Brig, Stockalperschloss. Foto/Photo: TES.

Stockalper Castle in Brig

Kaspar Stockalper von Thurm (1609-1691) built this castle in 1658-1678, next to his residence in Brig (canton of Valais).

He was the wealthiest banker, merchant and entrepreneur in Valais. He controlled the postal services and trade over the Simplon Pass and became the Valais’s most influential politician and diplomat. He was also called the Fugger of the Alps.

The castle is one of the most significant Baroque buildings in Switzerland. The Renaissance features and the three towers of the complex are remarkable.

He gave the three towers the names Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, referring to the three kings who visited the newly born Jesus. For this reason, his other nickname is “King of the Alps”.

Brig was Catholic and founded the Ursulinen Monastery next to the castle in 1661. This monastery still exists. The Kollegium Spritus Sanctus, a Jesuit church and – school built on the opposite hill in 1662, was also his initiative.

Brig (and Naters on the other side of the Rhone) lie at the foot of the Simplon Pass, and the road to it was next to the castle. It was no coincidence. The castle controlled the transit trade and traffic over the pass, a lucrative business.

He was well acquainted with European kings and Popes. His trading empire extended to the Mediterranean and the (Protestant) Republic of the Seven United Provinces. However, he also traded with the Spanish Habsburgs, who were involved in the Eighty Years’ War with the Republic.

He received the highest honorary and noble titles from French, Austrian, and Spanish kings, emperors, and the Vatican. He was a devout Catholic during the religious wars (including the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648 and the lifting of the Edict of Nantes in 1685).

He became so powerful that the rulers of Leuk, Visp, Sitten, and Siders (four of the seven Tithings, Zenden or Zehnden in German, dizains in French) expelled him from Valais in 1679, forfeiting a large part of his fortune. In 1685 he could return through the mediation of his powerful European friends.

He was too powerful in the eyes of Upper-Valais rulers (Oberwallis). The other three Tithings were Brig, Raron and Goms.

The Seven Tithings of the Upper-Valais governed the French-speaking Lower-Valais (Unterwallis) as subject-territory or Untertanengebiet (territoire sujet in French) from 1512-1536 until 1798.

Kaspar Stockalper von Thurm gave Brig the appearance of a (Catholic) royal residence. The castle houses a museum nowadays, showing the history of the Simplon Pass, the postal service (Passage Simplon) and the Stockalper dynasty.

Source: Bernhard Truffer, Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, Valais,