History of the Valais

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The history of the Valais encompasses the development of the Rhone Valley above Lake Geneva since prehistory and early history. Settlements have been found in the great Alpine valley since the Mesolithic. During antiquity, the country previously inhabited by Celtic peoples formed the Roman province of Vallis Poenina , in the fifth century AD it became dependent on the Kingdom of Burgundy and in the seventh century on the Frankish Empire .

In the ninth century, an Alemannic ethnic group coming over the northern Alpine passes settled in the upper part of the area, which has since been divided into two language areas, the Romansh- Franco-Provençal Lower Valais and the German-speaking Upper Valais. Over time, the language border developed , which has been on a line west of Zermatt, Turtmann, Salgesch and Leukerbad since the late Middle Ages.

The independent history of the Valais begins with the granting of county rights in the Rhone Valley from Martigny upwards by the Burgundian King Rudolf III. to Bishop Hugo von Sitten in 999. Part of the Holy Roman Empire since 1032 , Valais came under the control of the Counts of Savoy in the 11th century . In several armed conflicts, the strengthening communities in the upper part of the country, organized in the Zehnden and represented by the district administrator since the 14th century , united with the Bishop of Sion , pushed back the Savoy rulership until they were castlane in the period of the Burgundian Wars in 1475 to conquer Saint-Maurice down and organize as subject territory. In 1536 the Chablais was added to the left of the Rhone up to Lake Geneva.

After the French Revolution , the people of Monthey and Martigny rose against the rule of Upper Valais in 1798 and in 1799 France forcibly conquered the whole of Valais and in 1802 established the formally independent "Republic of Valais", which was incorporated into the French state in 1810 as the Département du Simplon . In 1815, the Valais followed the recommendation of the Congress of Vienna to join the Swiss Confederation . The canton has been part of the new Swiss federal state since 1848 .

With the expansion of the pass roads over the Simplon (1805) and the Great St. Bernhard (1905) and the construction of the railway tunnels through the Simplon (1905) and the Lötschberg (1913), the Valais became an important modern transport corridor through the Alps. In the easily accessible area, new industrial regions emerged , the high mountains became a scene of alpinism in the 19th century and of broad tourism in the 20th century . Several railway lines ( Furka , Gornergrat , Châtelard ) and many cable cars were built for the tourist traffic, which became a main branch of the economy in the Alpine canton. Several major corrections to the course of the Rhone put an end to the often heavy flooding of the wide valley floor and allowed the cultivation of large fruit crops on the land. In the 20th century, energy companies from all over Switzerland built powerful hydropower plants in the mountain valleys , which further strengthened the opening up and economic development of some regions of the Valais. For the canton, road building in the mountains and the unexpectedly lengthy construction of the Rhone motorway have been a major challenge to this day. Since the second half of the 20th century, heavy building activity and urban sprawl led to difficult problems for spatial planning and maintenance of the infrastructure.


A number of institutions are engaged in research into prehistory, the oldest artifacts of which in Valais date back 35,000 years, including Cantonal Archeology and the Valais Archaeological Society .

Paleolithic and Mesolithic

The last glacial period (115,000-15,000 years ago), during which the Rhone Glacier once again penetrated far beyond what is now Valais, allowed people to stay in the peripheral regions of the mountain valley during warmer periods. This is where the oldest, around 35,000 year old artefacts of the Paleolithic come from the Tanay region (Gem. Vouvry ). They were discovered at an altitude of 1,800 m. After the end of this glacial period and the melting of the glaciers , the Rhone Valley became from 9000 BC. Chr. Committed by Mesolithic hunters and gatherers and partly also settled. Important sites are in the plain, for example in Vionnaz or in the Abri near the Mörderstein in Pfynwald (Gem. Salgesch ), but seasonal camps were also found at high altitudes, for example in the Val de Bagnes , around Zermatt or on the Simplon and Albrun passes.


End of the 6th millennium BC BC, shepherds and farmers can be identified in the Valais, probably partial immigrants from Neolithic communities on the southern side of the Alps, as the ceramic shows. Find places are in Sion on the alluvial cone of the Sionne and on the Tourbillon hill. The oldest cereal grains in today's Switzerland were found in Valais. They come from the 5th or 4th millennium BC. But the settlements were limited between 5500 and 2200 BC. On the lower elevations in the valley floor from Sion via Saint-Léonard and Raron (on the Heidnischbiel ) to Brig . At that time, goats and sheep and, more rarely, cattle were kept on the meadows above the tree line in summer (Alp Hermetje, municipality of Zermatt, at 2600 m). Cultural influences continued to come from the southern side of the Alps and then also from the Swiss Plateau and the lower Rhone Valley. The high Alpine crossings into the Po Valley were occasionally used.

In the 4th millennium BC The independent decor of the ceramics of the Saint-Léonard culture was created . Actual necropolises were built for burials at Sion, Saint-Léonard and Glis and at the entrance to some side valleys. Stone box graves of the Chamblandes type for individual deceased indicate close cultural relationships with the Lake Geneva region, the French Alps and northern Italy. From the beginning of the 3rd millennium, communal graves with dolmens visible above the ground appear. The necropolis of Petit-Chasseur in Sion, which was discovered during several excavations from 1961 to 2019, with its 13 tombs from the time of the bell-cup culture, is of European importance in archaeological research.

Bronze age

At the beginning of the Bronze Age (approx. 2200–1500 BC), members of the Rhone culture in Valais probably exploited the copper deposits in the Turtmann Valley , the Val d'Hérens and the Val d'Anniviers . Little is known about the Late Bronze Age, apparently the cultural influences on the southern side of the Alps predominate in Upper Valais. The settlements maintained their continuity. Fortified settlements arose above 1000 m in previously uninhabited areas, such as on the Schlosshubel in Grengiols , on the Kasteltschuggen in Zeneggen and at the Scex Rouge in Fully . For the Late Bronze Age, cremation burials are sporadically documented, individual burials with grave goods to mark social rank were common. As in other alpine regions, prestige objects such as needles, daggers and ax blades can be found up to great heights, for example on the Col de Torrent ( Evolène ) at an altitude of 2710 m.

