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Coat of arms of the Constaffel

The Constaffel (today called Gesellschaft zur Constaffel ) is a lounge society founded in 1336 in Zurich , Switzerland . During the Brunschen guild constitution, it comprised the representatives from the ministerial aristocracy as well as the merchants and the noble craftsmen ( citizen patriciate ) in the city council of the imperial city and later city republic of Zurich. In the period from 1336 to 1798, Constaffel provided 22 of the 68 mayors .

During these 462 years, the changing composition, competencies and tasks of the council were laid down in seven «jury letters». With the repeal of the Bruns guild constitution on April 12, 1798, the beginning of the Helvetic Republic , the members of the Constaffel organized themselves into the non-profit "Gesellschaft zur Constaffel" - their guild house is still the " Haus zum Rüden " in Zurich.

Definition of terms

"Constaffel" derives from the Latin comes stabuli on what analogy, with equerry to be translated one in France and England first for the owner of the royal steward and later as Conétable or Constable usual for the top military leader in wartime official title. In legal texts, however, the residents (citizenship) of a castle, a city or a city district were also referred to as Constaffel .


As the noble Rudolf Brun skillfully exploited tensions in the aristocratic and commercial ruling class, in Zurich, as in other cities in the Holy Roman Empire, there was a revolution of the guilds against the merchants and noble craftsmen represented in the council, the so-called "notables". The well-prepared revolt of the craftsmen and nobles broke out on June 7, 1336 with a storm on the town hall. The members of the presumably meeting “Summer Council” could only save their lives by fleeing. On June 8 or 16, 1336, the rebels gathered in the Barfüsserkloster , where their leader, Rudolf Brun, was appointed mayor of the city by the people's assembly. Most of the councilors who fled in time were banned from the city with their families after the night of the murder in Zurich and their property was confiscated. Knights, noblemen, pensioners and the notables who dominated the council until June 1336 were summarized in the Constaffel based on the "Strasbourg oath letter".

Political position of the Constaffel

The «Small Council» of the City of Zurich, newly constituted with the guild constitution, organized itself into two council groups, the «Natalrat» (Christmas council) and the «Baptistalrat» (after John the Baptist ). The 26 Baptist councils ruled from December 25th in the first half of the year, the 26 Baptist councils from June 24th in the second half of the year. Each council group consisted of 13 constaff councilors - six nobles and seven citizens from Constaffel - and 13 guild masters. The election of the 13 members of the Constaffel each in the six-month council, who retained the previously customary designation councils (consules), was carried out by a commission of six members appointed by the mayor, two of whom had to belong to the nobility. There were an equal number of guild masters (Scabini) in the "Half-Year Council". The 13 craft guilds each elected a guild master for the two council groups, one ruling and one standing still. In the 15th century, the “Small Council” was formed from two half-yearly councils with twelve guild masters each (the guilds were reduced to 12) and twelve constaff members as well as two councils of free choice and the two alternating mayors. The "Small Council" was government, parliament and the highest court at the same time. Because the councilors ruled and judged at the same time, they possessed an enormous amount of power.

Without a formal founding act, the “Grand Council” was formed around the middle of the 14th century from the citizens advising the council, which was called in on all council matters that appeared to the executive small council to be “too difficult” . The Constaffel sent 28 members and the guilds 168 members to the Grand Council (including the Small Council). In addition, from 1384 onwards, there were two mayors and six councilors, who were elected by the «Grand Council» itself. This council was called "The Two Hundred" or "Council and Burger". From the 16th century onwards, the business dealt with included, for example, the collection of taxes, the purchase of sovereign rights, alliance resolutions, the decision on war and peace and the coinage legislation. With the reduction to twelve guilds, the Grand Council consisted of the 50-strong Small Council and the 144 "Twelve" (12 representatives for each guild) and the 18 "Eighteen" (18 Constaffel Councils), i.e. a total of 212 members, together. Only with the «2. Sworn letter »In 1393 the dominant position of the mayor and the historically Habsburg- friendly Constaffel was restricted. The guild masters also became fully authorized councilors, and the office of mayor was no longer just the privilege of the Constaffel.

Duties and duties of the Constaffel in the late Middle Ages

A male , symbol of Constaffel on the city banner, as the patron of the city of Zurich, symbolized by the Haus zum Rüden , the Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten and the Grossmünster , on a relief on the Haus zum Rüden.

The Constaffel retained the leadership of the city ​​banner and the appointment of the mayor, who was to be elected for life. The Constaffel and the guilds were not only economic and political but also military organizations. The council of the Brunschen guild constitution was formed from them, as well as from the members of the city nobility and the merchant patriciate, who provided the knighthood and thus the core and leadership of the military armed forces and the political leadership. A citizen could only get into the council through the guilds, likewise a council seat was reserved for nobles and patricians only through the Constaffel. Exactly how the Constaffel was composed around 1336 needs clarification, but evidence suggests that it consisted of the various core groups in the form of drinking rooms (regulars' table cooperatives).

In addition to their professional, military and social function, Constaffel and guilds also had a social component: care for their members and the funeral system. This went hand in hand with the founding of the Common Constaffel in 1417, a late medieval brotherhood with military, but also non-profit and ecclesiastical-religious purposes, whose coffers (assets) were retained as “ Constaffelgut ” after the Reformation .

Decline of the urban nobility and change to the bourgeoisie

New Year's 1694 sheet by Constaffler and fireworkers depicting the warship Neptune returning to the ship's head in the military port of Zurich

Already at the end of the 14th century, due to emigration, social decline and the extinction of leading Zurich aristocratic families up to the Old Zurich War, the Constaffel began to lose importance, and consolidation took place after the Waldmann trade in 1489.

