Joachim Vadian

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Engraving by Vadian

Joachim Vadian ( humanist name Vadianus, actually Joachim von Watt ; born November 29, 1484 in St. Gallen ; † April 6, 1551 ibid) was a humanist , physician and scholar as well as mayor and reformer of the city of St. Gallen.


Coat of arms of the von Watt family
Portrait of Vadian

Vadian was probably born on November 29, 1484 in the then imperial city of St. Gallen as Joachim von Watt and came from a rich and influential family who lived from the linen trade . His father's name was Lienhard von Watt, he was a merchant, councilor and partner in the Diessbach-Watt'schen Handelsgesellschaft, and his mother was Magdalena Thalmann, a daughter of Ulrich Thalmann, who was the chancellor of the St. Gallic abbot.

Student and professor in Vienna

He attended the Latin school in St. Gallen, and from the end of 1501 he was the first of the family to study at the University of Vienna (among others with the humanist Conrad Celtis ). He called himself Vadianus now, indicating his interest and enthusiasm for the Latin language culture and humanism. During the plague epidemic of 1506 and 1507, he fled to Villach in Carinthia and taught there as a teacher, attended music lessons and spent some time in the Benedictine - Stift Ossiach . At that time he went on a study trip to Trento , Venice and Padua , where he was strongly influenced by the Irish professor Mauritius Hibernicus († 1513), among others .

In 1509 Vadian completed his studies in Vienna with a master's degree and returned to St. Gallen, where he studied the St. Gallen Abbey Library intensively . A short time later he returned to Vienna, where he made a name for himself with his writings, editions and Latin poems.

From 1512, Vadian held the chair for poetics at the University of Vienna, presumably as part of the Poet College initiated by Celtis . In 1513 he traveled to Buda, Hungary . On March 12, 1514, he was named poeta laureatus by Emperor Maximilian I in Linz , not least because he was a talented and competent speaker. At the international conference of princes in Vienna in 1515, Vadian was given the honor of giving the welcoming address to the King of Poland. In 1516 he was appointed dean and in the winter semester 1516/17 he was rector. He maintained close contacts with contemporary musicians such as Ludwig Senfl .

In the following years Vadian studied medicine and natural sciences, especially geography and history. Georg Tannstetter (Collimitius), a mathematician, astronomer and physician, was his main teacher. In 1517 Vadian graduated with a doctorate in medicine. Around 20 publications grew out of his Viennese lectures, mostly annotated editions by ancient authors, such as the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela . He also represented the spherical shape of the earth in it.

City doctor, mayor and reformer in St. Gallen

In 1518 Vadian moved his center of life back to St. Gallen; on the return trip he visited Leipzig , Breslau and Krakow , among others , where he met numerous humanist friends. With the Lucerne humanists Johannes Ludwig Zimmermann (Xilotectus) and Oswald Myconius and his student Konrad Grebel , Vadian climbed the Pilatus near Lucerne despite warnings in the same year . He was employed in St. Gallen for 50 guilders as a general advisor, and he performed the duties of a city ​​doctor . He treated the people according to his university knowledge of Vienna, which was shaped by the Arabic-Latin teaching tradition. In 1519 he married Martha Grebel, a daughter of Jakob Grebel and sister of Konrad Grebel . They lived in the house facing the deep cellar in the back arbors. Their only child, their daughter Dorothea, was born there and later married the cloth merchant Laurenz Zollikofer . In St. Gallen, Vadian endeavored to promote humanism and was soon caught up in the Reformation movement, particularly through reading the writings of Martin Luther and through his Zurich friend Ulrich Zwingli , the pioneer of the Reformation in Switzerland. The correspondence with Zwingli and other writings from 1522 show clear criticism of the Catholic Church and the primacy of the Pope.

In 1521, after the death of his father, Vadian took a seat on the St. Gallen city council and was able to establish himself as an influential member. In this function he promoted the dissemination of Reformation ideas and became known as a supporter of the Reformation through his lectures. In 1523 he became president of the 2nd Zurich disputation and in 1528 of the Bern disputation .

At the beginning of 1526, Vadian was elected mayor of the city of St. Gallen, an office which he then held every three years. In the following years he carried out the Reformation, particularly in the St. Gallen monastery . The attempt to use the advantages obtained in the First Kappeler Landfrieden in 1529 to abolish the monastery failed in 1531. The monastery remained a neighbor in the city and its abbot an opponent of Vadian. As a politically and spiritually leading personality, he was able to secure the independence of the city of St. Gallen and also preserve the Reformed faith. In federal politics he worked several times as an envoy to the Diet ; in 1549 he was still active as chairman of the federal arbitration tribunal. For the rest of his life as a reformer, Vadian enjoyed a great reputation in Switzerland and in German-speaking countries and was valued for his diplomatic skills, which he was able to use to advantage in many conflicts of a religious and political nature. He was in correspondence with many personalities, such as Heinrich Bullinger in Zurich, Johannes Comander in Chur and Oswald Myconius in Basel his most important correspondents. Around 1,850 letters from and to Vadian have survived.

