The Petersgasse in Basel
19 November 2021
The two central hills in the centre of Basel are a few hundred metres apart. The hill of the Münster has been inhabited and cultivated since Celtic times. The murus gallus and archaeological site near the cathedral of Münster is a reminder.
In the fifth century, the bishop moved into this location when he left the Roman city of Augusta Raurica, today’s Kaiseraugst, eight kilometres upstream of the Rhine. The hill was a safe refuge when the Alemanni invaded the region.
The cathedral, the bishop’s palace and the monumental residences of the lords of the chapter still dominate the Münsterplatz. From the 12th century onwards, wealthy burghers and aristocracy also inhabited the immediate surroundings of the Münster.
Wealthy merchants in the 18th century and industrialists in the 19th century built their palaces on this hill and the banks of the Rhine. The Martinskirche, built in the 11th century, was the most parish church in this neighbourhood. The hill of the Münster is opposite the Roche towers.
Basel of the craftsmen and guilds, which became increasingly powerful from the 12th century onwards, is located on the opposite hill. Picturesque medieval streets, alleys and houses define the image of this district. The St. Peterskirche and the St. Leonardskirche, two former abbeys from the 11th century, dominate the scene.
Both abbeys were dissolved around 1529 at the time of the Reformation. Since 1572 (the year of the Bartholomew’s Night in Paris), the St. Leonardskirche has been the French Evangelical Reformed Church of Basle (L’Église française reformée de Bâle).
Erasmus (1466-1536) also lived in this part of Basel in the house Zur Alten Treu from 1522-1529 as a guest of his friend-publisher-printer Johannes Froben (1460-1527). It was the period of the Reformation and the dissolution of the nearby abbeys. Erasmus is buried in the Münster on the other hill in 1536.
The St. Peterskirche is still the centre of this medieval quarter and its attractive buildings, such as the Rosshof (horse yard) and residences of the notables of the time.