Iron age

With the Iron Age, which took place in Valais around 800 to 15 BC. Cemetery fields appear up to medium heights. This was probably connected with the first permanent settlements, for example in Leukerbad , Oberstalden ( Visperterminen ) or Bluche ( Crans-Montana ). Some valleys such as that of Leuk or the Lötschental were now permanently settled for the first time. This is related to the growing transalpine trade. The Valais was in contact with communities on the north and south sides of the Alps. The small fortification Mur d'Hannibla built in dry stone on a high ridge in Entremont is an exceptional site .

Microregional peculiarities of clothing are shown e.g. B. in special ring jewelry made of bangles and anklets, which were called "Walliserringe" in the first publications. While cremation burials are occasionally documented in the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, in-body burials have now become the norm again ( Don Bosco necropolis in Sion). As in the Bronze Age, small fortified seats were built on heights, some of them connect with the castellas of the 1st century BC. In connection with which Caesar reports.


Although Caesar already mentioned places and Celtic tribes in the Valais in his report The Gallic War , for example the Seduni , who still live on in the name of the canton capital Sion (French: Sion ), the first written mention of Valais can only be found in the description of the coast Ora Maritima by the Roman writer Avienus . The work was written around the middle of the 4th century AD, but Avienus probably used a lost Greek source from the 6th century BC. Chr.

Avienus describes, among other things, the course and origin of the Rhodanus ( Rhone ); and he also mentions the peoples who settled the Valais at that time. At the source of the Rhodanus (i.e. in the Upper Valais) lived the Tylangians , further west the Daliterner (the name of the tributary Dala could be linked to this demonym ), in the Lower Valais the Clahilcer and at Lake Geneva the Lemenicer (a derivative of the ancient name of Lake Geneva Lacus Lemannus , cf. today French Lac Léman ). The origins of these tribes are in the dark, whether it was an indigenous population before the Celts immigrated must remain open. A connection between these mountain peoples and the Ligurians south of the Alps has been assumed, but can hardly be proven.

In the pre-Roman times, the Valais was inhabited by four Celtic tribes, as Julius Caesar reports: the Nantuats lived on Lake Geneva in the west, the Veragrians on the Rhone knee , the Sedunians in the Central Valais and the Uberians in the Upper Valais .

The Valais in Roman times

Drawing of the Great St. Bernard Pass

In his de Bello Gallico, Caesar describes the first campaigns for the conquest of Valais by the Romans (3.1-6). In the autumn of 57 BC BC he sent the Legio XII Fulminata with a cavalry division under the leadership of Servius Sulpicius Galba in the area of ​​Lake Geneva. Galba's goal was to secure the Alpine crossings, especially the Great St. Bernhard Pass . Galba approached the Valais from the north without much resistance and subjugated the Nantuaten and the Veragrer. He decided to set up winter quarters in the Veragrer village called Octodurus (in the area of ​​today's Martigny ); he left two cohorts in the Nantuaten area. The village of Octodurus was divided by a river (Dranse). The Romans would have set up a fortified camp in one half of the village and left the other half to the locals. In the meantime the Veragrer had received reinforcements from the Sedunians and stormed the fortified camp from all sides. After a defensive battle that lasted six hours, the Roman troops are said to have decided to withdraw and in the subsequent battle to have routed the attackers; of the 30,000 (?) barbarians (Celts, Gauls, Valais) named in the sources, every third is said to have fallen. Since the Romans were short of supplies and winter was just around the corner, they decided, despite the victory over the Celts, to clear the camp and burn the village down. Galba led his legion back to the Nantuaten area without losses and from there to the Allobrogern (Geneva region), where he moved into winter quarters.

Several surviving inscriptions provide information about social and political conditions in the Roman province.

Timetable of the province of Vallis Poenina (Wallis) 57 BC. Chr. - 454 AD

With the battle of Octodurus ( Martigny ) 57 BC. The attempt by the Romans to secure the direct route between Italy and Northern Gaul via the Great St. Bernard Pass failed .

15 BC It came to the conquest of the Central Alps by Tiberius and Drusus .

8 -6 v. There were first signs of loyalty from the Valais Celtic tribes of the Seduner and Nantuaten.

7/6 v. The victory monument Tropaeum Alpium was erected in La Turbie in honor of the emperor Augustus , whose inscription lists the names of the Valais tribes Uberi, Nantuates, Seduni and Veragri . The area of ​​the Vallis Poenina was initially incorporated into the province of Raetia et Vindelicum .

In 23 AD the four tribal communities (civitates) of the Vallis Poenina erected stone monuments in honor of Drusus the Younger , son of Tiberius and in honor of Caligula .

41-47 rose Emperor Claudius the Valais for their own province Vallis Poenina . The residents received Latin citizenship . It is not clear whether the regions Vallis Poenina and Alpes Graiae (Graian Alps) were administered together until the administrative reform of Diocletian around 300 AD or were possibly independent provinces. The capital of Alpes Graiae was Axima (Roman name: Forum Claudii Ceutronum ), today's Aime-en-Tarentaise . Under Diocletian, the province of Alpes Poeninae et Graiae was subordinated to the prefecture of Gaul.

Excavations in Forum Claudii Vallensium

Approx. 47 the capital Forum Claudii Augusti was founded near Octodurus. After the death of Claudius, the city was renamed Forum Claudii Vallensium .

From 47 onwards, the pass route of the Great St. Bernhard, which bore the Latin name Summus Poeninus , followed with milestones (starting point: Forum Claudii Vallensium).

In 69 part of Vitellius' legions crossed the Great St. Bernhard Pass in winter. In March, Aulus Caecina Alienus crossed the pass with his army.

The Martigny amphitheater (F. Claudii Vallensium) in 2000

Approx. In 100 the amphitheater was built in Forum Claudii Vallensium and the forum enlarged. Around 200 a mithra was created . In 253, Emperor Valerian had a nymphaeum and an aqueduct built in Forum Claudii Vallensium .

275–277 (?) Are said to have been repulsed at Acaunus (Saint-Maurice), the Alemanni who had invaded the Roman Empire from the Rhine . The province was apparently spared from destruction. However, the economy and trade suffered a severe setback.

