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the greatest seats of learning in Europe, its history being vir-
tually that of the best medieval culture during that period. At
the risk then, of seeming to neglect the general course of
events in the Kingdom of the Franks, but really in order to
render the history of this monastery at once more consecutive
and more easily comprehensible, the writer will here proceed
with an account of St. Gallen during its golden age.

The chronicler of the monastery, to whom we are indebted
for our information concerning this period, is a monk, Ekke-
hart IV., who wrote the Casus Sancti Galli in the eleventh cen-
tury. He gives a graphic, if somewhat biassed, version of the
fortunes of the institution, and describes the lives of the men
who contributed to its greatness. There was the composer
of music, Notker, surnamed the Stammerer, the author of
so-called sequences in the music of the mass. He was the



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THE SUPREMACY OF THE FRANKS. 43

first of three Notkers famous in the annals of the abbey. The
second Notker was a physician, one of the pioneers of modem
medicine, and the third, surnamed the Thick-lipped, is reckoned
among the fathers of German prose. Not that his works are
valuable for any new ideas contained in them, being principally
translations of the classics, undertaken to help his pupils in the
monastery school, but because they are amongst the earliest
efforts ever made in German to put into writing the common
speech of the people. Another personage was the versatile
Tuotilo, who was "eloquent, with a clear voice, skillful in
embossing, and an artist in painting, a musician as well as his
companions, but superior to them all on stringed instruments
and reed-pipes, for he taught the sons of the nobility on the
strings in a room set apart by the abbot." Ratpert, a native
of Zurich, was reckoned one of the most assiduous scholars
and schoolmasters of the abbey. On the St. Gallen records
are the names of five Ekkeharts, three of whom were noted
men. Ekkehart I. was the author of a Latin poem, and Ekke-
hart II. is known to the present generation as the hero of Shef-
fel's great novel bearing the name of Ekkehart. In that work
the monk is described as becoming the lover of Hedwig,
Duchess of Alamannia, but Dandliker^ thinks the novelist has
overstepped the bounds of actual historical truth in construct-
ing his plot, and does not believe that love or indeed scandal
ever entered into the relations of the noblewoman and the monk.
The Casus relates this curious episode in the Abbey's history at
some length. It appears that the beautiful, but eccentric, widow
had been engaged in her youth to be married to the Greek em-
peror Constantine, and that she had at that time been carefully
instructed in Greek learning by ambassadors especially sent
for the purpose. Though this marriage never took place, she
acquired a taste for learning, and as widow of Burkhard II.,
Duke of Alamannia, she renewed her studies with Ekkdhart
II. She went to the Abbey and requested that he be given
to her as teacher, "having the day before, because he was door-

^Geschichte der Schweiz. Vol. I, p. 187.



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44 THB RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

keeper, secretly made an agreement with him to this eflfect/*
adds the chronicler.

The other Ekkehart who deserves to be mentioned is the
author of the chronicle quoted above, a work not free, by any
means, from the usual inaccuracies of medieval chroniclers, but
nevertheless extremely valuable and eminently readable.

Indeed the art of writing, a rare accomplishment in those
days, implanted in the monastery by the numerous Irish
brethren, had during the ninth century produced a truly
extraordinary literary activity. The classics were much studied,
especially for practice in order to acquire facility in reading the
Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible. St. Gallen also had its
artists, its musicians, carvers, and illuminators of texts. The
so-called Golden Psalter, dating from the ninth century, is
one of the most highly prized examples of monkish art to be
found anywhere, a work which is said to exhibit to-day colors
as fresh as though painted but yesterday.

The founding of the monastery of St. Gallen over the spot
where the hermitage of Gallus had stood, is typical of many
others on Swiss territory. Thus Dissentis (corruption of
Desertina) was founded near the source of the Rhine, prob-
ably by Sigisbert, a disciple of Columban, and the monastery
of Reichenau by St. Pirmin on an island in the lake of Con-
stance. A number of churches and chapels sprang up in all
directions, so that by the middle of the eighth century Ala-
mannia, as well as Burgundy, was practically Christianized.

In the meantime the family of the Merowingians died out
by degrees in a manner which leaves an impression nothing
short of painful. They sank gradually, but inevitably, through
an unbroken series of crimes and feuds to utter incapacity.
The Frankish Kingdom after having experienced several par-
titionings, at the beginning of the seventh century fell apart
into Austrasia and Neustria, and the rulers of these two
divisions ended by placing all but purely nominal authority
into the hands of their Majores Domus (Mayors of the palace).
The Austrasian Pipin of Heristal became major domus of both



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THE SUPREMACY OF THE FRANKS. 45

divisions by defeating the Neustrian major domus. He was
followed by his son Charles Martel and by his grandson Pipin,
the Small, who deposed Childeric HI., the last of the decaying
MerowingianSy in 751, and was then declared King of the
Franks. Pipin's elder son Karlmann died in 771, and his
younger son Charles the Great (Charlemagne) then became
King of the Franks and later, Emperor of the West.

