Canton Schwyz – Schwyz and Swiss History

I am still trying to wrap my head around the history of this beautiful little country. Maybe it’s because I learned US history in school, but the story of the US founding seems fairly straightforward to me.

From what I have been able to understand about the very beginning of Switzerland is this. In 1291 three Forest Districts (now cantons) banded together to protect themselves from a Habsburg attack (as Rudolph I had just died). They signed a pledge to Everlasting League of Mutual Defense. These districts were Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden. (Unterwalden is now divided into Obwalden and Nidwalden.)

This founding document, along with many others, are available for viewing at the Bundesbriefmuseum in the town of Schwyz (the “capital” city of the canton of Schwyz). It’s  what happened after 1291 that seems very complicated to me.

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They obviously do not allow photography of the documents in the museum, but here is photo of the brochure you can pick up in the lobby.


The first room of the museum very clearly sets out to talk about the mythology of the founding of this country. Studies have been done to see if this document is actually the real document, and carbon dating suggests that it is probably from the correct time frame. Whether this document is indeed real or not, the mythology of how Switzerland began as a collection of independent-minded group of people is what is important for national identity and pride.

The second room has many, many documents which look similar to this one, with one, or many seals attached, and each one completely illegible to me. Each original document sets forth the joining together and conflicts of the Old Swiss Confederacy.

In the US National Archives millions of people each year stream by original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. One must go through a metal detector and then wait in line until you get your 15 seconds to look at each document. On Saturday we were the only people in the whole Museum of the Swiss Charters of Confederation, so we took our time reading the parts that were of most interest to us (this museum gets good marks in my book for having everything available in English).

The name of the country derives from this Canton (if you couldn’t guess that already), and the flag with the white cross on the red background comes from the Schwyz coat of arms.


We had 25 minutes to wait for our bus, so we wandered the old town and took these photos.

I picked up a brochure with a map for hiking trails in this region, because, as you see from these photos, this is a beautiful part of the country. I would like to come back for a panorama hike when the weather is warmer.


One thought on “Canton Schwyz – Schwyz and Swiss History

  1. Pingback: Uri and Wilhelm Tell | Glamping in Switzerland

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