A Short History of Solothurn
11 June 2020
Solothurn (Soleure) has a long history that goes back to the prehistory, the Celts and the Romans. The Celtic name of the settlement was Salodurum (watergate), a name adopted by the Romans.
The town obtained the status of free imperial city (freie Reichsstadt) of the Holy Roman Empire in 1281. The city acquired the territory of the present-day canton of Solothurn in a process of centuries (the last enlargements are from 1530).
The capricious borders of the canton indicate a complicated process of many centuries. The 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 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 seat to Porrentruy (Pruntrut) and in 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 strong defensive wall and the eleven bastions were built in a process of centuries. This impressive 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 the city, which for more than two hundred and fifty years (1530-1792) housed the French embassy.
The lucrative commercial ties with France focused in particular 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.