Patriciate (Lucerne)

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Alliance coat of arms of the Lucerne families Balthasar and Pfyffer with the sovereignty crown typical of the Swiss aristocratic patrons

The patriciate in Lucerne was made up of the patrician families admitted to the “ Small Council ” in the free and sovereign federal city and republic of Lucerne .

Lucerne government and population

The government in the free and sovereign federal city and republic of Lucerne formed 36 small and 64 large councils ( Schultheiss , Council and Hundred). Half of them met in the summer, the other half in the winter. The small boards were the important offices of the school Theissen (President), governor (Schultheissen Chairman), Seckelmeisters , Venner , hospital and client reserved and the bailiwicks Willisau, Rothenburg, Entlebuch Ruswil, Michelsamt and Merenschwand. The grand councils administered the bailiwicks of Büron / Triengen, Habsburg, Malters / Littau, Kriens / Horw, Knutwil, Ebikon, Wikon and the Seevogtei Sempach.

The population was divided into classes. In the first place stood the patrician small councilors. You had political power. In second place were the grand council families. They were also capable of regimentation, but had to be content with less important offices. In third place were the citizens, who were only theoretically council members, as well as the new citizens, who were excluded from all offices and officer positions. The fourth level was formed by the rear passengers , who only enjoyed home rights.

Lucerne patrician from the house of the Fleckenstein family

Development of Lucerne into a patrician city-state

When the castles lost their importance in Europe, the principle of the fortified castle was carried over to the walled city. The responsibility and privileges that a lord of the castle had now united the city citizens. They could afford to buy land within the city walls. This also applied to the city of Lucerne, which was founded in 1178 and whose rule extended over what is now the canton as early as the 15th century.

After the Battle of Sempach (1386), the leading families of Lucerne became the legal successors of the Counts of Habsburg , who owned Lucerne. They had once acquired it as a fishing village from Murbach Abbey . In 1415 King Sigismund Lucerne confirmed the old freedoms it had acquired under Charlemagne. Until 1648 Lucerne was legally part of the German Empire, which was expressed by the fact that the coat of arms of the imperial eagle was elevated. Lucerne was not only a free and sovereign imperial city and republic (in fact a city aristocracy ), but also the suburb of the Catholic Confederation and the seat of the papal nuncio .

In the Ancien Régime

Rudolf Mohr, 1624–1702, Lucerne Mayor and Guard Colonel

Although all citizens had the right to regiment (election to the Small and Large Councils) since 1568, not every citizen had access to the government. This was limited to an ever smaller group of families capable of regiment. This took place gradually in 1571, 1588 and 1648, until the Fundamental Law of 1773 stipulated that the oldest naturalized family in its fourth generation could only move up when a gender capable of regiment died out. With this law, about 30 patrician families had separated from the other citizens eligible for regiment and soon expanded their influence in the Grand Council. Lucerne thus had the most concentrated patriciate among the Swiss city cantons. As a symbol of sovereignty, they carried the nine-pointed crown and claimed the title of Junker , which has recently been replaced by the predicate "von" with reference to the fundamental law . With the exception of the old ministerial families, this was rarely used in Lucerne. On the other hand, people liked to call themselves after the property (Pfyffer von Altishofen, Segesser von Brunegg ). Lucerne reaffirmed its right to the "von" rating in several government decisions of 1895, 1896 and 1899.

The high state and administrative offices as well as the most important land bailiffs were hereditary. The patricians had equal rights among themselves. Nevertheless, there was a gradation, because the importance of a family was based on the number of seats in the Small Council and how many mayors they held. While the Segesser v. Brunegg, Schwytzer v. Buonas and Schnyder von Wartensee each had a seat, families like the Pfyffer v. Altishofen, Balthasar, Meyer v. Schauensee, Göldlin v. Tiefenau, Schumacher and zur Gilgen the other seats below. The reputation of a family was also served by a long series of military careers abroad or aristocratic diplomas, but these were of no legal significance in their own country.

