The Baehler and Wyss Families
Wyss Family—from Gsteig, Thun, Thierchern and Isenfluh
Baehler Family—from Amsoldingen, Uebeschi and Uaepacke
The name “Thun” is ancient. In the time before Christ, this part of Switzerland was occupied by Celtic tribes, in whose language the word “dunum” meant “a fortified place.” In 58 B.C. the Romans under Julius Caesar defeated the Celts at Bibracte (France), and most of Switzerland came under Roman rule. Thun and the nearby village of Allmendingen were important religious and economic centers in the time of Roman rule. Many important archaeological discoveries have been made in the Thun–Allmendingen area.
The Romans were driven from Switzerland about 400 A.D. The Aare River, which flows through Thun, became the frontier between the Christian, Latin-speaking Burgundians and the pagan, German-speaking Alemanni. Beginning about 592 missionaries from Ireland, including Columban and Gall, arrived and established Christianity throughout Switzerland.
Switzerland was unified under the Merovingian and Carolingian kings of France. However, the Aare again became an important frontier in 843, when Charlemagne’s empire was partitioned by the Treaty of Verdun. Ludwig, “the German,” ruled east of the Aare, while Lothaire ruled to the west.
In 919, the Kingdom of Burgundy succeeded in pushing the frontier eastward, and Thun again came under French control. In this era King Rudolf II of Burgundy built a number of Romanesque churches in the area around Thun, some of which still stand today. The church in Amsoldingen is an outstanding example. A Romanesque church was built in Steffisburg during the Burgundian era, and fragments of this structure, dating from approximately 1000 A.D., survive as part of the present Steffisburg church. The 11th and 12th Centuries in Switzerland were a turbulent, violent time. The Thun region became part of the German Empire (Holy Roman Empire) in 1033, when the German Kaiser Konrad II was crowned King of Burgundy. A protacted conflict began in 1077 when Rudolf von Rheinfelden attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow Emperor Heinrich IV (grandson of Konrad II). For a time the Aare formed the border between the warring forces.
The Dukes of Zähringen were prominent in this period of Swiss history. They represented the German Empire in its struggle to subdue the local nobles of Switzerland. Duke Berchtold V von Zähringen built many fortified cities including Bern, present capital of Switzerland. He also built Thun castle in 1195. Thun castle today houses a museum of Swiss history and culture. A guidebook in English can be purchased from the ticket seller at the entrance. The museum is quite interesting, and views from the castle towers are spectacular.
Berchtold V died childless in 1218 and the von Zähringen properties in Switzerland, including Thun, passed to Ulrich III von Kiburg, who had married Berchtold’s sister Anna.
A famous murder, the Brudermord (brother murder), occurred in Thun Castle during the Kiburg era. After Count Hartmann I von Kiburg (?) died, his sons Hartmann and Eberhard feuded over the division of their inheritance. Their mother tried to arrange a settlement of the dispute in Thun Castle in 1322, but a violent argument broke out after dinner. Eberhard wounded his brother Hartmann and had him thrown from the castle ramparts.
During these years the city of Bern was increasing in power and it gradually assumed a greater and greater role in governing Thun.
Das Amt Thun, various authors, commissioned by the Heimatkundekommission, 499 pages, in German. Published by Adolf Schaer, Thun, 1943.
Thun is a town in central Switzerland, in the canton of Bern, 16 mi southwest of the city of Bern. Located at an altitude of 1818 ft, Thun lies along the banks of the Aare River, just below its discharge from the Lake of Thun. Thun was founded in the 12th century, but in 1323 both the town and its castle were sold to Bern. The older part of the town lies on the eastern bank of the Aare and centers around the 12th-century castle of Zähringen-Kiburg.
Lake Thun lies on the north side of the Bernese Alps. At an elevation of 1840 ft, the Lake of Thun is formed by a widening of the Aare River. The lake is 11.5 mi long, 2 mi wide and has an area of 18 sq mi. Its maximum depth is 702 ft. Along its shores are numerous resorts, such as Spiez on the south shore, and Gunten on the north. The towns on the north shore face the high mountains of the Bernese Alps, a view for which the Lake of Thun is highly celebrated. Lake steamers connect the town of Thun with the town of Interlaken, which lies between the Lake of Thun to the west and the Lake of Brienz to the east.
Set astride the River Aare on the lake which bears its name, Thun (pronounced toon) is much overlooked by visitors pressing on to Interlaken. This is a shame, since with its picturesque castle and quaint medieval centre, it’s well worth a visit; views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and, closer at hand, the giant pyramidal Niesen (2362m) and flat-topped Stockhorn (2190m) are a gentle prelude to the Alpine vistas further south. The town has an odd secret, however. After World War II, the authorities decided that in the event of a future invasion, the whole of Switzerland south to Thun was to be abandoned, and the entire population was to assemble here for dispersal into mountain retreats. Switzerland’s largest hospital was hollowed out of the Niesen, but despite constant upkeep, has never been used; it remains pristine and fully equipped, and there are probably dozens of other major military and civil emergency installations hidden in the mountains nearby. Across the river from the station, Thun’s low-lying Old Town is renowned for the arcading both of the main street, split-level Obere Hauptgasse, and the tranquil, cobbled Rathausplatz at its northwestern end. Steps lead up from various points along the picturesque street to the fairy-tale turreted castle which looms above, built in 1190 and occupied by the Bernese in 1386. Its lofty halls now contains a historical museum with the usual period furniture and militaria.
