Gempen, its History and Nature

Nature is varied, and the Jura is at its best on the plateau of Gempen and Hochwald (canton Solothurn). Only the streams and ponds, which are so plentiful elsewhere in the Jura, are lacking. The region is well known for its fruit trees, forests, meadows, rocky outcrops and Alps views.

The history of Gempen is as varied as its nature. The Celtic tribe of the Rauraken inhabited the area and went to Bibracte, only to be devastatingly defeated by Caesar in 58 BC. In Roman times, a road led to nearby Augusta Raurica on the Rhine. Gempen is derived from the Latin name campanus (field or plain).

The Alemanni invaded the area around 270 BC, and after the departure of the Romans (410 AD), it was Alemanni territory. This era was followed by the Franks (Merovingians and Carolingians), the Holy Roman Empire, the Bishop of Basel and the city of Basel.

Solothurn acquired the village and the region after the Schwabenkrieg (Swabian War) in 1499. Gempen changed its religion in 1526, only to return to Catholicism of Solothurn canton after the Kappelerkrieg in 1531.

Dornach ruled the village with a bailiff. He resided in Dorneck Castle. The French invasion of 1798 marked the castle’s end. The ruins of the once mighty castle are prominently present on the hill.

Gempen’s last armed conflict was the Sonderbundskrieg of 1847. Five men fought alongside Catholic Solothurn against the Protestant Confederal cantons. All survived this short war. In the Second World War, the plateau was of great strategic importance. The Gempen Division was stationed in the area.

Today, the village is prosperous, with Sonnhalde as its most important landmark. Sonnhalde is an institution for children, youths and adults with mental disabilities.