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Main gate of the wolf godsack

The Wolfgottesacker is one of the Basel cemeteries . It is located in the east of the city next to the SBB tracks and forms a green island in an industrial and commercial area between the Wolf freight station and the Dreispitz tram depot .

The Wolfgottesacker is - apart from the only partially preserved St. Alban's cemetery and the cloisters of Basel Minster - the oldest largely preserved burial site in the city, the only one still in use today, and one of the most important Swiss examples of early landscaped cemeteries .


Excerpt from the unrealized design plan by Amadeus Merian, 1865
Inventory plan of the divine sack on the wolf. Lithograph by Emanuel Hindermann , Basel, made after 1872

Due to the rapidly growing population and the planned expansion of the building area of ​​the city after the demolition of the old city ​​walls , the Basel city council decided in 1866, after several years of discussion, to build two further cemeteries far outside the city limits at that time: on the Kannenfeld (inaugurated in 1868) for the population to the left of the Birsig and on the Wolffeld for the population to the right of the Birsig. Wolves roamed here until the 17th century; The name of the field, which comes from this , also gave the burial ground its name.

Due to the nature of the soil in the "Wolf area", which is not very suitable for graves, and a natural depression in the property (it also slopes slightly towards the rear, seen from the entrance in the south), large amounts of earth had to be brought up from the brother wood to be filled up. A first plan of the situation for the "Wolfgottesacker" was made in 1865 by the former Basel building inspector Amadeus Merian (1808–1889) after he and a delegation had visited several southern German city cemeteries. Merian's overall plan was revised several times with regard to the architectural form and, above all, the horticultural design. Merian commissioned the landscape gardener Georg Lorch (1829–1870), who originally came from Türkheim in Bavaria, was trained in Munich and had been a Basel city gardener since 1863 , and who had previously carried out the horticultural facilities for the "Kannenfeld-Gottesacker", with the elaboration of the horticultural planning. The architect Johann Jakob à Wengen (1814–1875) was responsible for developing the structural forms . In 1866 he submitted numerous detailed plans, which were later only carried out in a reduced form for financial reasons.

On February 22, 1869, the council approved the construction loan of CHF 241,000. On March 31, 1869, a lease agreement was signed with the owner of the over 500 ares large property, Margaretha Merian-Burckhardt (widow of the landowner Christoph Merian ), for 690 francs a year. Under the construction management of the Basel architect Rudolf Fechter (1840–1902), the earthworks and gardening began in October 1870, with the high-rise buildings in April 1871. In May 1871, the surrounding wall with numerous grid fields was finished. On May 23, 1872 the "Gottesacker" was inaugurated; the first burial was on June 3, 1872.

One year after the opening, the Swiss Central Railway planned the marshalling yard and freight yard that still exists today next to the cemetery. Since the cemetery was in the way of this, the responsible medical department initially considered moving the "Gottesackers". As a precautionary measure, the burials were therefore stopped in September 1874 and all burials were relocated from Grossbasel to Kannenfeld. In 1875 the northern cemetery entrance on St.-Jakobs-Strasse was closed because the northern part of the cemetery fell victim to the construction of the temporary marshalling yard. The cemetery was reopened in June 1879, and in 1880 a further 144 ares of the lower cemetery area were sold to the "Centralbahn". To compensate for this, expansion areas were added on the west and east sides, although the original symbolism of the cemetery floor plan in the form of a church was lost. In 1889, the Christoph Merian Foundation sold the previously leased cemetery property to the city.

In 1915/1916, the Basel tram depot and a residential building for employees were built next to the entrance portal on Münchensteinerstrasse . In 1929 the access to the cemetery was shortened in favor of new tracks for the depot. The cemetery was temporarily closed from 1937 to 1941, and in 1940 and 1947 some grave fields were redesigned and redesigned. In 1957 more than 1,200 square meters were separated from the western expansion of the cemetery, which was built in the 1880s, for the construction of a warehouse for the train station cold store. Ahead of the 1951 made abolition of graveyards Horburg and optional field and in the years after many of its graves were moved to the "Wolf Gottesacker", 1953 came another eighteen as particularly worthy of preservation considered grave stones from the optional field here, whereby national importance on the "Wolf Gottesacker" a Collection of valuable tombstones developed. Conversely, graves were occasionally moved away from the "Wolfgottesacker", for example the cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt, who died in 1897, was reburied in 1936 in the 1932 new cemetery on the Hörnli in the suburb of Riehen . In 1962 the original gravel roads were paved. In 1964 the entrance portal was to be torn down due to structural damage and replaced by an iron grille; However, it was preserved through the efforts of the State Homeland Security Commission and the Basel Public Monument Preservation and was renovated in 1965.

