Ftan. Photo/Foto: TES

Ftan and the Contredanses françaises

The village of Ftan is located on the south side of a mountain ridge in the middle of Unterengadin, between Ardez and Scuol. There are two Ftans: Ftan Pitschen (the small Ftan) and Ftan Grond (the big Ftan).

The area extends north into the Silvretta region with the border of Paznaun (Austria), the Futschöl Pass and the 3230-metre-high Augstenberg (Piz Blaisch Lunga).

The great importance of the Futscho Pass has been proven by archaeologists, who have found traces of prehistoric human presence dating back 10 500 years. This region was also inhabited in the Roman period, including Alpine agriculture and cattle breeding.

The medieval ones also show centuries-old disputes between the villages of Ardez and Ftan over meadows and pastures and access to the Futschol Pass. The Counts of Tyrol, the Habsburgs, the diocese of Chur and the monasteries of Marienberg (South Tyrol) and Müstair disputed the rule of the Lower Engadine until the valley bought itself loose from Habsburg in 1652. By then, it had joined the Gotteshausbund.

Ftan has been hit by avalanches (1682, 1720 and current threats), fires (1723, 1784 and 1885) and wars (1499, Engadine, Schweizer or Swabian War (depending on perspective) and in 1622 during the Bündner Wirren (1619-1639).

It was a poor, mainly agriculturally oriented area. Some inhabitants of Ftans chose military careers and returned wealthy from French or Dutch service. For example, Jon Peider Schmid de Grüneg served the French king in the Bündner regiment and reached the high rank of lieutenant colonel. Augustin de Saint-Aubin (1736-1807), gravure 1774, La contredanse française.

The most relevant dances at the French court and for the bourgeoisie at the end of the eighteenth century were the contredanses and the menuet. (Bron: Erika Schneiter, “Contredanses in plaats van ordes: the ‘Contredanses françaises’ van Martin Peider Padrotsch Schmid von Grüneg zu Ftan”, in Bündner Monatsblatt, uitgave 5, 1992).

His nephew Martin Peider Padrotsch Schmid von Grüneg also served in this regiment and wrote the ‘Contredanses françaises’. It is how ‘Haute Culture’ reached the Engadine. Dances were essential to the education and culture of aristocratic society and the wealthy bourgeoisie.

In autumn 1792, after the storming of the Tuileries in Paris, priest Andrea Rosius à Porta (1754-1838) returned to his native village of Ftan, where he opened a private school on 1 October 1793, the Institut à Porta. He enriched education with Romanesque teaching material, “Il magister amiaivel” (the kind teacher). Due to competition from public schools, the institute closed its doors in 1869. But half a century later, The Hochalpine Institut Ftan opened its doors. In 1993, the boarding school was also founded the name changed to “Hochalpines Institut / Institut otalpin Ftan”.

(Source and further information: P. E. Grimm, J. Wirth, Ftan, Scuol, 2016)