A young Lucerne patrician from the Schnyder v. Family Wartensee as an officer in a Swiss regiment in foreign service

The guilds in Lucerne had no political significance. They were under the supervision of the government, sending deputies to their rooms. The patricians themselves no longer practiced any craft, but served exclusively the state, the church and as officers of a king or the pope. One lived from the royal pensions, from the powder, wine and salt trade, from what the estates threw off, also from taxes, duties and fines, then from the income of the city as a trading and transhipment point for the Gotthardweg and from the income of state property.

There were trade and military contracts with foreign countries, and the money flowed so abundantly that Lucerne managed without direct taxes. These were paid by the kings with their alliance funds and officer's pensions. Accordingly, the families were divided into a Spanish, a Savoyard and a French party. The treaties (“capitulations”) not only brought political and economic advantages, but also brought Lucerne into contact with European cultural centers. Many patricians acted as sponsors and founders. In addition to their townhouses, they also lived in mansions in the country. Larger gatherings took place in the society house of the gentlemen to Schützen . The upbringing of the sons and daughters was the responsibility of the Jesuits and Ursulines or foreign noble academies.

The circle of the patriciate was becoming ever narrower, but a system of mutual control had also been introduced to prevent abuse. At that time, the current separation of powers was not yet known, which has its origins in the state-theoretical writings of Locke and Montesquieu .

Enlightenment and social transformation

The ideas of the Enlightenment were not limited to political and ecclesiastical views, but were directed against all social and cultural constraints as they existed in that over-regulated and saturated 18th century. This led to a softening of the patriciate, in that representatives of individual families represented the new ideas. That was not possible without party struggles. These, known under the name Schumacher-Meyer-Handel , were ultimately responsible for the weakening of the patriciate.

The split in the ruling families, the threat posed by Napoleon and the neglected defense as a result of military service abroad made it advisable for the patriciate in 1798 to renounce the aristocratic constitution of his own accord. With their wise decision, the patricians themselves ended the Ancien Régime in Lucerne. But this did not prevent the monetary payments ("contributions") that had to be made by the patriciate and clergy to France, nor did it prevent vassal service .

The 19th and 20th centuries

The former party struggles of the patricians continued after the fall of Napoleon and after the Restoration as a struggle of the conservatives and liberals. During the Restoration from 1814 to 1830, the patrician government was expanded to include the rest of the citizenry. Lucerne's military defeat by the liberal cantons in the Sonderbund War (1847) had hit the self-confidence of the Lucerne patricians. Among the best-known exponents at that time were Vinzenz Rüttimann , Franz Bernhard Meyer von Schauensee , Philipp Anton von Segesser , Kasimir Pfyffer (von Altishofen) and Josef Schumacher in Uttenberg .

Young patrician from the Pfyffer v. Family Heidegg at the time of the Belle Epoque

In the first half of the 19th century, the Lucerne patricians had to look for new income. The onset of industrialization as a field of activity was unsuitable, as the Lucerne patriciate did not create a basis for it in its noble self-image. All that remained was academic professions, agriculture, politics and a military career. The military treaties with the Kingdom of Naples , which lasted until 1860, provided an opportunity for this, and the returning officers were used as coveted instructors for the Swiss Army . Well known is Alfons Pfyffer von Altishofen, Chief of Staff of the Swiss Army and creator of the Gotthard fortifications. Another field of activity was the emerging tourism, which at that time was limited to the upper class. Families like the Segesser and Pfyffer built the large Belle Epoque hotels Schweizerhof and National and the Hotel Rigi-Kaltbad for them .

In the second half of the 19th century, patrician families combined with members of the upper middle class to form a new upper class, which survived two world wars in the 20th century and only began to dissolve in the 1960s, when the tightrope walk between tradition and modernity became increasingly difficult . During the decades around the turn of the century, people lived under the sign of historicism , which continued to flourish in Lucerne until the 1950s. In particular, the up-and-coming bourgeoisie leaned against the politically and socially more experienced patriciate for lack of historical legitimacy. But the mercantile nature and the increasingly complex industrial society did not get along well with the noble values ​​and principles of an ever smaller minority. Today the patrician self-image is no longer a collective phenomenon, but a private matter. Some of them still own extensive property in the city and its surroundings.

