Brunnen, die Bundeskapelle. Foto/Photo: TES

Brunnen, the Cradle of Switzerland and Swiss Abroad

The Bundesbriefmuseum in Schwyz (Museum of Swiss Charters of the Confederation)  stores the ‘Morgartenbrief’ from 1315. This document is indisputably authentic and is indirect proof of the first agreements of the Eidgenossenschaft at the end of the 13th century.

It is irrelevant whether the oath (Eid) on the Rütli, the meadow on the Seelisberg on the shores of Lake Urnersee, took place in 1291 or whether Wilhelm Tell existed, any more than Rome question Romulus and Remus or Athens the existence of her namesake goddess Athena.

The Seelisberg, the Rütli and the Weg der Schweiz

The story of the legendary Wilhelm Tell and the oath of Rütli (Rütlischwur) fit into the context of resistance by Orte (the name for cantons until the sixteenth century) in Unterwalden (cantons of Nidwalden and Obwalden), Uri and Schwyz against their Lords of Habsburg. The battle of Morgarten is a fact, as are other Habsburg defeats in 1386-1388, 1415, 1460, and finally 1499.

Brunnen on Lake Urnersee (a tributary of the Vierwaldstättersee) with the Kleine and Grosse Mythen. SBB Bahnhof Basel

Image: Hotel Weisses Rössli, the Kleine Mythen and the Grosse Mythen

Brunnen, The Kleine and the Grosse Mythen

These three Orte consisted of villages. The (military) prestige and economic interests of surrounding towns were so great that the cities of Lucerne, Zurich, Bern, Freiburg, and Zug joined these ‘ peasants’.

It was unique: cities allying with villages! There were many alliances of cities at the time, for example, the Hanseatic League in northern Europe, the Dekapolis in Alsace, or the Swabian League in southern Germany. None were long-lived.

The Urnersee 

However, the Swiss Confederation (Eidgenossenschaft) was a military superpower in the 15th century, as the supreme Duchy of Burgundy experienced in 1476 and 1477 and the French King until 1515. However, it was not a political entity but a loose association of sovereign cantons.

The Eidgenossenschaft of 8 cantons became the Confederation of 13 cantons in 1513, the Confederation of 19 cantons in 1803, the Confederation of 22 cantons in 1815, the Confoederatio Helvetica of 25 cantons (including six half-cantons, this term expired on 1 January 2000) in 1848 and finally the current Confederation of 26 cantons and republics with the new canton of Jura in 1979.

The Bundeskapelle (1635)

The village of Brunnen, with the grandeur of a small town and many other villages in Switzerland, symbolizes this history. The Bundeskapelle symbolizes the (slow) process from the union of states to the federal state of Switzerland. Other (religious) monuments in Brunnen-Ingenbohl include the Wendelinskapelle (1633), the 14-Nothelfer-Kapelle (1576), the parish church of St Leonard (1387), the Sust (1631), Monastery Ingenbohl (1856), the chapel of St Laurentius and Theodul (1595) in Wylen, the wooden bridge (1555) over the Muota and the Alte Hafenanlagen.

Moreover, Brunnen not only means source in German, the source of several streams and the Confederation. Brunnen is also the location for the Swiss Abroad (Auslandschweizer). The Auslandschweizerplatz, on the banks of Lake Urnersee near the Rütli, was inaugurated in 1991. This place represents the band of more than 800 000 Swiss Abroad with their fatherland (Heimat). The word and concept ‘Heimweh’ (homesick) originate from Switzerland!

(Source and further information: Gemeinde Ingenbohl)


Impressions of Brunnen

Brunnen lives up to its name. Several water sources crisscross the village. Here is the Dorfbach.

Seehotel Waldstätterhof (1870) welcomed, among others, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Winston Churchill, King Alfons XII of Spain, German emperors, and Thurn und Taxis family members. Richard Wagner (1813-1883) even called Brunnen his ‘Lieblingsort’. 

Hotel Weisses Rössli. King Ludwig II (1845-1886) of Bavaria in 1865 was the most famous guest. The immediate cause was Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) and his work Wilhelm Tell (1804). The king wanted to visit the Urschweiz and the Rütli, so great was the prestige of the young Confederation (1848)

Seeklinik Brunnen (1857) built on the foundations of Löwenstein Castle (12th century).

The Boulevard, the former Grand Palais, on the right

The Föhnhafen, from 1872, accommodates ships during a Föhn from the Gotthard massif. In medieval times, a harbour (Alte Hafen) was already at the mouth of the river Muota (Ruosaplerbach in Canton Uri). Many piles can still be seen, most dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Rowing on the Lake Lucerne (BRC from Basel, 24 and 25 June)

The Reuss Delta and nature park on the shores of Lake Urnersee near Flüelen

The Schiller Rock: Dem Saenger Tells F. Schiller. Die Urkantone 1859

The Tellkapelle