders.

The many monuments and buildings show the religious, military, political and commercial development of the city. Solothurn, for example, remained Catholic, as witnessed by the Jesuit church (1680-1689) and the seat (since 1828) of the diocese of Basel. Basel adopted the Reformed faith in 1525-1529. The bishop first moved his residence to Porrentruy (Pruntrut) and from 1828 to Solothurn.

One of the many unique historical buildings is the Zeitglockturm from 1545. The astronomical clock has three functions. The clock indicates the hours of day and night and the sun and moon location of these celestial bodies. The tower was built in 1152 by Duke Konrad of Zähringen (1090-1152), as part of the castle. The defensive function of the city was also expressed between 1667 and 1727 by the construction of a new rampart and eleven bastions. Between 1835 and 1860, this imposing structure was almost completely demolished except for the Riedholzturm and the Krummturm.

The many beautiful streets and well-maintained public and private buildings and monuments give a good impression of the grandeur and wealth of this city, which for over two hundred and fifty years (1530-1792) housed a French embassy at the Confederation (Eidgenossenschaft). The lucrative commercial ties with France focused for centuries on the mercenaries business. The French king was very impressed by the Swiss fighting spirit and power. This trade financed many splendid public and private buildings of the city. The town is a true (baroque) jewel alongside the Aare river.