The patrician families of Lucerne

The years mean in sequence: first mention, entry into government, extinct (†)

Families still flourishing: Balthasar (von) 1531, 1598; zur Gilgen 1428, 1475; Göldlin von Tiefenau 1387, 1655; Hartmann (von) 1424, 1671; Mayr von Baldegg 1452, 1517; Meyer von Schauensee 1468, 1581; Pfyffer von Altishofen 1322, 1509; am Rhyn 1518, 1564; Schnyder von Wartensee 1350, 1715; Schumacher, (of) 1431, 1568; Schwytzer von Buonas 1527, 1633; Segesser von Brunegg 1241, 1564; Sonnenberg, from 1357 to 1480.

Extinct families: an der Allmend 1495, 1606, † 1829; Bircher 1500, 1525, † 1791; Cysat 1538, 1659, † 1802; Dulliker 1522, 1564, † 1820; Dürler 1570, 1633, † 1847; Entlin 1522, 1640, † 1822; Feer 1372, 1433, † 1794; Fleckenstein, from 1462, 1516, † 1833; Haas 1373, 1423, † 1796; Hertenstein, from 1213, 1413, † 1853; Keller (from cellars) 1584, 1677, † 1865; Krus 1483, 1565, † 1805; Mohr 1436, 1521, † 1913; Peyer im Hof ​​1300, 1730, † 1842; Rüttimann, (from) 1565, 1774, † 1873.


  • Edgar Hans Brunner: Nobility in the area of ​​today's Switzerland. In: Adler. Journal of Genealogy and Heraldry. Vol. 14, 1986/1988, ISSN  0001-8260 , pp. 237-243.
  • Arthur Joseph Gloggner: The Lucerne City-State. Citizenship - Regimental Authority - Patriciate. In: The Swiss genealogist. Vol. 22, 1955, ZDB -ID 128713-8 , pp. 49-71.
  • Arthur Joseph Gloggner: The form of government of the city and republic of Lucerne. Printed manuscript, Lucerne State and Family Archives.
  • Kurt Messmer, Peter Hoppe: Lucerne patriciate. Studies of social and economic history on the origin and development in the 16th and 17th centuries (= Lucerne historical publications. 5). Rex-Verlag, Luzern et al. 1976, ISBN 3-7252-0283-4 , ( digitized version ).
  • Arno J. Mayer: Noble power and bourgeoisie. The crisis in European society. 1848-1914 (= German 4471). Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-423-04471-3 .
  • Kuno Müller: Expert opinion on the spelling of the name of the Schumacher family from Lucerne who are eligible for regiment. Lucerne 1967.
  • Kuno Müller: How the gracious gentlemen once presented themselves. In: State calendar of the canton of Lucerne. 1936/1937, ZDB -ID 535095-5 .
  • Kuno Müller: Lucerne's patrician days. In: You . Vol. 4, No. 7, July 1944, pp. 20-24, doi : 10.5169 / seals-305164 .
  • Kuno Müller: They were noble times. In: Lucerne and the Vierwaldstätter See (= Merian . Vol. 17, no. 2). Hoffmann & Campe, Hamburg 1964.
  • Philipp Anton von Segesser : Legal history of the city and Republic of Lucern. 4 volumes. Räber, Lucerne 1850–1858.
  • Renato Schumacher: An overview of the Lucerne patriciate. sn, sl 2006, OCLC 886659101 .
  • Hans Wicki: Lucerne patriciate in crisis. In: The history friend. Vol. 145, 1992, pp. 97-114, ( online ).
  • Franz Zelger: On the threshold of modern Lucerne. Building history development. General cultural life. Haag, Lucerne 1930, DNB 578476207 .

Individual evidence

  1. Lucerne Fundamental Law of 1773, cf. Anne-Marie Dubler : Patrician places (4th gender rule ). In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  2. ^ Kasimir Pfyffer von Altishofen: Brief outline of a state constitution for the canton of Lucerne. P. 17 f.
  3. ^ Kuno Müller: Central Switzerland. Haag, Lucerne 1970.

See also