Approx. In 300 Publius Acilius Theodorus consecrated an altar to the sun god Mithras in Forum Claudii Vallensium .

The legend written down in the fifth century says that in Acaunus ( Saint-Maurice ) it came to the martyrdom of the Theban Legion under the commandant Mauritius around 302 or 303 .

308–312, new milestones were set up along the pass road over the Great St. Bernhard ( Summus Poeninus ).

From 350 began the decline of the city and Civitas Forum Claudii Vallensium . The village was called Octodurus again and developed outside of the Roman center.

The Valais in Roman times

In 377 the provincial governor Pontius Asclepiodotus openly professed Christianity in Sitten (Drusumagnos?) And founded a first (?) House of God. Christianity gradually prevailed against the Gallo-Roman religions and the Mithras cult .

In 381, St. Theodor , also known as St. Joder von Octodurus, became the first bishop in Valais to be known by name . He was a participant in the Synod of Aquileia .

Approx. Between 350 and 400 the first episcopal cathedral of Octodurus was built on the outskirts of Forum Claudii Vallensium through the renovation of an existing Roman building.

In 443 the Burgundians were settled in western Switzerland under Aëtius .

Around 450 Bishop Eucherius of Lyon sent the Passion of the Martyrs of Acaunus to Bishop Slavius ​​from Valais. The Passion of the Martyrs of Acaunus is the first written source of the legend of St. Mauritius and the Theban Legion.

In 454, after the death of Aëtius, Roman rule in Gaul ended. The Valais was incorporated into the Kingdom of Burgundy .

The Valais in the Middle Ages

Head reliquary of Saint Mauritius in the monastery treasury of Saint-Maurice Abbey

The Burgundian King Sigismund founded the Saint-Maurice Monastery in 515 in honor of the martyrs of the Theban Legion and St. Mauritius . The place Acaunus was called Saint-Maurice since then . The Saint-Maurice monastery still exists today, making it one of the oldest monasteries in Europe.

In 534 the Kingdom of Burgundy was incorporated into the Frankish Kingdom after a military defeat ( Battle of Autun ). The incursion of the Germanic Lombards over the Great St. Bernard was stopped in 583 at the Battle of Bex.

When, in 563, a landslide occurred at a castle in the south of Lake Geneva near a village called Tauredunum that no longer exists , the so-called Tauredunum event caused a tsunami over the entire lake, which caused severe devastation on the banks and in particular in the city of Geneva. The incident is transmitted through reports from Bishops Gregory of Tours and Marius of Avenches .

Bishop Heliodorus moved the bishop's seat from Octodurus ( Martigny ) to Sion after the Longobard invasion in 585 . The church thus took over the administrative structure of the fallen Roman Empire. The diocese of Sion belonged to the Archdiocese of Tarentaise / Savoy until 1513 . This archbishopric corresponded geographically to the ancient Roman province of Alpes Graiae and Vallis Poenina .

In 610 the Alemanni defeated the Burgundians in the Aare valley; the dispute between Burgundy and the Alemannic, later Swabian dukes lasted for several centuries.

In 614 the Franconian kingdom was reorganized, and the Christianization of Upper Valais began ; a first church was built in Glis near Brig .

Spread of Christianity in Valais

Immigration of the Alemanni

In the 9th and 10th centuries, Alemanni gradually migrated from the Bernese Oberland to the uppermost Rhone Valley, independently of each other via two routes; the two population groups can be distinguished in the various dialects of Valais German.

One path led from the Haslital over the Grimsel Pass into Goms ( dialect : Walliser Höchstalemannisch Gruppe Ost: “Chääs” for cheese; “pchenne” for know; “düü” for you).

The second route led via the Gemmipass and Lötschenpass into the middle Rhone Valley (dialect: Walliser Höchstalemannisch Group West: “Chees” for cheese; “kchännu” for know; “you” for you).

In the late Middle Ages, the language border between the Alemannic-speaking Upper Valais and the Romance Lower Valais in the area of ​​Visp, Leuk and Sierre gradually changed. The Leuk district was also Germanized in the 15th and 16th centuries. Since then, the language border runs north of Sierre through the Pfynwald and the Raspille river.

Kingdom of High Burgundy

King Rudolf I founded the kingdom in the year 888 in the monastery of Saint-Maurice Upper Burgundy . This included the county of Valais, among others. After the death of Burgundy King Rudolf II in 937, Hugo King of Lombardy married Rudolf's widow, Queen Bertha , and laid claim to the Kingdom of Hochburgund. He relied on the Saracens as warriors and traders , especially in the Mediterranean and in the Rhone Valley . In 938 Otto I, King of the East Franconia, supported the inheritance rights of the minor King Conrad III, son of Rudolf II, over all of the Burgundian regions.

In 939 the Saint-Maurice Abbey was sacked by the Saracens .

Lothar, son of King Hugo, became king of Lombardy in 947. He married Adelheid, daughter of Queen Bertha from her marriage to King Rudolf II. However, Lothar was murdered in 950. The East Franconian King Otto defeated the rebellious Lombards in 951 and married Queen Adelheid. Her brother, King Conrad III, became king of Burgundy. He defeated the Saracens and drove them out of the Valais.

The county of Valais

In 999 the last Burgundian king left Rudolf III. the county of Valais to the bishop Hugo von Sitten as a fief, the so-called prince-bishopric of Sitten. This loan, resp. Donation was and is often referred to as "Carolina" or "Karolina", as it has long been wrongly assumed that the donor was Emperor Charlemagne.

In 1032 the Kingdom of Burgundy-Arelat went to the Frankish King Konrad II , since Rudolf III. remained without legal heirs. The Valais became part of the Holy Roman Empire . The bishop of Sitten also became a secular imperial prince, so that the Valais remained imperial. The Upper Valais was rapidly Alemannized and the mountain valleys were settled to secure the Alpine passes and reclaim the land. The language boundary between Franco-Provencal and German shifted to Leuk by the end of the 12th century.

La Bâtiaz castle near Martigny, subject of dispute between the Bishops of Sion and the Counts of Savoy

In the 11th century, the influence of the Counts of Savoy in Valais grew steadily. The Savoy counts put their bishops on the seat of Sion. Several areas of the county fell to the Savoyard estate: in addition to the county of Chablais on Lake Geneva, Conthey (Gundis), Ering, Ayent and Mörel .

