Commemorations of Historical Battles

Switzerland

Morgarten (ZG and SZ): November 15, victory of the founding cantons of Switzerland over the Habsburgs. Sempach (LU): July 9, 1386, victory of the founding cantons of Switzerland over the Habsburgs, celebration on the Monday following July 4. Näfels (GL): April 9, 1388, victory of the inhabitants of Glarus, Uri and Schwyz over the Habsburgs, celebration on the first Monday in April.

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The early history of the Swiss Confederation is marked by a series of decisive battles in which the alliance formed in 1291 had to be defended. The series began with the victory of Morgarten in 1315 and ended with the defeat of mercenaries near Marignano (Northern Italy) in 1515. At several battle sites, commemorative services remembering the events and the fallen are celebrated. Originally, these celebrations were purely religious ones in which prayers for the souls of the fallen were offered; later, in the nineteenth century, more patriotic motives were added. Today the commemorations are a time for thought, reflection on the past, and a critical look at the future in a time of constant change.

The events at Morgarten and Sempach have a lot in common: the reading of the covenant of confederation and military conventions, religious and political addresses, remembrance of the dead, all in a setting of music and the colorful shooting match. In Morgarten, the participation of the military is especially noticeable; in Sempach, the presence of a student group brings to mind the academic youth of the nineteenth century who played an important role in reviving this commemoration.

The Näfels "Walk" is characterised by the fact that the Roman Catholic minority in Canton Glarus has enjoyed equal rights for the last three centuries. Whereas the Roman Catholics conduct a formal procession with their priests to the various commemorative stones and thereafter to the monument, the Protestants walk informally by the stones. The concluding address in Näfels is given alternately by a Roman Catholic priest and a Reformed minister. It should be noted that this equality of commemoration first took place in 1844, after a long series of discussions.

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