Murten is modern Swiss town which has done a marvelous job preserving the historic ‘aldstadt’ on a hill looking over Murtensee. Across the lake were the Vully hillside vineyards bordering France. In Murten, I heard more French spoken than Swiss German.
Medieval Murten is a walled city, with towers, ramparts, cobblestone streets, arched gates, and moat preserved for tourists. Berntor was one of two entrances into the medieval town.
Rooftops of Murten
I saw Murten from various viewpoints, strolling along the three long gasses (streets) through the aldstadt, on the bluff overlooking Murtensee, and, my most favorite venue, from the ramparts and towers along the stone walls.
The rooftops of Murten were especially attractive, reddish tiles on slanted roofs, no doubt because of heavy snowfall during Swiss winters. It almost seemed that architects competed to design the most esthetically appealing rooftops. What do you think?
View from the ramparts
After walking the Rathausgasse, I followed a path along the walls to a narrow staircase that led to towers and ramparts overlooking the town and countryside . I climbed steep and winding stairs, reaching a narrow walkway along the ramparts. Every few feet, there were narrow openings to look over the countryside.
Imagine in medieval days, sentries would stand guard at the ramparts to watch for possible invaders. Centuries later, tourists can peer through narrow keyhole gaps in the stone walls to admire the peaceful town of Murten and the lush landscape.
Battle of 1476
Murten’s most famous event in history was the Battle of Murten fought on June 22, 1476. On that day, Swiss Confederates defeated Charles the Bold of Burgundy who was trying to consolidate his holdings that stretched from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. The biggest obstacle to Charles’ army was Murten on the French border.
Today, memorials and plaques commemorate the Swiss victory over the French. I was in Murten days after the annual celebration and there were still banners, wilting floral bouquets, barricades, and signs from the recent celebration.
A banner announced the next anniversary. They even have a website with history of the battle and events planned for next years commemoration.
French, German, and Swiss churches
Switzerland was the crossroads during the Reformation and counter Reformation of the 16th & 17th centuries. Today, that religious struggle is evident in the presence of Swiss catholic, German protestant, and French catholic churches in Murten.
Like most medieval castles, a moat around Murten provided a line of defense against invaders. A small section of that moat has been preserved.
The moat around Murten’s walled ‘aldstadt’ had been filled in over the centuries and replaced with small gardens, possibly given out by the city. Plots were planted in flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, grape vines, and lawns.
Crawling up from the lush area were vines that encircled tower ramparts. Modern day invaders in a way, but pleasant to see, like something you’d see in a book cover of a medieval fantasy novel.
A narrow asphalt path around the moat allowed one to peak between shrubs and fences to see the gardens. Anyone in Murten who has a plot seemed to put energy into their plot of medieval history. Wouldn’t you if you had a garden along the ramparts of a centuries old castle?
My fondest memories of Murten were views from the ramparts looking over the town, the countryside, lake, and the colorful rooftops.
Next: Rhine Falls
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