The Autumn Market of Basel 1471-2023
27 October 2023
Basel’s autumn market (Heerbschtmäss) has been taking place since 1471. In 1721 and 1722 (pest), 1831 (cholera), 1918 (Spanish flu) and 2020 (Covid-19) the market was cancelled. The first market took place on October 27th, 1471.
Petersplatz, the market for crafts and artisans
More than 500 stands offer their products, food and drinks at seven locations: the Münsterplatz, Petersplatz, Barfüsserplatz, Messeplatz, Rosentalanlage and the Kaserneareal. The market is the largest in Switzerland and one of the largest in Europe.
In 1471 Basel was still part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (Heiligen Römischen Reiches der deutschen Nation). Basel joined the Confederation of Swiss cantons, the Eidgenossenschaft, in 1501. Moreover, Basel was not just any episcopal city; the bishop was also a Prince, Reichsfürst, of the Empire.
In 1471 Emperor Frederick III (1415-1493) granted the long-awaited permission for the annual market. The city had a good reputation 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 presence of publishers, printers, scholars, and humanists and good accessibility by water and land also increased the status.
The mayor Hans von Bärenfels (1430-1495) succeeded in 1471. He was one of the last aristocratic mayors. The Bärenfelserstrasse in Kleinbasel is named after him.
According to the charter, the autumn market must take place before 11 November, St. Martin’s Day. On the last Saturday in October this year, on 28 October, the bells of St. Martin’s Church ring at noon, and the market opens with a mass and closes on 12 November.
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) location for (military) parades, royal entrances and other high-profile visits, tournaments, processions and other events.
There have always been attractions, wild animals, elephants, games and other entertainment. The horse carousel ((Rösslìritti), the motor scooter (bumper cars), a roller coaster, a freefall tower and an ever-higher Ferris wheel were and are among the attractions.
(Source and further Information: www.herbstmesse.ch).