Saint John Nepomuk and tramway 10 of Basel
7 February 2022
The world’s most international and inter-cantonal tramway is number 10, which runs from Dornach (canton of Solothurn) via villages in canton Basel-Landschaft (a.o. Arlesheim, Binningen and Bottmingen), the city of Basel (canton of Basel-Stadt) and the village of Leymen in Alsace (France) back to Rodersdorf (again canton of Solothurn).
The course of this tramway of almost 27 kilometres says something about the capricious borders of the cantons and these countries. This tramline also connects a historical figure, even a saint. John Nepomuk (1350-1393) was a priest and the confessor of Sophia of Bavaria (1376-1425), wife of King Wenceslaus of Luxembourg (1361-1419), a Roman-German king in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
He resided in Prague, the most important city in Bohemia (Czech Republic). Not only the grandeur of Prague finds its origin in this period, but also the statue of Nepomuk on the Charles Bridge in that city is related to it.
Wenceslaus had Nepomuk executed by drowning in the Vltava (Moldau) River because the priest did not want to violate his wife’s confessional secret (with a political conflict between the bishop and the king in the background). Nepomuk was canonised in 1729. He is the patron saint of the secrecy of confession and bridges.
For this reason, his statue is on the bridge over the Birs in Dornach, although the saint did not prevent the bridge from being destroyed in 1813 by the high waters of the Birs.
Near Rodersdorf, in the Alsace village of Wolfschwiller, stands a little chapel dedicated to this saint (Jean Népomucène in French). The old chapel was destroyed in the French Revolution in 1789 and renovated again in 1893. Hikers of the Swiss Alpine Club (Schweizer Alpen Club, SAC) occasionally perform the Dona Nobis Pacem at or in the chapel for his and later their own salvation.
Albert Hofmann (1906-2008) provided a quite different spiritual experience. He lived on the Rittimatti in the Swiss municipality of Burg in the Leimental. He discovered LSD in 1943. He became very old, which cannot be said of all users of LSD in the Flower Power period of the sixties.
Burg Castle in Burg
The Rittimattenweg is part of a hiking trail from Rodersdorf via the French villages Biederthal and Lutter back to Rodersdorf. The source of the little river Birsig is in this area. The river flows through Basel and enters the Rhine underground at the Hotel Les Trois Rois. The first operator of the Birsigthalbahn company was named after this river in 1887, as is the Birsig viaduct in Basel.
The area has fertile clay soil that offers good opportunities for agriculture. Several castles still bear witness to its economic importance from the Middle Ages onwards.
The inhabitants In this French-Swiss border area can still communicate in the local Allemanian (Oberrheinallemanisch) dialect, although the knowledge of it is rapidly declining.
The Swiss Alpine Club
The Swiss Alpine Club (Schweizer Alpen Club, SAC/Club Alpin Suisse, CAS) regularly organises hiking trips in this region (and elsewhere).
Although the name suggests otherwise, the SAC not only organises ski tours, mountaineering and other sports in the high mountains and the Alps, but also (hiking) activities in other regions.
Proofreader: Adrian Dubock