Since 1980 the "Wolfgottesacker" has been used exclusively as a site for family graves. Around 180 burials are carried out each year. In 1990 a scientific inventory was drawn up. In November 1995 the cemetery was placed under a preservation order.

Architecture and green spaces

Unrealized draft drawing by Johann Jakob à Wengen for the abdication hall, 1866
Tomb of the Stehlin family. Lithograph by Johann Jakob Stehlin the Elder J. , 1893
Entrance to the Wolfgottesacker cemetery
Entrance to the Wolfgottesacker cemetery

Access to the “Wolfgottesacker” is from Münchensteinerstrasse at the southern end of the cemetery. There the cemetery wall forms an outwardly halved octagon, which was deliberately intended to be reminiscent of the floor plan of a chancel that is in front of the wider, rectangular main part of the cemetery (the "nave"). A three-arched entrance portal, designed by Johann Jakob à Wengen, was built on the inclined western side of this semi-octagon. Building wings for administration and gardeners were attached to the portal on both sides. The morgue was built on the eastern sloping side of the half octagon . The entrance portal on the left of the forecourt and the funeral hall on the right are symmetrical to each other, each at an angle of around 45 degrees to an imaginary central axis of the cemetery, roughly at right angles to each other and thus form a kind of courtyard. Bernese sandstone was used for both buildings, which were built in neo-Byzantine style .

From the entrance portal one arrives over an avenue of lime trees to a round square surrounded by chestnut trees as the center of the cut octagon. A second axis-symmetrical axis of the path meets this from the funeral hall. An abdication chapel in the form of a central building was originally planned on the square . The realization of the design was initially postponed for financial reasons and was never realized later, so that the square seems a bit empty today. The dead were laid out in an improvised chapel in the morgue, in the place of which a dissection room was actually intended. The originally planned construction of grave halls at the two rounded southern corners of the cemetery wall was also not implemented.

From the round square in the center of this courtyard, according to the first design by Amadeus Merian, a main pathway should lead as a basic structure through the middle of the grave fields, roughly crossed by a cross avenue in the center of the complex; A second circular area was planned at the intersection of the two axes. The further development of the area was to follow the example of the design principles for cemeteries of the famous German landscape gardener Friedrich Ludwig Sckell from his contributions to visual garden art , which city gardener Lorch was familiar with: irregularly curved and branched paths, at the junctions of which groups of trees and shrubs were hidden for aesthetic reasons were intended to create a certain tension on the further course of the route.

The plan that was finally implemented took over the form of the entrance courtyard as intended by Merian, but dispensed with the main axis that cuts through the main burial ground. Instead, this burial ground was structured strictly orthogonally and surrounded by an approximately semicircular circular path, which is accompanied by a wide band of green spaces on the outside. Further deciduous trees and bushes were planted in this strip of green, which was made accessible by irregularly curved side paths, so that the character of a shady grove emerged . In this are two small, natural-shaped artificial ponds, the background of which is decorated with Nagelfluh rocks and planted with ferns and other perennials and shrubs, including a bald cypress . Along this deliberately high-quality circular route, graves were laid on the western and eastern cemetery walls for the wealthy families, which were originally often provided with individual borders. For the row graves in the central cemetery area, however, no public planting was planned.


Graves of important personalities

Information board of the graves of important personalities
Information board of the graves of important personalities

Many Basel personalities and long-established families of the 19th century, including those from Basel's “ Daig ”, have found their final resting place on the “Wolfgottesacker” . A scientific inventory of the Wolfgottesack completed in 1990 counts 1130 tombs from the period from 1872 to 1920/1930, of which more than half are classified as valuable and are therefore under protection. The following are buried on the Wolfgottesacker:

Significant tombs in terms of design

A remarkable number of graves on the "Wolfgottesacker" are adorned with sculptural monumental angel figures and other figures, obelisks , etc. made of marble , but also made of inexpensive electroplating produced abroad . The gravestones were mostly made in the workshops of specialized stonemasons, sculptors and architects such as Carl Wartner (1817–1891), Jacques Gürtler , Isidor Raphael Pellegrini , Oskar Lippe (1880–1962), Emil Schlemmer . Some of the marble figures produced in series come from the Zurich sculptor Louis Wethli . Individually made pieces come from Melchior Berri , Richard Kissling , Jakob August Heer , Hans Frei (1868–1948), Heinrich Rudolf Meili , August Suter and Alexander Zschokke , among others . Grave decorations that are particularly remarkable in terms of design can be found on the following grave sites:


Web links

Commons : Wolfgottesacker  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Marc Sieber: Jacob Burckhardt's disturbed grave rest. Retrieved October 26, 2019 .
  2. old Basel: The Jacob Burckhardt case. Retrieved June 19, 2019 .

Coordinates: 47 ° 32 ′ 25 "  N , 7 ° 36 ′ 30"  E ; CH1903:  612770  /  265510