In the first battle of Ulrichen in 1211, Berchtold V. von Zähringen tried to conquer the Valais in a feud with the Count of Savoy Thomas I. The goal was the free passage over the Gries Pass into Lombardy. However, the undertaking failed with the defeat at Ulrichen against the troops of the Bishop of Sion.

In the 12-14 In the 19th century, a small nobility established itself in Upper Valais, for example the lords of Turn in Niedergesteln or the lords of Ornavasso in Naters around 1250.

The Lords of Turn developed into the most important noble family in the Valais. Their ancestral castle, the Gestelnburg near Niedergesteln , was probably built by Amadeus von Turn between 1100 and 1150. Amadeus was also Bishop of Sitten. The successors of Amadeus tried to expand their power with the help of the House of Savoy in Valais, in contrast to the secular power of the bishop. These tensions culminated in wars that devastated the Valais from 1260 onwards.

In 1260 Peter II of Savoy invaded Lower Valais, the bishop lost all possessions (Martigny, Ardon and Chamoson) west of the Morge river.

At the Battle of Leuk on the Sighing Mat in 1296, the powerful landed gentry under Peter von Turn, with the support of the Savoy, faced Bishop Boniface von Challant in Sion. The country folk and the city of Bern supported the bishop and decisively defeated the nobility. The consequences of this war were the relaxation of relations with Savoy and the weakening of the feudal system. The peasants (especially peasants) gradually wrested rights from the nobility (e.g. lower jurisdiction and the founding of peasant guilds and brotherhoods, from which the first independent communities developed from 1300.) The peasants were in the form of district administrators alongside nobility and bishop to the third political force of the Valais.

In 1301, Bishop Boniface von Challant concluded a peace treaty with Count Amadeus V "the Great" of Savoy. The Lower Valais became Savoy in exchange for the possessions of the Savoy in Upper Valais ( Mörel / Grengiols ) which went to the bishop around 1337.

The county of Valais until the peace treaty with Savoy in 1301

The Walser trains

A typical Valais granary, as it occurs in the Walser settlements

Around 1200 the Upper Valais seems to have been very densely populated. Probably with the support of the nobility, the Walser migrations began to colonize neighboring regions in the Alpine region.

Various noble families such as the Biandrate or the Ornavasso came from northern Italy; the biand rate z. B. from Biandrate in Novara. Around 1237 the Biandrate owned goods on both sides of the Simplon Pass and the Monte Moro Pass (Saas Valley). It can therefore be assumed that they actively supported the Walser migrations and released the southern valleys of these passes for settlement. It is also assumed that these families were loyal vassals of the Hohenstaufen . Because of their Italian policy, the Staufer kings had an interest in secured Alpine passes. The Walser migrations ended in the 14th century.

The main Walser settlements in the Alpine valleys on the Monte Rosa massif emerged in Greschunei , Eischeme , Gaby , Im Land , Arimmu , Remalju , Rifu , Pomatt , Makanaa , Saley , Ager , Opsu , Urnafaasch , Miggiandone , Gampel and in the canton of Ticino in Gurin .

The traditional language of the Walser is strongly threatened in today's Italian mountain regions. She still lives on in the younger Walser settlements in the canton of Graubünden and Vorarlberg . The Walser culture lives on in many of the places they have settled in customs, architectural style, dialect and tradition. The International Walser Association based in Brig promotes the exchange between the scattered Walser areas and research into the history of the Walser.

The 1st civil and freedom war

In 1342 Witschard Tavelli became Bishop of Sion and in 1351 he got with Peter III. von Turn disagreed over feudal rights in Upper Valais. Peter V demanded that the bishop be Meiertum des Zenden Leuk, for which he allied himself with the barons of Raron and Aniviers. After supporters of Tavelli had members of the Peters family murdered in Visp and pillaged and plundered their properties in Niedergesteln and Lötschen, popular anger erupted against the bishop. The five upper Zenden Goms, Brig, Visp, Raron and Leuk sided with Peter III. from turn. The bishop had no popular support and was eager to seek allies. After no papal help from Avignon was expected either, he turned to Count Amadeus VI . of Savoy, called "the Green Count".

In the course of the successful campaign of the Green Count in 1352, the city of Sion was occupied without a fight. The city of Leuk entered into negotiations and the Valais swore allegiance to the count and wanted to recognize him as overlord. In 1353 the Savoy established peace conditions: the re-establishment of the bishop, the raising of military contingents for Savoy and the appointment of the Green Count as governor for nine years. After the withdrawal of the Savoy troops, the Valais revolted again. The upper Zenden occupied the city of Sion and another campaign of the Savoy followed. This time the city of Sion was besieged, conquered and burned down by the Savoy. After further fighting and skirmishes in the following years, the Valais bowed to the harsh conditions of the Green Count . Subsequently, in 1354 the Zenden Leuk, Siders and Sitten invoked the imperial immediacy and demanded from the King of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles IV , that the Count of Savoy should recognize this. However, these efforts were unsuccessful. In 1355 the Zenden Leuk, Raron, Visp, Brig and Goms concluded a protective alliance.

Origin of the seven Zenden

The so-called Zenden probably originated from the large parishes and the episcopal administrative districts of the Valais . The exact origin of the Zenden remains in the dark, 1355 they were first mentioned in a document. The seven Zends of Valais were Goms, Brig, Visp, Raron, Leuk, Siders and Sitten. The Zends corresponded roughly to the current districts of the canton. In the late Middle Ages , the Zenden developed into independent small states with their own judges, Zenden councils, etc. For example, the individual Zenden concluded contracts with the Confederates , each Zenden concluded separate mercenary contracts with France .

The 2nd civil and freedom war

In 1361 there was a peace treaty between the Sieben Zenden des Valais and Savoy, the Green Count tried himself as an arbitrator between Peter V von Turn and Bishop Tavelli: The bishop was reinstated as sovereign, Savoy waived claims in Upper Valais (status quo from 1301. ) The war costs should be borne by the Zends. On October 16, while trying to collect payments from Zenden Goms, the bishop was arrested in the village of Ernen and thrown into dungeon for 11 weeks. After canceling the Gommer's debts, he was released.

