Der Bundespresident Ignazio Cassis, 12. Oktober Mustair. Foto/Photo: TES

Müstair, Symbol of Swiss Unity

The Swiss government (Bundesrat/Conseil fédéral) has been meeting once or twice a year at a different location, extra muros, of the Federal Palace (Bundeshaus) in Bern since 2010. On 12 October, the government was present in Müstair (Val Müstair/ Münstertal) in canton Graubünden.

The government met with the Regenza (cantonal government) intra muros of the monastery (Claustra Son Jon) and later joined the valley’s population on the Plaz Grond.

The meeting in Müstair is the 17th extra muros meeting. The government affirms the country’s diversity and wants to strengthen its ties with the cantons and the people.

Müstair is not just any place. It was here that Charlemagne founded St Johann’s Monastery (Claustra Son Jon) around 775 and his wife the church of St Maria a few kilometres away. Moreover, near Val Müster, the battle of Calven (South Tyrol), Chalavaina in Romansh, occurred on 22 May 1499.

The Engadinerkrieg

This war of the Eidgenossen against Habsburg is also called the Engadinerkrieg. Emperor Maximilian (1469-1519) invaded Unterengadin and Val Müstair in 1499, intending to control the valley and the important Umbrail Pass. It began an escalation and became a regional conflict in the South of Germany. That is why this conflict is also called the ‘ Schwabenkrieg’.

The troops of the three allies (the Gotteshausbund, the Zehngerichtenbund and the Obere or Graue Bund) were the victors. It led to the creation of the Freistaat der Drei Bünde in 1524. The republic existed until 1798 (French invasion) and, in 1803, became the new canton of Graubünden, named after the Graue Bund.

Vlag van Graubünden - Wikipedia

At the 1499 Treaty of Basel, the Habsburgs disappeared from Swiss territory for good as a secular power, apart from the Lower Engadine and the influence of Habsburg-friendly bishops of the diocese of Chur, some abbots of abbeys and local rulers.

The last fighting between Habsburg on one side and the Freistaat der Drei Bünde on the other occurred during the Bündner Wirren (1619-1639). Graubünden was a side battleground in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) between Austrian and Spanish Habsburg and its local Bündner allies on one side and France and her (Bündner) allies on the other. It was also a civil war.

Habsburg formally ruled the Lower Engadine until 1652/1653. In that year, the villages bought themselves free. These had been closely associated with the Gotteshausbund since 1367 and, in fact, already belonged to the Freistaat der Drei Bünde.

The bishop of Chur owned the rights to Val Müstair. This region was also affiliated with the Gotteshausbund. He sold the valley to Habsburg in 1728. However, the villages in Val Müstair, in turn, bought themselves free in 1762. Apart from Rhäzuns (until 1819) and Tarasp (1803), Habsburg no longer had political ties with Graubünden.

Romansh language

The Romansh language was still the primary language in Graubünden at this time. However, German-speaking Alemanni from the seventh century on and Welsh immigrants from the twelfth century were gaining ground.

Three hundred and fifty years after 1653, a minority of 55 000 inhabitants of the canton speak Romansh: it is more than the new canton of 1803!

The Plaz Grond in Müstair

Graubünden is still trilingual (Romansh, Italian and German). Romansh consists of five idioms. In Val Müstair, Jauer is the spoken language. This language is similar to Vallader but has its own identity and history. Graubünden symbolises the diversity of Switzerland par excellence. The physical shape of the canton even bears some resemblance to the country.

Markus Caduff presents his gift to the President of  Federation Ignazio Cassis

The meeting of the government and the Regenza showed some similarities with the Landsgemeinde, which also used to exist in Graubünden. Markus Caduff, president of the Regenza, and Gabriella Binkert Becchetti, mayor of Val Müstair, welcomed the government, also in Romansh.

In his speech, Federal President Ignazio Cassis referred to Switzerland’s multilingualism and diversity. As a participant in a Vallader course in Scuol in 2021 and one of the initiators of federal support for the Romansh language and culture, he began his speech in Romansh.

Donna Leon, living in Sta. Maria, and Ignazio Cassis.

In this context, he also confirmed Switzerland’s right to exist: the will of the 26 cantons and their citizens to live in the Confederatio Helvetica, which they founded in 1848.

Nor does the (travel) distance between Geneva and Müstair or Lugano and Basel change that. Switzerland is a Willensnation. The citizens and cantons always have the last word, in 1815, 1848 and 2022.

The Landsgemeinde no longer exists in the canton. Still, the earnest, friendly, somewhat solemn mood and direct contact between residents and municipal, cantonal federal administrators resemble it. It was a meeting ‘Swiss-style’. The country and its inhabitants benefit from it.