Donatyre, 11th century. Photo: TES.

Donatyre and Romanesque Art in Switzerland

From the 11th to the 14th centuries, the area of present-day Switzerland was not a political unity.

Several dynasties (a.o. Habsburg, Kyburg, Zähringen, Savoye, Swaben), small local rulers, the German emperor and powerful abbots and bishops (Geneva, Sion, Lausanne, Chur, Basel, and Constance) ruled over smaller or larger areas. These areas lay on the borders of great centres of Romanesque art:

Lombardy inspired the Romanesque style in Grisons, Zurich, Tessin, and Eastern Switzerland.  Schaffhausen, Basel, and Northern Switzerland were mainly influenced by Southern Germany.

Lausanne, Sion and Geneva focused on Burgundy, the Abbey of Cluny and the Auvergne in particular. Romanesque art encompassed many regional styles.

Switzerland became the meeting point of different styles of Romanesque art. The inaccessible mountain areas in Grisons feature many objects of (pre) Romanesque art — for example,  in Müstair, Zillis and Mistail.

The Romanesque buildings in urban areas have been replaced by Gothic or Baroque styles, although some of the Romanesque foundations or details survived (Chur, Sion, Zurich, Basel or Schaffhausen).

Churches in smaller towns (e.g. St. Ursanne, Payerne, Romanmôtier, Montchrenand or Donatyre) escaped the fate of such renovations.  Some secular Romanesque buildings still exist, for example, in Maienfeld or Habsburg.

(Source: H.-R. Meier, Romanische Schweiz, Würzburg 1996).

Romanesque churches along the Thunersee