Basel, City Wall St. Alban. Photo/Foto: TES.

The City Walls of Basel

Basel’s first medieval city wall was built by Bishop Burkhard von Fenis around 1080, shortly before the foundation of the monastery St. Alban (1083).

At that time, Basel consisted of two communities: Grossbasel and Kleinbasel. The first Rhine Bridge (today, the Mittlere Brücke from 1905) was built around 1225. The town walls were reinforced and extended in both parts of the town.

However, the great earthquake of 1356 also caused significant damage to these works. In 1360-1398, the city wall was restored. They built two walls: an outer wall and an inner wall. In 1473, the outer wall was expanded because of the threat of war against the Duchy of Burgundy.

This war took place in the years 1474-1477, but far from Basel in Grandson (current canton Vaud/Waadt), Morat (Murten, present canton Fribourg/Freiburg) and finally in Nancy (Lorraine).

Three outer wall towers have been preserved: Spalentor, St. Johannstor and St. Albantor. After the Swabian War (Schwabenkrieg, 499) and the unrest about the division of Basel into Canton Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft (1833), the city had not been threatened militarily since the new Confederation in 1848.

Only the Sonderbundskrieg (a brief civil war between cantons) of 1847 was a short period of uncertainty. The outer and inner walls quickly fell prey to urban expansion after 1860. A (renovated) part of the city wall in the St. Alban district has been preserved. This wall once surrounded the many water mills, paper industries, and the monastery St. Alban, abolished in 1529.