In 1364 Peter's son, Anton von Turn, maintained good relations with the Savoy Count. The tension with Bishop Tavelli persisted.

In 1375, Anton's followers had Bishop Tavelli murdered at his castle Seta near Sion. Thereupon the Zenden rose against the gentlemen of Turn. Anton received help from Savoy. The ancestral castle of Anton von Turn in Niedergesteln was besieged. Anton and his family had to flee to Savoy. The Green Count confiscated all of the bishop's lands and castles and bought the property in Valais from the von Turn family. This ended the rule of the von Turn family in the Valais.

As the new bishop of Sion Eduard of Savoy was appointed by Pope Gregory XI. used. This bishop was not recognized by the Valais due to the appeal of the great schism in 1378. Pope Clement VII in Avignon recognized Eduard as Bishop of Sitten, Pope Urban VI. but not from Rome . Eduard was also a cousin of the Green Count .

In 1383 after the death of Amadeus VI. of Savoy his son Amadeus VII , called "the Red Count", Count of Savoy. The country folk rose again under the leadership of Baron Peter von Raron. The Gestelnburg was destroyed and the bishop's castles Tourbillon and Seta in Sion were conquered. The Savoyard administration was driven out.

In 1385 Bishop Edward abdicated. In 1387, in the course of Amadeus VII's campaign, Sittens was recaptured and an advance to Leuk was made

According to the legend, the Savoy army of knights suffered a devastating defeat against the country folk in Visp on so-called men's Wednesday in 1388. The Savoyard sources remain silent about this event, so it must be assumed that the legend does not correspond to the events. This corresponds to the fact that around 1384 Rudolf IV of Gruyères was supposed to conquer the Upper Valais in the name of the Savoy count and, after a lost battle near Visp, began an orderly retreat to Sion and then over the Sanetsch Pass.

In 1391 the Rote Graf died as a result of a hunting accident. In 1392 the mother of the deceased count, Bonne de Bourbon, made peace with the seven Zenden Goms, Brig, Visp, Raron, Leuk, Siders and Sitten. The situation of 1301 was restored. As a result, the seven Zends finally established themselves as small republic-like states. The District Administrator of Valais became the strongest political force in Valais in competition with the Bishop in Sion, and the Barons of Raron became the most important aristocratic family in Valais.

The barons of Raron

Coat of arms of the Barons of Raron

The barons of Raron have probably been in Valais since the 12th century. Presumably they were related to the gentlemen von Turn . Her ancestral seat was in Raron, the capital of the Zenden (district) of the same name. Heinrich von Raron (approx. 1200 to 1271) was a bishop in Sion and one of the first representatives of this noble family. The von Raron also owned property in the Bernese Oberland in Ringgenberg-Brienz (Ringgenberg Castle) in the 13th century. After the von Turns were expelled in 1375, they were the richest and most influential nobles in Valais. The focus of their rule shifted to Central Valais around 1400. Peter von Raron was vice chairman of Leuk and Anniviers (Eifischtal). In addition to the castle in Raron, they also owned the strategically important fortress Beauregard at the entrance to the Eifisch valley. After the death of Peter von Raron around 1412, his son Witschard became head of the family or successor.

In 1413 Witschard von Raron supported the German Emperor Sigismund von Luxemburg in the campaign against Milan with 700 men. In return, the emperor granted him rule over the Valais, all worldly possessions and rights of the bishop should pass into the hereditary property of the von Raron family. With the result that this approach was regarded as presumptuous by the country folk. Witschard's opponents formed in Brig in 1414 and founded the society Von dem Hund - an uprising broke out.

In 1415 Witschard fled with his family to the Bishop's Seta Castle near Sion. This was then besieged by the country people. The country people forced the treaty of Seta on the bishop, who was Witschard's nephew . In it the bishop undertook to recognize the district administrator's right to have a say - among other things, in the election of the governor and all important appointments and decisions that affected the Valais. Thus the diocese had to officially recognize the district administrator as a political force for the first time.

1416 Zenden Goms, Brig, Visp, Siders and customs have been under contracts -facing locations of the Federal places under Walden , Uri and Lucerne . New disputes between Witschard and the Zenden led to the breach of the Seta contract. Witschard allied himself with the Duke of Savoy, but he left Witschard in the lurch. The Beauregard Castle was destroyed by the country folk and the Episcopal castles Tourbillon and Montorge were destroyed.

In 1417, as a citizen of the Aare city of Bern , Witschard found a new ally to assert his interests in the Valais. Thus, the Confederation was facing a split. The four uninvolved towns of Schwyz , Glarus , Zug and Zurich tried to mediate, but were unsuccessful. The bishop and Witschard von Raron were exiled to Bern, which caused outrage in Bern. In October 1418, Bernese troops invaded the city of Sion . The cathedral was cremated and the city looted.

In order to avoid a civil war between the federal places, a court of arbitration was held in Zurich in 1419 , which Witschard von Raron was right on all points. The new Valais bishop refused to sign the arbitration award and left the city in the fog and night. The city of Bern now had to enforce Witschard's rights by force, in autumn Bernese troops crossed the Sanetsch Pass and the Grimsel Pass and wanted to occupy the Valais with a pincer movement. The onset of winter and the lost battle near Ulrichen caused the Bernese to break off the campaign.

In 1420 peace was concluded through the mediation of the Duke of Savoy and the Archdiocese of Tarentaise. Witschard von Raron got his possessions back in Valais, but his political power in Valais was broken. As a result, the last great noble family lost its influence in the Valais, from now on there were only two political forces in the republic of the seven Zenden - the bishop and the district administrator .

The Valais on the eve of the Burgundy War

The conquest of the Lower Valais

In 1460 the new bishop Walter II. Supersaxo von Ernen re-established the secular power of the cathedral chapter, the district administrator was subordinate to the bishop.

In 1463, Rudolf Asperlin unsuccessfully demanded rule over the area of ​​Anniviers, which had belonged to the former Lords of Raron. Rudolf Asperlin was related by marriage to the von Raron family, so he saw himself as a legitimate heir. Bishop Supersaxo opposed these claims, Asperlin fled to Bex in the Savoy region and continued his legal battle from there. Various other frictions and border disputes with Savoy also worsened the relationship between Bishop Walter Supersaxo and Duchess Jolanda of Savoy .