With the advent of Charles the Great to power in 768 a
new era began to dawn over the Frankish possessions, an era
marked first and foremost by a centralization of the functions
of government into the hands of one man. The Carolingian
idea of the divine right of Kings resulted in consolidating the
various parts of the Empire into something like a homoge-
neous whole, at least during the lifetime of the great emperor. .

There seems to be no reason for supposing that Charle-
magne gave particular attention to that portion of his realm
which forms the subject of this history. But it is well estab-
lished that he must have repeatedly traversed what is now
Swiss territory on his way to and from Italy. He certainly
visited Geneva and Constance, perhaps even St. Maurice and
Zurich. A number of traditions, the truth of which is not
sufficiently proven, connect him especially with this last place,
where the Institute of Canons {Chorkerrenstift) attached to
the Grossmiinster, and its school, the Karolinum, claimed to
have been founded by him. Among the great scholars whom
he gathered around his court were two bishops from Swiss
soil, Hatto of Basel and Remedius of Chur, and he likewise
confirmed the independence of the Abbey of St. Gallen from
the jurisdiction of the see of Constance.

In order to keep pace with the increasing size of his empire,
Charles the Great was obliged to enlarge the County system,
and to bring it more immediately under his control. Beside
the ordinary Gaugrafen, he appointed Markgrafen over the
border districts, and Sendgrafen, imperial messengers, who
made periodical circuits, heard complaints, and reported them
to him. Important changes were made also in the administra-



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46 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

tion of justice, in the levying of troops, and in church polity.
Under his patronage education made great strides, agriculture
was improved, and the arts and sciences received a much
needed impetus.

But while the consolidation of the empire was going on
apace, and the reforms of Charlemagne were raising society to
a higher level of culture, the rapid development of the feudal
system was dividing his subjects into castes which tended con-
tinually to become less pliable. A wedge was thus introduced
which was destined after the death of the g^eat emperor to
split the state into countless factions, reducing his descendants
to a condition of pitiable impotency.

Like everything else which is connected with the organiza-
tion of ancient Germans, this institution of the feudal system
cannot be traced to its origin with anything like certainty.
The custom of comradeship, mentioned by Tacitus, is probably
the earliest form in which it appeared. Under Charles the
Great, however, it reached a stage of the highest development,
partly in consequence of his administrative changes, but prin-
cipally as the result of natural causes, over which he had really
no control. It is, in fact, to the concentration of land into the
hands of a few men, in a word to the growth of large estates,
that we must look for the prime cause of this extraordinary
progress of the feudal system. The owners of vast landed
property could not possibly cultivate the whole of their posses-
sions themselves. It followed, therefore, that they must lend
them to others on certain conditions of rent and personal ser-
vice, a course which placed these borrowers in the feudal rela-
tion to the owners of the land. In time a rigid class system
grew upon this basis of land tenure, with hard and fast dis-
tinctions from the sovereign down to the serf, each rank owing
services of some sort to the rank above it, and receiving in
return a certain measure of protection, somewhat arbitrarily
accorded.

This dangerously artificial and inelastic system might per-
haps have maintained itself unimpaired, had it not been for



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THE SUPREMACY OF THE FRANKS. 47

the so-called decrees of immunity (immunitas in the docu-
ments), which the Prankish rulers, notably Charles the Great
and his successors, saw fit to issue to church institutions.
Such decrees took the institutions, to which they were
granted, from the control of the Count, under whose jurisdic-
tion they would naturally have fallen, and placed them in the
immediate care of an imperial Vogt (corruption of advocatus)^
or bailiff. This privilege is described by German scholars as
Reichsunmittelbarkeit It was largely upon this same right of
immunity that the Forest States, Uri, Schwiz and Unterwal-
den, later founded the Swiss Confederation, by refusing to
submit to the hereditary Counts of the thirteenth and four-
teenth centuries. But not only were the heads of ecclesiasti-
cal institutions liberated from the trammels of the county
system, secular nobles also, envious of their success, managed
to acquire this much desired prerogative, and even the Counts
achieved a certain amount of independence by establishing the
principle of hereditary succession. Thus did the immunity
make inroads into the organization of the County system, and
undermine the uniform administration of justice throughout
the empire.

