Basel, Herbstmesse 2020. Foto/Photo: TES.

Autumn Market of Basel 1471-2020

The autumn market (Hèèrbschtmäss) in Basel is taking place for the 550th time this year. Actually for the 545th time. In 1721 and 1722 (pest), 1831 (cholera), and 1918  (Spanish flu) the market was canceled. This year, in 2020, there is no market either, but only the Ferris wheel and a food stall are present because of the Corona crisis.

In the Middle Ages, holding a market was only possible with the permission of the Lord. In 1471 Basel was still part of the Holy Roman Empire. Entry to the Eidgenossenschaft was not to take place until 1501. Moreover, Basel was not just any episcopal city, but the bishop was also Prince, Reichsfürst of the Empire.

In 1471 Emperor Frederick III (1415-1493) finally granted the long-awaited permission. Because of the Basel Council (1431-1449) and the support of Pope Pius II (1405-1464), who also founded the University of Basel in 1460, the city had a good reputation.

The presence of publishers, printers, scholars, humanists, and good accessibility also increased its status. The mayor Hans von Bärenfels (c. 1430-1495) finally succeeded in 1471. Von Bärenfels would be one of the last aristocratic mayors. The Bärenfelserstrasse in Kleinbasel is named after him. Basel joined the Eidgenossenschaft in 1501.

According to the charter, the autumn market must take place before 11 November, St. Martin’s Day. On the last Saturday in October, the bells of St. Martin’s Church ring at noon and the market opens with a church service.

Except for a few short interruptions (on the corn market in front of the Town Hall and on St. Peterplatz (1877-1982) the market takes place on the Münster. The Münster has always been the (medieval) venue for (military) parades, royal entrances and other high-profile visits, tournaments, processions and other events.

Food and many other goods are offered on the market. It is also an annual festivity for the inhabitants of the city. There have always been attractions, wild animals, elephants, for example, games and other entertainment. The horse carousel ((Rösslìritti), the motor scooter (bumper cars), a roller coaster, and an ever-higher Ferris wheel have long since been part of the attraction.

Until 2020, by then, only the 46-meter Ferris wheel will be lonely on the Münster because of the Corona crisis.