In 1474, Charles the Bold Duke of Burgundy dreamed of an empire stretching from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. The Holy Roman Empire (Habsburg) felt threatened by Charles's policies. An Eternal Peace between the Habsburgs and the Confederation was concluded. This was followed by the Swiss declaration of war on Charles the Bold.

Charles allied himself in 1475 with the Duchy of Milan and the Duchess Yolanda of Savoy. Thus, the Valais was threatened from two sides. On September 7, Bern concluded a protective alliance with the Valais. This was followed by the conquest of the Savoy Vaud by the Bernese and an unsuccessful attack by the Valais near Conthey. The Bishop of Geneva quickly assembled an army and hurried to the Valais. On November 12th, the Savoy army - around 10,000 men with 1,500 knights - stood in front of the city of Sion. On November 13th the battle of the Planta broke out . With the help of the Bernese, the Savoy army was defeated, which quickly moved to the west. The following Valais conquered the Lower Valais as far as Saint-Maurice.

In 1477 the bishop annexed the conquered territories and the Lower Valais became subject to the seven Zenden (common rule until 1792).

The conquests of the Valais up to 1500

The southern policy of Bishop Jost von Silenen

After the death of Walter Supersaxos, Jost von Silenen became the new Prince-Bishop of Sion in 1482. He turned his attention to the southern valleys of the Simplon Pass in Milan. Here he wanted to continue the expansion policy of his predecessor. The federal expansion into Ticino may also have inspired the bishop. The fact that the Duke of Milan had sent mercenaries to the Savoy and Charles the Bold in 1474 was also a reason for war.

In 1484, after an incident in the border area of ​​the Simplon Pass near Gondo, the bishop started his first campaign in the Eschen and Divedro valleys. The residents had to swear allegiance to the Bishop of Sion, Crevola was occupied by the Valais. In November, the Confederates brokered an armistice between the Duke of Milan and the Valais. In the written version of the peace treaty, the Duke of Milan smuggled in new terms. The people of Ashenvale should be released from the oath of allegiance of the Bishop of Sitten. An arbitration tribunal of the federal locations should decide on this. The members of the Federal Diet were bribed by the Duke. However, the Valais refused to evacuate the southern valleys, which resulted in a legal dispute that went down in history as the Valais trade .

In 1487, the Swiss Federal Diet came to a final decision in the Valais trade in favor of Milan. Thereupon the military leader of the Valais - the brother of Josts von Silenen, knight Albin von Silenen - declared war on the Duke of Milan. The defeat of the Valais at Domodossola and Crevola against the Duke of Milan resulted in the loss of the Ashen valley and the Divedro valley and the final demarcation at Gondo.

In 1495 a peace treaty was signed between Milan and the Seven Zenden, which Jost von Silenen had to accept. The peace treaty was brokered by Georg Supersaxo (also called Jörg uff der Flüe ), who was a supporter of the Milanese party in the Valais and thus became the bishop's most dangerous opponent. The bishop, as a supporter of the French king, tried to ban the mercenary recruitment that Supersaxo undertook for Milan. When a campaign by the bishop against Supersaxo failed in 1496, the latter struck back and achieved his removal with the capture of the Mazze . On April 13th, Jost von Silenen left Valais forever, he was accepted by the King of France.

The Schiner Supersaxo era 1498–1522

Nicolaus Schiner was appointed episcopal successor to the deposed Jost von Silenen. In order to have this change canonically approved, Supersaxo sent his secretary Matthäus Schiner (* 1465; † 1522), who in turn was the nephew of the new bishop, as a diplomat to Rome. After the death of Nicolaus Schiner in 1498, Matthew himself moved to the bishopric in Sion. From now on, one of the greatest personalities of her time shaped the fortunes of Valais, see the article by Matthäus Schiner. In 1512, the Valais received a valuable " Juliusbanner " from Pope Julius II as a place facing it for the services rendered in the "Great Pavier Campaign" in 1508–1510 to expel the French.

Modern times

Map of Valais ( Johannes Stumpf , Christoph Froschauer : Landtaflen , 1556)


In 1535, with the help of Bern, the Reformation prevailed in the city of Geneva . Charles III , Duke of Savoy, imposed a food ban on the city of Geneva as a backlash. On January 16, 1536, Bern declared war on Savoy. Bern occupied the Savoy region of Vaud and the city of Geneva without a fight. However, the Reformation was rather hostile to the Valais. At the end of January, the Seven Zends of Valais therefore concentrated their troops at Saint-Maurice on the border. When the Bernese troops now advanced into Chablais , the Valais occupied the left bank of the Rhone and advanced as far as Lake Geneva, then westward to the River Drance via Evian , i.e. into Savoyard territory. Thus, further action by the Bernese in the Rhone Valley was thwarted. (In 1528 the Valais had signed a peace treaty with Savoy, in which mutual conquests were renounced.) In order to legitimize the occupation of the Savoyard territories, the local communities were asked to ask for military protection. The Zends then guaranteed them to protect the Catholic faith. The Duke was also promised to return the occupied territories to Savoy if Bern would do the same.

In 1544/1545 Sebastian Münster in Basel published the first map of the canton of Valais, which is at the same time the first map of a single canton and one of the first regional maps in the area of ​​the Alps. Its author is the priest Johann Schalbetter .

In 1549 the aid and pay alliance with France was to be renewed: the salt was to be made more expensive, pensions from France would not have been paid or the government would have benefited alone. The popular uprising against this plan in 1550 is called the drinking bull war .

When in 1564 Bern returned the areas south of Lake Geneva to Savoy, the Valais refused to do the same. It was not until 1569 that they reached an agreement with the Duke of Savoy and returned the bailiffs of Evian and Hochtal to Savoy. The Landvogtei Monthey, which secured the Valais access to Lake Geneva, remained subject to the Seven Zenden.

In the early modern period, there were also magical persecutions of witches in Valais, with more victims than in many other areas of Europe.