During the short period of the abolition of the St. Gallen monastery from 1527–1532, its archive and library were available to him for a long time. In expectation that the city would take the place of the monastery, he wrote the Greater Chronicle of the Abbots in 1529–1532 , which covered the period 1199–1491, was formally in the tradition of monastic historiography, but broke with it in terms of content and linguistically addressed a wider audience. After the defeat of the Reformed in the Second War by Kappel in 1531, Vadian put this work aside unfinished in 1532. However, he continued to conduct historical and theological research with a focus on regional history and church history. His works from this second phase of life remained largely unprinted. His texts such as the Smaller Chronicle of Abbots for the Swiss Chronicle by Johannes Stumpf , which was printed 1547–1548, were greatly shortened and published anonymously at his request.

Vadian died on April 6, 1551 in St. Gallen.


Vadiand monument in St. Gallen

In the center of St. Gallen, a monument at the market square today commemorates the life and work of Vadian. The larger than life bronze statue was designed in 1904 by the Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling . The 2.8 ton statue was restored from 2013 to 2014.


The Cantonal Library of St. Gallen , which was originally called Vadiana , preserves Vadian's manuscript collection and his private library with a total of 1,250 titles resp. 450 volumes.

A hotel called Vadian has existed on Gallusstrasse in the old town of St. Gallen since 1904.

The city ​​of St. Gallen's savings institution was renamed Vadian Bank AG at the end of 2006 after 196 years of existence . It was one of the oldest banks in Switzerland and has belonged to the local community of St. Gallen since it was founded. It was taken over by St. Galler Kantonalbank in 2014 and integrated into it on July 1, 2015. AG, one of the oldest internet companies in Switzerland, has committed itself to humanistic ideas in the spirit of Vadian and operates, among other things, the oldest independent national news platform with a ten-person editorial team in St. Gallen.

The St. Gallen brewery Schützengarten has named a Pale Ale beer after Vadian.

Works (selection)

  • De poetica et carminis ratione liber. Vienna 1518.
  • The Great Chronicle of the Abbots of the St. Gallen Monastery. St. Gallen 1529.
  • The Minor Chronicle of the Abbots. Abbey and city of St. Gallen from the beginning to the beginning of the modern age from a Reformation perspective. In: Johannes Stumpf: Swiss Chronicle. Zurich 1548.


  • Peter Schäffer (Ed.): Joachim Vadianus: De poetica et carminis ratione (= Humanist Library. Series II: Texts. Vol. 21, I – III). Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1973–1977, Vol. 1 without ISBN, Vol. 2 ISBN 3-7705-1119-0 , Vol. 3 ISBN 3-7705-1120-4 (critical edition with translation and commentary).
  • The state and nature of the times ... The pious hermit Saint Gallus. The Thurgau. The city of St. Gallen. Lake Constance. From the origin of the monk class. Vadian's geographic and historical texts have been linguistically restored and shortened for today's readers. In: Saint Gallus. History - legend - interpretation (= Swiss intellectual heritage. Volume 4). Bär, Niederuzwil 2012, ISBN 978-3-9523212-7-0 .
  • Bernhard Stettler (Ed.): Joachim von Watt (Vadian): The smaller chronicle of the abbots. Abbey and city of St. Gallen from the beginning to the beginning of the modern age from a Reformation perspective. Chronos, Zurich 2013, ISBN 978-3-0340-1124-2 .


Web links

Commons : Joachim Vadian  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Joachim von Watt  - Sources and full texts

supporting documents

  1. As presented by Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer : Vadian as a teacher at the Vienna Poet College. In: Zwingliana. Contributions to the history of Zwingli, the Reformation and Protestantism in Switzerland 26 (1999) 93–98, as well as in dems .: Humanism between court and university. Georg Tannstetter (Collimitius) and his scientific environment in Vienna in the early 16th century . Vienna 1996, pp. 60f.
  2. ^ Christian Sieber: Joachim Vadian. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  3. ^ Marianne and Frank Jehle: Little St. Galler Reformation History, ed. from the Evangelical Reformed Church Council of the Canton of St. Gallen, Zollikofer, St. Gallen 1977, ISBN 3-85993-012-5 , 4th chapter.
  4. Thomas Maissen: humanist, reformer, mayor, patriot. On the 450th anniversary of the death of Vadian (Joachim von Watts). in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, April 6, 2001.
  5. SDA: Vadian is back in town . In: St. Galler Tagblatt, July 7, 2014.
  6. ^ Christian Sieber: Joachim Vadian. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  7. ^ Hotel Vadian website
  8. - The Swiss Internet newspaper is launched. In: January 6, 2000, accessed February 6, 2000 .