With the «3. Jury Letter 'of 1489, the right to vote was also introduced in the Constaffel for the councilors to be delegated; H. organized the Constaffel as a political guild. In accordance with the considerably lower proportion of the population, four Constaffel and two Constaffel councilors per year of office were now delegated to the small council (previously 24), and the remaining 18 Constaffel council seats were newly regulated: 12 as guild council seats to the guilds and six as councilors of free choice, to which Constafflers and members of the guild could be elected.

In the council resolution of December 6, 1490, known as the “Constaffelbrief”, it was determined that - originally from wealthy and noble families and sometimes women - “people” who could not be accommodated in any guild should be called “Constaffel and should be” . Over time, in addition to rear-seaters (settled people without citizenship ), she was also assigned "poorly respected people and people without wealth" and the executioner . This opening, forced by the council, led to a split in society into the “Stübli” (old core) and the “bourgeois Constaffel”.

During the Reformation , the Constaffel continued to lose importance after nobles and respected families, mostly confessing Catholics, had withdrawn from Zurich. But the Constaffel consolidated itself again by recruiting influential personalities from the guilds. Around 1523 they formed the civil Constaffel, who had to pay Stubenhitzen (annual contribution to the heating costs in the guild house) and did not receive full ownership of the "Haus zum Rüden".

In 1679 the council transferred the guild house to the "Noble Society", the former drinking room society of the male, which at that time no longer accepted (non-aristocratic) members, but offered them conditional membership as a room heating. In 1713 the "Bürgerliche Constaffel" comprised book printers, bookbinders, glaziers, pastry bakers, owners of comestibles shops, dyers and "everyone who is not tied to any particular guild for their work, trade and handicrafts" .

Loss of political importance

Members of the Constaffel in front of the Haus zum Rüden (Sechseläuten 2010)

With the arrival of French revolutionary troops in 1798, the guild regime in Zurich was abolished. Constaffel and guilds gained importance from 1803 with the act of mediation and again in 1815, as one of the thirteen constituencies and the municipal electoral guilds. In 1838 electoral guilds were abolished at the cantonal level and in 1866 also at the municipal level. With this, Constaffel and the guilds finally lost their political importance.

The "Haus zum Rüden"

« Haus zum Rüden » on Limmatquai , in the background the Zunfthaus zur Saffran and the Haus zur Haue .

Since 1348 the " Zunfthaus zum Rüden " on the Limmatquai has been the meeting house of today's Society of Constaffel. In 1868 the "Noble Society" sold the guild house to the city and in 1878 it was dissolved. From the official constaffel electoral guild, a "relaxed, joyful and hard-drinking circle of members" had already formed around 1820 , which had formed into a guild society around 1841 and issued statutes, the so-called "Sechseläutenfonds". In the new legal form as an association , today's “Gesellschaft zur Constaffel” was established in 1899, which acquired the “Haus zum Rüden” in 1937, returned to its original location and, like all municipal guilds, participates in the Sechseläuten .


  • Markus Brühlmeier, Beat Frei: The Zurich guild system , 2 volumes. NZZ Buchverlag, Zurich 2005. ISBN 3-03823-171-1 .
  • Martin Illi: History of Constaffel, from Mayor Rudolf Brun to the 20th century . NZZ Buchverlag, Zurich 2003, ISBN 3-03823-021-9 .
  • Martin Illi: Konstaffel (Constaffel). In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  • State Archives of the Canton of Zurich : Brief Zurich Constitutional History 1218–2000 . Published on behalf of the Directorate of Justice and the Interior on the day the Zurich Constitutional Council was constituted on September 13, 2000. Chronos, Zurich 2000, ISBN 3-905314-03-7 .
  • Hans-Jörg Gilomen , Anne-Lise Head-König, Anne Radeff (eds.): Migration to the cities, exclusion - assimilation - integration - multiculturalism . Chronos, Zurich 2000, ISBN 3-905313-43-X .
  • Niklaus Flüeler, Marianne Flüeler-Grauwiler (Ed. And Editor): History of the Canton of Zurich. Volume 1: Early to Late Middle Ages. Werd Verlag, Zurich 1995, ISBN 3-85932-158-7 .
  • Sigmund Widmer : Political Aspects in the Development of the Guilds . In: Central Committee of the Guilds of Zurich (Ed.): 650 years of Zurich guilds. Zurich 1986.
  • Sigmund Widmer: Zurich - a cultural history. Volume 4: Guilders and Mercenaries. Zurich and Munich 1977.
  • O. Sigg, R. Jagmetti ( inter alia): Guild glory 1336–1798 . In: 650 Years of Zurich Guilds, 1336-1986. Zurich 1986.
  • Adolf Weisser: The night of murder in Zurich. A historical picture from the German city life of the 14th century . Meyer & Zeller, Zurich 1856.

Web links

Commons : Constaffel  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Martin Illi: Konstaffel (Constaffel). In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  2. ^ Website of the Zunft zur Letzi , History of the Guilds
  3. ^ Website of the Zunft zur Letzi , History of the Guilds
  4. Source: Website of the Zunft zur Schmiden ( Memento of the original from April 23, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Guilds. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. a b Website of the Central Committee of Zurich Guilds ( Memento of the original from February 10, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Guilds, Brief Description, Constaffel: “… With a council resolution of 1490 (“ Constaffelbrief ”), the Constaffel Society was assigned to further groups of people: Hintersäss (settlers) living and settled in our city of Zurich, so they have no guild… Lüt in the [city quarter] Kratz or others".  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Website of the Central Committee of the Guilds of Zurich ( Memento of the original from September 16, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Sechseläuten  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  • City archive Zurich VII. 179. Archive of the Zunft zur Schmiden 1336–1986