Laufen, der Wasserfall. Foto/Photo: TES

Laufen, a portrait through History

In Roman times (15 B.C.-410 A.D.), a road ran from Val Terbi (canton of Jura) via Laufen and the Platten Pass to the Rhine Bend (Rheinknie) bei Basel and Augusta Raurica. The excavation of a large Roman villa revealed valuable artefacts.

The construction of the first St. Martin church is dated to the time of Frankish rule (6th-8th century). The settlement owed its name to the Birs’ waterfall, the “Laufen”. Laufen used to mean waterfall.

The Untertor (a. 1300)

Laufen was first mentioned in documents in 1141, when King Konrad III (1094-1152) donated the ‘Courtis Loufen’, previously owned by the monastery of St Blasien (Black Forest, nowadays Baden-Wurttemberg), to the prince-bishopric of Basel. Laufen received city rights in 1295.

Around 1300, the Count of Pfirt was the lord of the Dinghof Laufen. A Dinghof is the German name for an estate with its own jurisdiction in the Middle Ages. Half of it passed later to the Habsburgs by inheritance, while the other half went to the prince-bishopric.

The Lords of Ramstein of Zwingen Castle later became the new owners. In 1459, this dynasty extinguished, and the bishop of Basel acquired the territory and rights.

The Obertor (a. 1300)

The Wassertor (a. 1300)

Laufen concluded a treaty with the city of Basel (thus not with the bishop) and converted to the new faith in 1525. In 1589, however, Bishop Christoph Blarer von Wartensee (1542-1608, based in Pruntrunt) dissolved this treaty and implemented the Counter-Reformation. The bishop still owned the city.

The construction of the Baroque Katharina Church was completed in 1698. A chapel already stood on this site in the 14th century.

In 1792, France occupied Laufen, and the Raurakian Republic was declared (1792-1793). In 1793, Laufen was assigned to the Mont-Terrible department and, in 1800, to the new Haut-Rhin department.

By decision of the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), the town was assigned to the canton of Bern. Since 1 January 1994, following a referendum, the city has belonged to canton Basel-Landschaft.

The main cultural sights are the St. Katharinen church, the three city gates, parts of the city wall, the main street, the prehistoric dolmen and the Birs.

(Source and further information: Gemeinde Laufen)

The Birs

The Katharinenkirche

The former city hall, 15th century. 

Helias Helye

Museum Laufental

Monument 1914-1918