Basel Switzerland, 860 feet a/s, the old Basilea of the Romans, is safely enthroned upon the stately banks of the Rhine, where that majestic river, dividing the town into two sections, known as Klein-Basel and Gross-Basel, dashes in a sweeping curve towards the north. After gaining its independence in the early Middle Ages, the city acquired international fame after the Council of Basel(1431-1448), one of the consequences of which was the foundation of the university in 1460. The city then became the residence of the most learned scholars and celebrated artists of that period. To better protect herself against the covetous Austrian nobility of the neighbouring Alsace and Breisgau, Basel joined the Swiss Confederation in 1501 and ever since has remained a Swiss city.
Basel’s distinctive landmark is the Cathedral, since the Reformation known as the Münster. Like its sister temples on the banks of the Rhine, it is a truly magnificent building and altogether unique in its lines and colouring. The material used is a brilliant red sandstone and the roof is covered with green, white and red tiles that look like enamel. Emperor Henry II founded the Münster in 1010 A.D., and the original structure was in the Byzantine style; in 1356, a fire, resulting from an earthquake, did considerable damage and the church was consequently rebuilt in Gothic and consecrated anew. The northern portal, known as St. Gallus Gateway, remains of the original Romanesque construction, its statues, reliefs and ornamentations being well preserved. The choir is also of that period, while the western front, towers and other parts are of the later Gothic.
To the east, adjoining the Cathedral, is a beautiful old cloister, magnificent in its solemn effect, with some of the richest and most varied tablets in Renaissance and Baroque style. The Cathedral terrace, shaded by beautiful old chestnut trees and known as the Pfalz, overlooks the Rhine Valley and the Black Forest.
Nearby on the Market Square, is the Town Hall, an imposing Gothic structure with a remarkable, delicately carved front. Its iron gate is like a great window shade, embroidered in open-work. All over there are statues, doors of carved wood and in a prominent position, the coat-of-arms of Baselheld on one side by the Holy Virgin and on the other side by Henry II.
As an ancient seat of culture and learning, Basel possesses a most noteworthy Historical Museum in the old Barfüsser Church. Among the many priceless treasures shown therein are relics of the Basel “Death Dance,” the Cathedral plate, tankards, bowls and jewels of the various Guilds; the carved: altar of St. Mary Calanca; war trophies and weapons; heirlooms of Erasmus of Rotterdam, etc.
Opposite the entrance to the museum is a beautiful fountain with exquisite figures representing Samson and Delilah. Basel, like other medieval cities in Switzerland, prides itself with several handsome fountain statues. Of these, the Fischmarktbrunnen, a 15th Century Gothic piece of work, the Spalenbrunnen, with bagpipe players and peasants’ dance, after Dürrer and Holbein, and the Rebhausbrunnen, in German Renaissance, are the most noteworthy.
In the St. Alban-Graben is the Museum with a picture gallery interesting for its paintings and drawings by the two great artists Hans Holbein and Arnold Bocklin, both natives of Basel.[/caption]
Basel Switzerland is an absolute gem for well-preserved medieval architecture. Besides the Cathedral, 10 churches dating from the Middle Ages are still existing; among these St Alban’s with early Romanesque cloisters; the Dominican Church with a graceful vane on the roof, and the Barfusser Church now containing the Historical Museum with an exceedingly high chancel. Among the public buildings of the Middle Ages, there are some richly decorated guild houses, also imposing City Gates of real artistic value.
The Spalen gate, built at the beginning of the 15th Century and which, in 1473 was decorated by a front structure and graceful statues, the work of Sarbach, is declared to be the most beautiful specimen, but the St. Johanngate and the St. Albangate are also interesting medieval relics.
A noble monument portraying Helvetia presenting the crown of victory to the heroes of St. Jakob an der Birs, commemorates that glorious battle, which was fought in the environs of Basel on August 26, 1444. “Our souls to God, our bodies to the enemy” was the war-cry of the gallant 1300 confederates who opposed an army of 40,000 barbaric Armagnac invaders, led by the Dauphin Louis (afterwards Louis XI).
Another beautiful monument, the Strassburger Denkmal, presented to Basel in 1895, by Baron Herve de Gruyere, commemorates the assistance given in 1870 to the besieged City of Strassburg, when delegates from Basel and Zurich took the women, children and aged people of that city into Switzerland.
The neighbouring village of Augst “Augusta Rauracorum” boasts impressive remains of a Roman settlement with a spacious amphitheatre.
Getting to Basel Switzerland
If you are travelling by air, you can reach the city via EuroAirport or nearby Zurich Airport. It’s very easy to plan your journey via the three railway stations and the major motorways. Cruise ships also travel down the Rhine to Basel every day.