Bild: Morgarten Informationszentrum. Foto/Photo: TES

The Significance of Morgarten

On 15 November 1315, a battle took place at Morgarten (canton of Zug) between the first Eidgenossen (Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden) and Duke Leopold of Habsburg (1290-1326). Little is known about the course of the battle. Only the winner (the three Eidgenossen), the loser (Duke Leopold), and the ambush for Leopold are known.

The fact is that Schwyz had plundered the Habsburg monastery of Einsiedeln in 1314, and possibly Leopolod’s reaction was a punitive one. Another theory is the throne battle between Ludwig of Bavaria and Friedrich of Habsburg (Leopold’s brother) as German king in the Holy Roman Empire. Schwyz supported Ludwig.

Morgarten and the Ägerisee today

Nevertheless, Morgarten on the Ägerisee went down in history as the first battle of this Swiss Orte for more freedom and autonomy (not yet for independence and sovereignty, that was not an issue). Nobody foresaw or wanted the Confederation of 13 cantons in 1513, let alone the Confoederatio Helvetica of 1848. This development is another story.

The church of Sattel

On the Morgarten trail (themed path) through the region, the events of 1315 are (speculatively) recalled and pictured at various points. The trail starts at the Morgaten monument on the lake and leads to the parish church in Sattel (canton of Schwyz).

Morgarten Memorial (1908). This monument reflects the sensitivities between and the identity of the cantons. The memorial stands on the territory of Zug, then the loser and Habsburg territory in 1315. For this reason, Canton Schwyz, the winner, did not participate in the dedication on 2 August 1908. Federal involvement and the beautiful location on the Ägerisee led to the choice of canton Zug.

The information centre offers insights and extensive documentation on this history, explaining its significance through the centuries to the present day.
The Morgartenbrief or the ‘Bund von Brunnen’ of 9 December 1315 is a German document (Bundesbriefmuseum in Schwyz) and uses the term ‘Eidgenosse’ for the first time. It is a covenant between the “lantlüte von Ure, Szwits und Unterwalden”.

It was a covenant for mutual support, preservation of peace and conflict resolution: a Landfriedensbündniss (among other things about the use of grazing land, theft of cattle and other offences) and not a declaration of independence.

On the contrary, the lord of the land is recognised unless he does not recognise the rights of the Orte in connection with the autonomy already granted in the 13th century (Reichsunmittelbarkeit). These agreements were standard in many places in the Holy Roman Empire during this period. Only the ancient Eidgenossenschaft, however, made it through the 18th century and the French invasion in 1798.

The Morgarten Information Centre left the Letziturm, right the Information Centre and the oldest European Wooden House (1176). The Letziturm was the border between Schwyz and Zug, which still belonged to Habsburg in 1315.

Stefan Hawking (1942-2018) once replied to a question about the origin of the first minuscule beginning of the universe: “Then I’ll stop thinking; otherwise, I’ll go mad”.

Some writers might do the same instead of having endless scientific discussions and writing books on myths, legends or facts, William Tell, the Rütlischwur. 1291 or the Bundesbrief 1315. As if the goddess Athena (namesake of the city of Athens) or Romulus and Remus (founders of Rome) are subjects of similar discussions.

(Source: B. Meier, Von Morgarten bis Marignano, Baden 2008; Informationszentrum Morgarten). 

The chapel and its interior

The first Eidgenossen, Wilhelm Tell and Gessler in Europapark (Germany).

Impressions of Morgarten and surroundings