Landscape, Agriculture and Democracy in Entlebuch and Emmental

The landscape in the UNESCO Bioreserve Entlebuch (UNESCO Biosphäre Entlebuch) in Canton of Lucerne and the Emmental in Canton of Bern was created in a process spanning over 200 million years.

Oceans and seas, the formation of the Alps, cold and warm periods, the shape of lakes and rivers and the deposition of rocks and sediments and consequently their disappearance formed the current landscape. These areas, on the edge of the Alps and overlooking the Jura, are characterised by their hills, mountainous landscapes, and marshlands (Moore).

The Steinmösli

The Räbloch in the Emmental is one of the results of this process. In the last Ice Age (28000-10000 BC), this area was covered by the Emme glacier. The Emme River was created by melting under the ice cap and working through the rocks for thousands of years. The present-day gorge with a height of 70 metres is the outcome. The Emme still goes under the natural stone bridge (Naturbrücke).

Räbloch, Naturbrücke and Emme

Today, crossing the border between the Entlebuch and Emmental goes unnoticed.
Entlebuch appears in the 12th century as “Entilibuoch” or “Entelinbuoch”. At that time, whoever cleared an area for arable and livestock farming, Lord Von Wolhusen, in this case, obtained the land. Around 1300, Habsburg acquired the area, but in 1405, Lucerne received Entlebuch as pledge and later owner.

Until 1218, the Zähringer ruled the Emmental. From 1218 to 1273, the Counts of Kyburg were the lords, and from 1273 to 1386 (Battle of Sempach), Habsburg owned the region. Since then, the Emmental has belonged to Bern. Different coins, weights, border stones and religions distinguished the Entlebuch (Catholic) from the Emmental (Protestant) for centuries.

A highly developed and specialised agricultural sector, (international) trade relations and resistance to the oligarchic government structure of the cities of Lucerne and Bern linked the inhabitants of both regions.

Escholzmatt, Franz Josef Stadler (1757-1833), minister, politician, school reformer, and ethnologist with a large European network

Escholzmatt, Monument to Christian Schybi (1595-1653), leader of the peasant’s revolt in the Entlebuch in 1653

This discontent eventually led to the peasant war (Bauernkrieg) of 1653 and an alliance of peasants from the Emmental and Entlebuch (and Solothurn and Basel). The immediate reason for the revolt was the deteriorating economic situation. However, the insurgents also wanted democratic and different governmental structures.

Although the uprising was not a short-term success, in the long term, it was another step towards thinking about new and more democratic power structures in Switzerland. This goal distinguished the peasant uprising in Switzerland from other peasant revolts in Europe, which mainly had practical improvements in mind.

A chamois


From Marbach or Escholzmatt (Entlebuch) to Schaugnau, Schallenberg and Röthenbach (Emmental), it is only a few steps, and this history is expressed only in monuments, historical publications and stories. Yet the region and its democratic movements are significant for the birth of the 1848 Constitution and direct democracy in 1874 and 1891.

The Swiss Alpine Club

The Swiss Alpine Club (Schweizer Alpen Club, SAC/Club Alpin Suisse, CAS) regularly organises hikes in this area (and elsewhere) in the country.

(More information:

Naters, 1 212 m.