Local History

Samnaun-Dorf, Herbst 2020. Photo/Foto: TES.

Samnaun Valley

The border town of Samnaun (canton of Graubünden) has a special status. Its history goes back a thousand years.  The first mention of Samnaun dates back to 1089 in a charter of the Lord of Tarasp. Farmers from the villages of Ramosch and Vna in the Lower Engadin (Unterengadin) populated the valley of Saumnaun. The fertile climate made farming possible at an altitude of over 1 800 metres (see also the centuries-old agricultural terraces in this region).

They founded the villages Compatsch, Laret, Plan, Ravaisch, and Samnaun-Dorf. They all have their baroque or modern catholic church, because unlike the other villages of Unterengadin (except Tarasp) the valley remained catholic during the Reformation around 1530.

Politically, however, Samnaun shares the same history with Unterengadin. Samnaun also belonged to the county of Tyrol until the takeover of Habsburg in 1363. In 1652 all the villages bought themselves free of Habsburg (they already belonged to the Freistaat of the Three Leagues (Drei Bünde) as part of the League of God’s House (Gotteshausbund) led by Chur. The other two leagues were the  Gray League (Graue Bund) and the League of the Ten Jurisdictions (Zehngerichte Bund), see also Swiss Spectator under Middle Ages). From 1803 the area became part of the new canton of Graubünden.

Samnaun had been a customs town for centuries. From 1848 onwards, however, the customs post moved to Vinadi and later to Martina. Samnaun was only accessible via the alpine passes with Unterengadin/Switzerland. In winter, contacts were limited to Tyrol. For this reason, the Swiss Confederation granted the status of a customs-free zone with regards to goods from Tyrol. The construction of the road to Martina and thus Lower Engadin in 1912 did not change this situation for practical reasons.  Nowadays Samnaun is also known for its winter sports facilities and the still impressive nature. (Source and further information: www.samnaun.ch).