Around 1585, reformed lay associations were formed in Sitten and Leuk, whose members met regularly to read the Bible, discuss, pray and sing. In 1591, the bishop tried for the first time to stop these reformed religious practices. In 1603 the upper Zenden, the Catholic federal places and France came to his aid. In 1604 at the so-called Visper Farewell , the Reformed had to emigrate or return to the Catholic faith.

17th and 18th centuries

Since the late Middle Ages, several bathing resorts with thermal springs have been known in Valais and visited by travelers from a wide area, such as Brigerbad and Leukerbad .

In the 16th century, the Zehnden enforced their independence from the bishop. The district administrator, in which representatives of the Zenden and parishes took action, wrote freedom (from the bishop) and democracy in 1613. The then bishop Hildebrand Jost protested unsuccessfully, and it was not until 1634 that he gave up his resistance to this new order.

Captain Ferdinand Venetz , 1764–1822, commander of the rebellious Upper Valais during the Pfyn Battle of 1799

19th and 20th centuries

19th century

Under the influence of the French Revolution, unrest broke out in the Bailiwick of Monthey in 1798 - the citizens wanted political equality and self-determination in Valais. The governor was expelled, the revolution was carried further into the Valais under French influence, and Martigny joined the rebels. In the Pfynschlacht (May 27-28 , 1799) the Valais were defeated by the French troops. The whole of Valais was occupied by the Napoleonic revolutionary troops. That was the end of the Republic of the Seven Zends and the Upper Valais patriciate .

During the Napoleonic period, after being conquered by French revolutionary troops in 1802, Valais initially became an independent Republic of Valais and, from 1810, the French department of Simplon . After the collapse of the French Empire in 1813, the Austrians invaded Valais.

In 1815, on the recommendation of Austria, Valais, like Geneva and Neuchâtel, followed a resolution by the Congress of Vienna to join the Swiss Confederation, which thus reached its present-day territorial size. A first constitution was superseded by other constitutions in 1839, 1844, 1848, 1852 and 1875.

Loan for 500 francs from the canton of Valais dated December 31, 1924

In 1840 a civil war broke out in Valais because, after the new liberal cantonal constitution came into force in Upper Valais, an opposing government was formed that did not want to renounce traditional supremacy. An attack by Lower Valais troops deposed the Sierre regime. In 1844, the radical movement of Young Switzerland from Lower Valais unleashed a free march against Upper Valais, which was bloodily suppressed in the " Battle of Trento " near Vernayaz . The conservatives regained power in the canton, which in 1845 merged with the six other Catholic cantons in Switzerland to form the Sonderbund . In the Sonderbund War of 1847, this group of states was subject to the federal troops led by General Guillaume Henri Dufour and was dissolved. The Valais was the last canton to capitulate. Since 1848 it has been part of the modern Swiss federal state . With the new federal constitution, it received four national council seats , to which Maurice Barman von Saint-Maurice , Joseph Anton Clemenz von Visp , Antoine de Riedmatten von Sitten and Adrien-Félix Pottier von Monthey were elected. The first councilors from Valais were Henri Ducrey von Martigny and Hyacinthe Grillet von Saint-Gingolph .

After the devastating Rhone flood of 1860, the first Rhone correction began in 1863 with the support of federal funds in order to contain further significant flood damage and to gain agricultural areas in the valley floor. The project management lay with the federal expert and inspector Leopold Blotnitzki , who also worked on the torrent control. A network of drainage channels is being built to drain the areas cut off from the side embankments. Construction work was finished in 1894.

On July 14, 1865, the Matterhorn , the most famous mountain in the Valais Alps, was made the first by the Siebener rope team with Edward Whymper , accompanied by the Zermatt mountain guides Peter Taugwalder and Peter Taugwalder junior, the mountain guide Michel Croz from Chamonix and three other Englishmen Times climbed. The tourism discovered the Valais, from the many successful mountain guide, mountaineer and snow sports enthusiasts in the 19th and 20th centuries Alexander Burgener , climbers pioneer of Saas-Fee came.

20th century

Double north portal of the Simplon tunnel at Brigb station.

With the opening of the Simplon Tunnel in 1905, the Valais received a rail link to Italy. In 1913 the connection to the Bernese Oberland followed through the Lötschberg line . This created a direct rail link between Bern and Milan via the Valais, the second most important Alpine passage in Switzerland alongside the Gotthard route.

After further flood disasters, a second Rhone correction was necessary in 1930–1960. This also made it possible to reclaim the wide valley plains from Conthey to Martigny and in Chablais, which led to the upswing of fruit growing in Valais. In this agricultural sector, a third of Swiss production today comes from the Valais. In 1923, the canton founded the Valais Agricultural School in Châteauneuf.

On March 8, 1907, the canton's constitution, which is still in force today, came into force.

From August 1 to September 12, 1909, the first cantonal exhibition took place in Sion.

Gornergratbahn and Matterhorn

In the 20th century, several areas of the Valais developed into important tourist destinations and mountain health resorts. Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Verbier ( 4-vallées ), Crans-Montana, Fiesch and Bettmeralp are among the internationally known Valais holiday resorts. Extensive ski areas that extend beyond national borders are located near Zermatt- Breuil-Cervinia (Italy) and near Champéry - Val d'Illiez - La Chapelle-d'Abondance ( Portes du Soleil , Switzerland-France). Mountain railways open up travel destinations and sports areas such as the Gornergrat or the Metro Alpin to the Mittelallalin area . The hotel and hospitality industry became an important branch of the canton's economy. In the high mountains, numerous huts of the Swiss Alpine Club and other builders offer accommodation and food for mountaineers , hikers and ski tourists. Parallel to the boom in tourism and especially in alpine hiking and mountaineering, alpine rescue services made great strides, to which people from Valais such as the mountain pilot Hermann Geiger and air transport companies such as Air Zermatt and Air-Glaciers made significant contributions.

