Het Willisauerbergland. Foto/Photo: TES

The Willisauer Bergland

The canton of Lucerne has been a member of the Eidgenossenschaft or confederation of cantons since 1332. Initially a city-state, it gradually acquired more and more territory. In 1480, the canton reached its current size.

The canton comprises four geographical areas: the capital Lucerne and the surrounding area, the Entlebuch, the Willisauer Bergland, and a northern region.

The Willisauer Bergland takes its name from the town of Willisau and its famous delicacy. However, there are also delicacies of a very different kind to enjoy. In the village of Ettiswil, for example, the water castle Wyher.

Photo: Luzia Mathys

The endings of the names of the towns on ‘ingen’ and ‘wil’ refer to Alemannic roots. From the sixth century onwards, this Germanic tribe penetrated further and further into the territory of present-day Switzerland and replaced the Gallo-Roman language and culture.

Ettiswil’s history is closely linked to the monasteries of St Urban, Einsiedeln (canton of Schwyz), St Leodegar in Lucerne, Stift St Michael in Beromünster and several others. Ettiswil has also been a pilgrimage site since the fifteenth century. Lucerne remained Catholic in the Reformation and became a bastion of Jesuits and Baroque in the Counter-Reformation.

The St. Mauritius Basilica, the most baroque church of the Canton of Lucerne

St. Urban and its baroque interior

Jesuits were responsible for education after 1574. The Jesuits were trained at the Jesuit College in Lucerne or the Collegium Helveticum in (Habsburg) Milan.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, there was one priest for 600 inhabitants. They belonged to the ruling class of the canton. This led to a close relationship between the Church and politics.

The inhabitants of the countryside have always been resilient. The peasants of the Ruswil region rebelled against the city of Lucerne in 1513 (the Zwiebelkrieg), and in 1799 Ruswil was the driving force behind the unsuccessful revolt against the Helvetic Republic (1798-1803) of Napoleon. The ‘Ruswiler Verein’ was founded in 1840 as a forerunner of the conservative-Catholic party in the canton. It was a reaction to the liberal parties in the canton, especially in the city of Lucerne.

The canton’s new constitution in 1841 was a compromise. It emphasised the prominence of Catholicism and the Jesuits but also introduced direct democracy as early as 1841! And yet it went wrong in 1847, but with a happy ending with the new Federal Constitution of 1848.

Photo: Luzia Mathys. The Ostergau Area with and without fog

However, the area’s beauty has been immune to these political and religious developments. The rural character, the Ostergau nature reserve, wooded hills, lakes, farms and the Swiss life of cattle still define the varied landscape.

Photo: Luzia Mathys. 

landscape in the fog

The Swiss Alpine Club

The Swiss Alpine Club (Schweizer Alpen Club, SAC/Club Alpin Suisse, CAS) regularly organises hiking trips in this region (and elsewhere).

The SAC organises ski tours, mountaineering and other sports in the high mountains and the Alps and activities in other regions.

Source and further information: Franz Kiener, Luzern, Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz.

Roe dears in the field

The Soppisee. Foto: Luzia Mathys

The garden of Rita Lülof from Ettiswil in the wood

The village of  Geiss, its church and the medieval house