The City of Murten
10 October 2020
The history of Murten dates back to Celtic times. The name is deducted from the Celtic language and the word Mori-dûnum, meaning fort at the lake.
The settlement was part of the Burgundian Kingdom until 1032. The Dukes of Zähringen came into control after the dissolution of this kingdom in 1032.
The Dukes granted the town city rights around 1170. The dynasty died out in 1218, and Murten became a free imperial town in the Holy Roman Empire. Freedom was short-lived because Savoy took control shortly afterwards.
As a result of the Burgundian wars, Bern and Fribourg subjected the city in 1475. After the battles of Grandson and Murten in 1476, Fribourg and Bern governed the town until 1798, changing the bailiffs every five years.
The Outer Regiment (Das Äussere Regiment/ le Régiment extérieur) came into being in the 16th century. It was a kind of “youth parliament” avant la lettre. The youths held imaginary council meetings, held court and delegated bailiffs to administer the society’s assets. The society had its own flags, a sceptre, costumes, a lion mask and silver cups. The Outer Regiment organised the 10,000 Knights Day to commemorate the Battle of Murten (1476). Collection: Museum Murten
Collection: Museum Murten
The famous panorama of the battle of Murten (22 June 1476) has a length of more than 100 meters but is not on display. However, it can still be admired in the history museum through a video installation. Napoleon assigned the protestant city to the catholic canton of Fribourg in 1803. The catholic church was subsequently reintroduced after 1803.
Murten was a German-speaking town and still has a vast German-speaking majority, but French has a formal status as well.
The multicultural, multilingual and multireligious character of the city is omnipresent: the German and the French Church, the two languages, the Savoyard, German, French, Bernese, Neuchâtelois and Fribourgois buildings and their styles of various periods (Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque styles and nineteenth-century architecture and decoration).
The old port, the so-called Ryf district, was once a significant transport crossroads. Artisans plied their trade; there were town mills, inns, custom posts, warehouses, dock facilities and houses with storage facilities.
The draining of the flood areas in the region by the Juragewässerkorrektion (1868-1891) of the three lakes (Neuenburgersee/lac du Neuchâtel, Bielersee/lac du Bienne and Murtensee/lac du Morat) sunk the level of the lakes.
The construction of the present-day port and the quays in 1893-1895 changed the face of the Ryf. The port has only a recreational purpose nowadays.
(Source and further information: M.F. Rubli, The historical buildings of Murten, Murten, 1992).