Local History

Oensingen, St. George. Foto/photo: TES.

The Romans, Alemanni and Swiss-Italians in Oensingen

The castle of Neu-Bechburg (see under Monuments) from the 11th and 12th centuries still defines the skyline of Oensingen and testifies to the importance of the ancient trade route.  More than a thousand years earlier, this place was an important traffic junction in Roman times.  The pass over the Great St. Bernhard was of great importance. Emperor Claudius (10 BC – 54 AD) made this mountain pass accessible 43 AD  in preparation for the invasion of England.

This road led from Martigny (Forum Claudii Vallensium) to Avenches (Aventicum) via Oensingen (Roman name unknown) to Windisch (Vindonissa). Another road led from Oensingen via Langenbruck to Kaiseraugst (Augusta Raurica).

Oensingen was the largest Roman town after Olten and Solothurn (Salodurum) in the area of the present canton of Solothurn. In the vicinity of Oensingen, the remains of several Roman villas and many other archaeological objects have been found. Celts (the tribe of Helvets) and their predecessors already inhabited this area centuries before Roman times.

The name Oensingen has an Alemannic origin. After the departure of the Romans around 410 AD, the Alemanni entered the area of present-day Switzerland.

The church of St. George, in the centre of the village, was probably built on Roman foundations. The first mention of this church dates back to 968. Little else is known about this medieval and probably Roman and Gothic building history. Solothurn remained Catholic during the Reformation.

The present church was built in the middle of the sixteenth century.  From 1643 to 1648 it was rebuilt, and in 1773 Paolo Antonio Pasoli (1738-1804) applied the current architecture and (Baroque) decoration. Paolo helped his uncle Gaetano Matteo Pisoni (1713-1782) from 1763 bis 1770 with the construction of St. Ursen’s Cathedral in Solothurn. It also explains the similarity and Italian influences.  The centre of the village and its beautiful houses from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also show the prosperity and importance of this village.