The gate of Thun may be considered that of the Oberland, a district which, in 1798, was elevated to the rank of canton, and again, at the peace of 1814, annexed to Bern. It comprises the vast extent of valleys and mountains situated in the centre of Switzerland and, abounding in excellent pasturage, supports its inhabitants chiefly by the breeding of cattle and the produce of the dairy. It is divided into four principal valleys—the Simmenthal, Lauterbrunnen, Grindenwald, and Hasli, the waters of which, with their numerous tributaries, preserve a northern course, and fall into the lake of Thun—the scenery of which is so proverbial for its beauty. The northern shore presents a vast congeries of rugged mountains, while the opposite abounds in the most graceful and picturesque landscapes. Thun, though greatly improved by recent buildings, is small and only remarkable when connected with the magnificent country of which it forms the capital. On the west, in the island formed by the two arms of the river, is the quarter of Belliz, traversed by a street called Rosengarten. Each branch of the river is spanned by a bridge—one covered over, the other open, with two corresponding gates. A third gate opens to the road to Bern; a fourth, named the Laui-gate, leads to the charming walks on the Griisisberg, and a mass of rocks, the result of an enormous eboulement of mountains, whose ruins are still visible, though, by the accumulated labour of centuries, covered with earth and cultivated.
The town itself contains about two thousand inhabitants, but the population is nearly doubled during the summer months by the influx of strangers, who, for some years past, have shown a decided partiality for the banks of this lake as a place where pleasure, study and economy may be united. The terrace near the church commands a most interesting prospect—the great variety of the foreground with the lake and glaciers in the distance give it an inexpressible charm. The Pavilion of St. James embraces a similar but more extended view; while the Baechen-Haelzli surprises the spectator by the remarkable contrasts which it displays when observed from different vistas—opening and shutting as he varies his position and including the sublime, unchanging aspect of the glaciers. But from no point is this view enjoyed in such perfection as from the entrance to a little grove, where a seat, inscribed with an appropriate motto “repose et jouis” embraces the general features. On the borders of the lake to which it gives name are the strikingly picturesque village of Spietz and the ancient tower of Strattlingen, from which sprang the founder of the second kingdom of Burgundy. According to popular tradition this district long retained the characteristic name of the valley of gold and gladness—a title to which its beauty and fertility may still lay claim. The small church of St. Michael, on the margin of the lake, was called the Paradise; and higher up the bank the chateau of Spietz bore the name of the Golden Court—circumstances which prove how highly these charming localities were appreciated by their feudal chiefs. Spietz is the last village which the road touches before it leaves the lake. All the houses are white, detached and each with its garden. On a gentle swell stand the church and parsonage house—the latter with a beautiful garden running forward into the lake, in the calm bosom of which mountains, meadows, woods, and orchards, are all pictured in beautiful reflection. The village of Wimmis is no less beautiful.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: William Henry Bartlett (born in London, 26 March 1809; died at sea off Malta, 13 Sept 1854) was an English draughtsman, active also in the Near East, Continental Europe and North America. He was a prolific artist and an intrepid traveler. His work became widely known through numerous engravings after his drawings were published in his own and other writers’ topographical books. His primary concern was to extract the picturesque aspects of a place and by means of established pictorial conventions to render ‘lively impressions of actual sights’, as he wrote in the preface to The Nile Boat (London, 1849).
The popularity of travel pictures is apparent in the Annuals that appeared after 1820. Engraving on steel, instead of copper, contributed much to ensuring that thousands of people became vividly aware of the romantic possibilities of travel, which were so greatly facilitated by the growth of steamships and railways after 1830. When Henry Bartlett left with his bride for Paris and Switzerland in November 1832, there already was a public with a pronounced taste for world illustrations. As Switzerland was to be a work ‘more ostensibly devoted to the “sublime and picturesque” ‘ than to the ‘moral features of Switzerland’, Bartlett found himself with employment which was very much to his liking, as sections in Beattie’s Memoir indicate: ‘How find words to convey an idea of those wondrous Alps, soaring above plain and lake, and successive mountain ranges, into the serenity of a loftier heaven?’ After a spell of serious illness in which he was well cared for by his wife, the young artist set to work. His sketches were finished on the spot, sent home to the publisher, and placed in the hands of the engraver so that the several processes of sketching, engraving, and printing, were all going forward at the same time. As he continued to do throughout the remaining twenty-two years of his life, Bartlett traveled a great deal and sketched quickly. According to Beattie the first images of Switzerland appeared less than four months after his arrival in the country. The full set of prints were published in 1836, and were dedicated ‘most respectfully’ to Her Gracious Majesty, Adelaide, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.
THE BERNESE OBERLAND IN SWITZERLAND
Five Wood engravings
Jungfrau is a mountain, southern Switzerland, of the Bernese Oberland, located on the border between the cantons of Bern and Valais and rising to a height of 4158 m (13,642 ft) above sea level. The Jungfrau was ascended for the first time in 1811. A railroad, the highest in Europe, ascends the mountain to Jungfraujoch, a point about 3456 m (11,340 ft) above sea level.
Interlaken is a town and summer resort in central Switzerland, in Bern Canton. It is situated on the Aare River between Brienz and Thun lakes, near the city of Bern, in the Bernese Oberland region in the Alps. Tourism is Interlaken’s main economic activity. Attractions include an 18th-century castle, used today to house government offices, and a spectacular view of the Jungfrau peak from the main street of the town. Printing and the manufacture of woolen textiles are other important industries. Interlaken was founded in the 12th century. Population (1986 estimate) 4900.