Medieval architecture in Switzerland

The medieval architecture in Switzerland means the buildings religious, civil and military of the medieval period in the territory of Switzerland today.

Following the abandonment of the limes by the Roman Empire in 260, the Alamans (pagans) and Burgundians (already Christians) share territory except Ticino and Rhetia which remain under Roman influence. Between the vi th century and the vii th century, in Switzerland goes into hands of the Franks who develop Christianity.

The Burgundians build palaces and stone churches while the houses were wooden. The Alamans, meanwhile, settle in wooden houses in villages or isolated farvoiding Roman and Christian cities. With the Carolingian, the viii th century, appear the first castles and palaces.

From 1033 onwards, and the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Burgundy No. 2, the entire Swiss territory is part of the Holy Roman Empire, where the hierarchical order is based on a feudal system.

Religious buildings
The stability brought by the Franks makes it possible to extend Christianization to the countryside. The boundaries between the dioceses are progressively fixed allowing the construction of the first Christian buildings on the territory of Switzerland in Geneva (in the year 350 approximately) 1, to Octodurus (in the year 381).

The first monasteries are the territorial abbey of Saint-Maurice d’Agaune (founded in 515) and the convent of St. Gall (613) where, at the time of Gall, the houses of the monks were grouped in disorder around the church. Then there is the Abbey of Moutier – Grandval (640) and the Abbey of Einsiedeln (934). With the Carolingian period the buildings are monumental. The Benedictine convent of Saint John of the Sisters (780), the Cathedral of Basel (between 805 and 823) with its two towers, the Abbey of St. Gallen with its library (820 – 830).

The Romanesque architecture is present in Western Switzerland and the Valais, notably with the Romainmôtier Abbey, the Monastery of Payerne (965). The Cistercians will build the abbey of Hauterive (1138) and that of Bonmont.

With the Gothic architecture the cities are endowed with cathedrals symbols of power, like those of Geneva, Lausanne, Friborg or Bern.

The main dynastic families are the Lenzboug, Kyburg, Zähringen, Habsburg, Savoy, Counts of Frohburg, Neuchâtel, Rapperswil, Toggenburg and Werdenberg as well as the lords of Sax. Bishops and superiors of abbeys are then also powerful suzerains.

The families ensure their domination by the castles that serve as both housing and defense. Their locations are chosen based on considerations of strategic position or the ability to monitor the surrounding landscape. However, there are roadside castles like the castle of Nidau, surrounded by water like the castle of Chillon, on a height like the castle of Lenzburg, standing on rocky promontories like the castle of Mesocco, barring a valley, hidden in a cave (Balm, Vaz) or carved in the rock.

The simplest form of the castle is the isolated residential tower as in Hospental. In fact, they often consist of a residential tower around which are arranged two courses grouping together the commissary, stables and stables. Only a few large castles owned an apartment building with independent room and chapel like the castles of Berthoud, Chillon, Kybourg or Mesocco.

The nobility failing to win lasting, most of thousand castles that were Switzerland date back to the xi th century and the first half of the xii th century.

From the xiv th century, the power gradually changes the feudal lords to the cities. The castles are gradually dismantled, some are renovated and others are transformed. Towers of the castle of Chillon are raised after 1375, the castle of Lucens is rebuilt in 1476, the castle of Neuchâtel is enlarged in a Baroque style. In Bellinzona the fortifications of the city are enhanced by a wall and a series of castles, castles of Bellinzona, made between the xiii th and xv th century including the Castelgrande (xth and xi th centuries) are registered in the world heritage of UNESCO.

The Swiss cantons extend their sovereignty. They transform the castles into bailiwicks: Trachserwald (1408), castle Thun (1429), castle Aigle (1475) for example.

In addition, the old masters who have preserved their rights also transform their castles, like that of Frauenfeld.

New small urban agglomerations appear after the first millennium of the Christian era. Only Solothurn and Chur continued to exist in the middle of Roman camps, the other Roman sites having disappeared. The episcopal sieges of Basel, Constance, Lausanne and Sion have not established themselves at Roman sites but a little further and the cities of Avenches, Nyon and Yverdon-les-Bains benefit from their Roman past with the old fortifications.

Zurich, St. Gallen, Payerne and Schaffhausen organized around the royal palaces and cloisters favoring the establishment of craftsmen and markets were raised to the rank of city. Transalpine trade along the Rhine and San Bernardino, agglomerations of Chur (custotation at the x th century), Constance, Stein, Schaffhausen and Basel received the privileges granted to cities in the xi th century.

Founded by the great dynastic families, the cities are increasing the xii th century. They are preferably located at the junctions of major roads, at places controlling watercourses, in a river loop or at the edge of a lake. In Zähringen, there are Rheinfelden (1130), Berthoud, Thun (1152), Freiburg (1157), Murten (1170) and Bern (1191). The Frohburgs found Liestal, Waldenburg, Olten, Aarburg and Zofingen. The Kyburgs found Diessenhofen (1178),Mellingen (1230), Aarau (1240), Lenzburg (1240), Zug, Frauenfeld and Winterthur. The Habsburgs found Baden, Bremgarten, Brugg and Laufenbourg. The Savoie founded Aigle (1231), Morges (1286), Rolle, Romont and Yverdon. The bishops of Basel found Biel, Laufon, Porrentruy, Saint-Ursanne and La Neuveville. The bishops of Constance meltBischofszell and Neunkirch. Cities then try to obtain imperial immediacy in order to be able to dispose of themselves.

