Rodersdorf, geschlossenes Zollhaus. Foto: TES.

The Language Frontier Between Rodersdorf and Biederthal

The Celts and Romans left their traces throughout the later village of Rodersdorf (Canton Solothurn). The walls and foundations of Roman buildings, fragments of wall paintings, the remains of a floor heating system, a smithy and a water mill are a few of the archaeological finds.

Almost nothing else is known until the twelfth century when the brothers Hugo and Conrad von Ratolsdorf were mentioned in 1197 in a document. The Lords of Ratolsdorf served the Counts of Pfirt and the Habsburgs after the extinction of the Counts in 1324. They became landgraves in Alsace.

The Von Biederthan (today, the neighbouring French village Biederthal in Alsace) also played a role. Their common coat of arms shows the kinship of the two families.

However, the circumstances changed over time. The rise of the wealthy bourgeoisie in the cities of the Swiss Confederation made life for the nobility increasingly difficult.

Imperial Austrian-Habsburg troops plundered Rodersdof in the Swabian War (Swabenkrieg) in 1499. After the defeat of the Habsburgs, Solothurn acquired the village of Rodersdorf and the surrounding estates.

Biederthal became French after the Thirty Years’ War and has remained so ever since, although the “Wir wöllent Schwyzer werden!” slogan had prevailed for a long time in this part of the Alsace (and the Black Forest in today’s Baden Württemberg).

In the turmoil of the Reformation (around 1530), Solothurn behaved in an astonishingly democratic manner for its time, as did, for example, the cantons of Glarus, Appenzeller and Zurich.

The canton initially appointed a priest or a minister depending on the majority vote of the citizens. Later, however, the Catholic belief prevailed everywhere in the canton of Solothurn.

This frontier between France and Switzerland has been fixed since 1648. Oberrheinalemannisch was the spoken language in both Rodersdorf and Biederthal until Napoleon made French the national language and compulsory in education.

After the First and the Second World Wars, a language border separated the two villages, but the customs posts were (formally) abolished.

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