As long as a strong sovereign was at the head of the com-
plex Prankish empire, the stability of the state remained unim-
paired. While Charles the Great lived, he was able to hold the
empire together by the force of his executive genius, but
under his weak successors it fell apart.

In 814 Charlemagne's youngest son, Ludwig the Pious,
succeeded to the throne. He barely maintained his position
against four rebellious sons until his death in 840. Pinally,
in 843, the empire was divided amongst the three remaining
sons, Lothar, Ludwig the German and Charles the Bold at the
treaty of Verdun.

It is not without reason that the Prench and Germans date
the beginning of their separate existence, as nations, from this
treaty, for, though drawn up simply as a family contract, it was
in reality destined to effect a new grouping of nationalities.



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48 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

Nor could an event of such capital importance in general
European affairs fail to exert a corresponding influence upon
what is to-day Swiss territory. By this treaty Alamannia and
Curraetia went to Ludwig the German, while Burgundy was
given to Lothar. The country was, therefore, once more
divided, after having been united for more than three hundred
years under the sceptre of Frankish Kings. The contrast
which already existed between the purely Teutonic Alamanni
and the Romanized Burgundians was thus emphasized by
political separation.



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CHAPTER V.

QUEEN BERTHA OF BURGUNDY.

THERE is an expression still currently used in French
Switzerland, le bon temps que reine Bert/ie filait^ which
is equivalent to our saying of "good old times." It recalls
one of the most delightful chapters in the history of that
region, when a Queen Bertha, sat on the throne of the King-
dom of Transjurane Burgundy, and endeared herself to her
subjects through the charitable disposition which she evinced
and the executive ability with which she ruled. So vivid was
the impression she made on her contemporaries, that their
descendants have preserved the image of the good queen with
greater clearness than those of personages whose careers were
fraught with even more important consequences to the his-
torical development of the country.

In the earliest stages of the situation created by the treaty
of Verdun, the Kingdom of Lothar presented a picture of the
most complete demoralization. Indeed it had hardly been con-
stituted when it was already hopelessly divided into a variety
of new states. Only one of these falls within the scope of the
present history — the Kingdom of Transjurane, or New Bur-
gundy, founded in 888 by a Markgrave Rudolf, related to the
Guelph family. The coronation of the new king took place
at St. Maurice in the presence of the spiritual and temporal
lords of Burgundy. He succeeded in maintaining himself
against Amulf of Carinthia, King of the East Franks, and
during the reign of Ludwig, the Child, established his kingdom
upon so firm a foundation that he was able to leave it intact to
his son, Rudolf II.

49



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50 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

The latter sovereign, then, considerably enlarged Transju-
rane Burgundy ; rather, indeed, by his good fortune than by his
talents. In attempting to add to his possessions in the direc-
tion of Alamannia, he came into conflict with Burkhard I., who
had just raised himself to the position of duke of that country,
and was defeated by the latter in a battle at Winterthur (919),
but this feud was amicably settled two or three years later
when Burkhard gave him the hand of his daughter in marriage.

This was the famous and beloved Bertha, the queen whom
popular tradition represents as going about amongst her people,
riding on a palfrey, and spinning the while from her distaff, in
the good old times of Burgundy. She brought her husband a
large dowry in lands, probably a portion of Alamannia, so that
Rudolf thus acquired by peaceful means what he had failed to
do by force of arms. Bef6re he died he had also enlarged his
kingdom by another stroke of good fortune to include the two
Burgundies, comprising what is now French Switzerland and
in France, Provence, Dauphin^ and Franche Comt6. An
infant son, Conrad, succeeded Rudolf, in 935. He was placed
during his minority under the gfuardianship of Otto the Great,
Emperor of Germany. Bertha's daughter Adelaide, famed for
her beauty and piety, had married King Lothar of Italy at the
age of sixteen, to whom she had been betrothed from infancy,
but three years later, at the death of Lothar, she became the
bride of Otto, the Great, of Germany.