The cities are first surrounded by palisades which are then replaced in the High Middle Ages by walls and ditches.

Until the xiv th century houses were common in wood in timber, planks, trunks raised vertically and then wattle. From the x th century appear houses and stone apartment buildings. These are reserved for the local nobility, the dignitaries of the Church as well as the rich merchants. For example, the Grimmenturm of Spiegelgasse in Zurich or the Tavel House in Geneva as well as many towers in Schaffhausen and Basel.

With the increase of the population inside the enclosures, the place is missing. The upper floors are built in corbelling, workshops and shops take place in front of houses. Arcades appear mainly in Bern, Zurich and Eastern Switzerland. In these conditions (wooden constructions and very tight) fires are frequent and almost destroy the whole city. There were some in Lausanne in 1219, Schaffhausen in 1372 and Bern in 1405. From 1280, decrees were promulgated to reduce the risk of fire: obligation to cover roofs with tiles in Zurich in 1304 and, in following a fire in 1311, obligation to rebuild the ground floor masonry. But the wooden construction was banned in Zurich only in 1372 after a big fire and then in Geneva in 1387.

The stone is also imposed in Basel after the earthquake 1356 earth, but it will be noted that in French-speaking Switzerland and Italian, the continuity of the stone construction is attested since antiquity.

From the xv th century there are few new cities. There are about 200 of which the largest is Basel with 15,000 inhabitants. The growing cities, new walls as in Berne and Basel (see Article Wall of Basel), encompass the suburbs so that gates and ancient walls are now in the heart of cities, such as the Zeitturm Zug or the Zytglogge of Bern. Towns at the ends of lakes (Geneva, Lucerne) strengthen their defenses on the lake side. The Wasserturm and the Kapellbrücke in Lucerne are examples.

With the densification of the urban fabric, the distinction between the private space and the public space is increasingly difficult and the cities have to face hygiene problelack of sewers, diseases, rats and different kinds of stray animals). We build more and more in height, we create places and the main streets are widened. Water supply is improved by developing public fountains that were also used for laundry. The first fountains are wood and then stone. Bern has many, such as the fountain date Market xiv th century. In Basel, the fountain of Saint-Urbain is 1448 and in Friborg the fountain of the Samaritaine is 1552. The cobblestone streets are rare, Basel is the first city to take its cobblestone streets from 1387.

Bourgeois and patrician houses
The houses profane style Gothic appear in the xiv th century. Previously only the monuments of the church were stylish.

While in German-speaking Switzerland the walls are covered with rubble, often and especially in the north-east of Switzerland, with half-timbered floors and oriels, in French-speaking Switzerland preference is given to dressed stone. cornices between floors.

The typical urban middle-class house consists of a stone building of three or four storeys rising on a narrow and deep parcel (chesal). The ground floor is dedicated to a professional function (workshops, sales, storage, counter) and floors to housing (living room, kitchen, bedrooms). The provisions are in the galetas. At the time of the late Gothic, xv th century, the windows are now lined with windows and become prosperous elements (windows side by side tracery, for example Freiburg).

The nobility, the patrician-merchants and the high clergy live in the distinguished quarters: Junkerngasse and Herrengasse in Bern, Adelberg (Nadelberg), Rittergasse and Münsterplatz in Basel in particular.

Some representative houses: the Haus zum Rüden (1348) 5 in Zurich, the Bischofshof (1450) with a private chapel, the Domhof and the Engelhof (1477) in Basel, the Sässhaus by Bartlome May (1515) in Bern (Kesslerstrasse), the Haus zum Ritter in Schaffhausen, the Stüssihof zum Königsstuhl (1425), the Hotel Ratzé (1583-1586) in Freiburg and the Serodine house (1620) in Ascona.

Gothic Town Halls
The oldest town hall is Bern (1406). The one in Freiburg was erected in 1501-1502 by Hans Felder. It has a huge hipped roof, a round tower becoming octagonal, turrets and a covered pergola with double ramp.

Basel City Hall (1504 – 1514) has three parts built successively, the original central part has three arches leading to the inner courtyard, one of whose facades is decorated with a clock. Its red facades are characteristic. The Council of State Room is decorated with wood paneling and stained glass windows. Hans Holbein had made a mural (now missing).

The Sursee Town Hall (1539 – 1545) has its gable cut into tiers and a projecting tower with a lantern.

The boardroore strongly decorated: carved walls and ceilings as in Aarau, Basel and Zug, stained glass windows as in Baden and Basel or murals as in Basel and Geneva.

Source from Wikipedia