The Grande Dixence dam in the Val d'Hérémence

In the course of the 20th century, high in the Valais mountain valleys, major Swiss electricity providers built storage power plants with mighty dams, extensive systems of tunnels in the concession areas and machine houses in the river valleys. The largest power plants in Valais are Grande Dixence , Cleuson, Mauvoisin , Salanfe and Emosson (with the additional Nant de Drance system , which is scheduled to go into operation in 2021). The high fees paid by the power plant operators to the licensing municipalities are a major factor in the recent economic development in the region. They also created a political bone of contention, as did the high-voltage lines necessary for the transmission of the energy produced , which run in large numbers through the Rhone Valley and over several Alpine passes - such as the Gemmileitung - and are maintained and maintained by the transmission system operator Swissgrid in accordance with the federal law on electricity supply get extended. An example of the difficult and controversial planning and implementation of a new power line is the almost forty-year history of the Chamoson-Chippis extra-high voltage line .

On April 12, 1970, the Valais women received cantonal voting rights. This made Valais the seventh canton in which women had the same voting rights as men at cantonal level. (The last canton was Appenzell Innerrhoden 1990.) In March 1971, women’s right to vote was introduced at the federal level in Switzerland . Switzerland was thus one of the last European countries to grant its female population full rights as citizens.

In the 20th century, the use of the Franco-Provencal patois as a colloquial language in Lower Valais fell sharply. With various initiatives, the state is trying to encourage private associations such as the umbrella organization Fédération cantonale valaisanne des amis du patois and individuals to promote the traditional regional language again.

In 2000, the Grand Council of the Canton decided to initiate the third Rhone correction in order to tame the potentially destructive power of the Rhone even better and to correct errors made in the previous corrections from today's perspective. The measures are to be implemented by 2030.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. This section follows Bernard Truffer: Wallis. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . January 11, 2018 , accessed June 6, 2019 .
  2. Marc-Rodolphe Sauter: Une hache bretonne neolithique sur le chemin du Théodule (Zermatt, Valais). In: Vallesia , 33, 1978.
  3. Room of the steles . History Museum Sion, accessed on August 5, 2020.
  4. Archaeological research of the «Mur (dit) d'Hannibal». Investigation and securing of an extraordinary alpine site . Ramha, accessed August 5, 2020.
  5. François Wible: Inscriptions latines du Valais antique. In: Vallesia , 33, 1978.
  6. ^ Gregory of Tours : Decem libri historiarum. 4, 31. Bruno Krusch , Wilhelm Levison (eds.): Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,1: Gregorii Turonensis Opera. Part 1: Libri historiarum X. Hannover 1937, pp. 163–164 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized ).
  7. ^ Marius von Avenches : Chronica ad annum 563 . Theodor Mommsen (Ed.): Auctores antiquissimi 11: Chronica minora saec. IV. V. VI. VII. (II). Berlin 1894, p. 237 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized ).
  8. ^ François-Olivier Dubuis, Antoine Lugon: Les premiers siècles d'un diocèse alpin. Recherches, acquis et questions sur l'évêché de Sion. Première partie: Les débuts du christianisme en Valais et les centers de son rayonnement. In: François-Olivier DUBUIS et Antoine LUGON. - Les premiers siècles d'un diocèse alpin: recherches, acquis et questions on l'évêché de Sion. Première partie: Les débuts du christianisme en Valais et les centers de son rayonnement. In: Vallesia , 47, 1992.
  9. ^ Iso Müller : On the origin of the parishes in Valais. In: Vallesia , 22, 1967.
  10. Georges Descoeudres, Jachen Sarott: An early Christian baptismal church in Upper Valais. The excavations in the parish and pilgrimage church of Our Lady on the Glisacker (Brig-Glis parish). In: Vallesia , 51, 1986.
  11. ^ Jean-Pierre Meyer: On the history of the language border in Valais. In: Blätter aus der Walliser Geschichte , 24, 1992, pp. 125–154.
  12. ^ Heinrich Büttner: Historical basics for the formation of the Alemannic-Romance language border in what is now western Switzerland. In: Journal for Dialect Research, 28th year, 1961.
  13. Rudolf Hoppeler: The German-Roman linguistic frontier in XIII. and XIV century. In: Leaves from Walliser History, Vol. 1, 1895.
  14. ^ Gilbert Coutaz: La donation des droits comtaux à l'évêque de Sion, en 999. Un texte dévalué de l'histoire du Valais. In: Vallesia , 54, 1999.
  15. The Hikes of the Walsers , www.walser-alps.eu, accessed on August 3, 2020.
  16. International Association for Walserism , www.wir-walser.ch, accessed on August 3, 2020.
  17. Winfried Hecht: The Julius banner of the town facing Rottweil. In: Der Geschichtsfreund: Messages from the Central Switzerland Historical Association . 126/7 (1973/4). doi : 10.5169 / seals-118647
  18. Leetschär Fasnacht - the mystical tradition , Walliser Bote , February 15, 2020, p. 6
  19. Caroline Schnyder: Reformation and Democracy in Wallis (1524-1613) , Mainz 2002, pages 33-42
  20. Emile Biollay: Pour le 150e anniversaire de la réunion du Valais à la Suisse: Des 13 cantons du département (1813) aux 13 dizains du canton (1815). In: Annales valaisannes , 1965, pp. 11-52.
  21. Stephanie Summermatter: The first Rhone correction and the further development of the cantonal and national hydraulic engineering policy in the 19th century. In: Vallesia , 59, 2004.
  22. ^ Gérard Duc: Projet de tunnel ferroviaire du Simplon et genèse du réseau de chemins de fer de Suisse occidentale (1836-1909). In: Vallesia , 56.2001.
  23. ^ Paul Perrin: Les débuts du chemin de fer en Valais. In: Annales valaisannes , 1961, pp. 63-204.
  24. Valais Agricultural School. Canton of Valais, accessed on August 4, 2020 .
  25. Network project Chamoson - Chippis , swissgrid.ch, accessed on August 3, 2020.
  26. Power line Chamoson-Chippis - partial success for the opponents of the power pylons , www.srf.ch, November 2, 2018, accessed on August 3, 2020.
  27. Federal Supreme Court: No revision of the ruling on the Chamoson-Chippis high-voltage line , www.1815.ch, February 14, 2019, accessed on August 3, 2020.
  28. ^ Alain Dubois: La conservation et la valorisation de la mémoire des patois dans le Valais romand. In: Vallesia , 61, 2006.