Der Wägitalersee (kanton Schwyz). Foto/Photo: TES

The secrets of the Wägital

An autumn hike along the shores of the Wägitalersee (canton Schwyz)  gives everything the Alpine landscape has to offer: mountains, forests, meadows, a lake, streams, a village, farms, cows, sheep and on this day (5 October)even beautiful weather.

In October 1847, 175 years ago, it was not idyllic in Wägital and its two villages Innerthal and Vorderthal, however. The canton mobilised men for the army of the Sonderbund. This successor to the Sarnerbund, dissolved in 1841, united the Catholic cantons of Zug, Lucerne, Freiburg, Valais, Schwyz, Obwalden, Nidwalden (Unterwalden) and Uri in 1845.

These conservative cantons wanted to keep their sovereignty and opposed the Protestant and liberal cantons. They were in favour of a strong federal government. The cantons St Gallen, Tessin and Solothurn also supported this constitutional concept, although they were predominantly Catholic. The Protestant cantons of Basel-Stadt and Neuchâtel and the Catholic Appenzell Innenrhoden remained neutral.

The liberal cantons had the majority in the Tagsatzung (the assembly of representatives of the cantons). They did not recognise the Sonderbund.
The armed conflict began with the (anti) climax of the battles at Gisikon and Meierskappel in November 1847. The Sonderbund lost this short (civil) war of 25 days. The winning cantons of the federation showed reconciliation and magnanimity, however.

The new Constitution of 1848 created a weak federal government, and then only after the consent of the cantons and citizens. They remained and are the sovereigns.
The cantons had equal voting rights in The Council of States (Ständerat/Conseil d´États) or Second Chamber. The Council of States had the same rights as the National Council (Nationalrat/Conseil fédéral). Both chambers could initiate federal laws or decisions, and both had to agree.

This concept gave the smaller and fewer Catholic-conservative cantons an acceptable (counter) voice in the federal system. Catholic education and the catholic church were given constitutional rights as well.


Life was quiet again in the Wägital after 1848. Until 1924. The village of Innerthal disappeared to make way for the reservoir created after the dam’s construction. The village and its church will be rebuilt higher up the hill.

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: René Roca, Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, HLS