Bertha's activity during the reign of her husband and the
minority of her son was of such a character as to imprint her
personality indelibly upon the period. The documents relating
to her are few indeed, but tradition is, perhaps for this reason,
all the richer in reminiscences. Amongst the stories which
have been handed down in French Switzerland, is the follow-
ing : As the queen was making her rounds one day from farm
to farm, she met a young shepherdess who was spinning as she
watched her flock. Pleased at this sign of industry, Bertha
gave her a rich present. On the morrow the queen was sur-
prised to see all her ladies in waiting appear with distaffs in



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QUEEN BERTHA OF BURGUNDY. 61

their hands. '< My ladies/* said Bertha, << you come too late.
The young peasant girl came first, and like Jacob, she has
taken away my blessing.*' The Bernese painter, Anker, has
executed an admirable work representing the queen in the act
of teaching some children of the people how to use the distaff.
Not only is the subject treated with excellent artistic effect,
but the costumes are scrupulously accurate for the period.
During the terrible invasions of the Magyars and Saracens,
who poured over the Alps in the early part of the tenth cen-
tury, devastating the country as far north as Chur and St.
Gallen, Bertha is reported to have erected towers of refuge,
having a wide outlook. Towers of this sort at Gourze, Moudon,
Molifere and Neuchatel, now rapidly falling into ruins, show by
their construction that they were intended to be simply shel-
ters in time of danger, and not regularly inhabited strongholds.
Tradition also ascribes to her the building of many roads and
bridges, and credits her with taking a special interest in
developing the agricultural interests of the country.

Of strictly authentic facts regarding the good Queen's life,
there is unfortunately a great lack. In 961 she executed a
will, deeding valuable properties to the Abbey at Payerne, "for
the love of my lord Rudolf, of my sons, of Otto, the most
glorious King, of my daughter Adelaide, and finally for my
own sake, and for the souls of all those who shall endow this
temple of the Lord."^ An elaborate curse is appended to this
document, after the custom of the age, to be invoked upon all
who may dare to set aside the provisions of the deed. Modem
Payerne is a thriving little town, not far from Avenches, and off
the track of tourist travel, with a local reputation for pork
sausages rather than for any special display of sanctity. Queen
Bertha placed the monastery in charge of a Benedictine Abbot,
Majolus. She and her daughter Adelaide ever after showed a
special interest in this ecclesiastical foundation. In point of
fact the Abbey church, though it has suffered with the lapse
of so many centuries, is one of the most interesting and valu-
able architectural remains of Switzerland.

1 Recueil des Histortens des Gaules et de la France.



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62 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

As far as can be ascertained the royal family of Transjurane
Burgundy had no fixed place of residence, but changed about
from one castle, or one estate to another, as public policy or pri-
vate preference suggested. There is a document, dated loii,
in which Conrad's son Rodolf III. deeded to his wife Irmen-
garde a most royal residence {regalissimam sedem) at Neuchatel.
It was at one time thought that this residence was identical
with the south-western wing of the present castle of Neuchatel,
a romanesque building of unusual beauty, ornamented by a pil-
lared gallery, somewhat after the style of an Italian loggia.
The church also of Notre Dame, now known as the Temple
du Haut and the cloisters of the Collegiate with their archaic
carvings, were attributed to Bertha. But Rahn and the later
archeologists are now agreed that these buildings cannot ante-
date the twelfth century, and could not, therefore, have been
founded in the time of the good queen.

Perhaps the most valuable pieces of evidence which have
come down to us in regard to Bertha, are two seals appended
to documents of the time. In one she is represented as sit-
ting, in the other as standing, but in both she is clad in the
tunic and mantel of the tenth century, and holds in one hand
a sceptre, in the other the Gospels. A crown rests upon her
head, while around her image we read the legend : " Berta Dei
Gracia Humilis Regina^' Bertha, by the Grace of God, the
Humble Queen — as evidence at once of her divine right ta
rule, and also of her humble disposition.

The exact date of Bertha's death is not known. It was
probably about the year 970.

In 181 7 a stone sarcophagus was discovered under the tower
of the Abbey Church, containing the bones of a woman, and
under the choir two skeletons of males. The authorities of
the Canton of Vaud came to the conclusion that they must be
the remains of Queen Bertha, of King Rudolf II., and their
son Conrad. They were, therefore, removed to the parish
church, where they now lie, covered with a suitable inscription.
A curious saddle is shown to travelers at Payeme, purporting



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QUEEN BERTH A OF BURGUNDY. 63

to be that of Bertha ; it has even a place to hold the distaff
which always accompanied the good Queen on horseback.
But archeologists have now recognized the pretended saddle to
be merely an instrument of torture of much later date than the
tenth century. After all, Bertha's principal memorial is the
grateful memory in which she has been held by succeeding
generations, and the singular tenacity with which tradition and
popular songs have kept her image before the people of French
Switzerland for nigh upon a thousand years.

When her son Conrad assumed the control of government,
the German influences which had crept in during his minority,
and had been strengthened by Adelaide's marriage to Otto <rf
Germany, made themselves daily more conspicuous. The
Kingdom of Burgundy began to decline as an independent
power. His successor Rudolf III., sumamed the Lazy, lacked
the requisite strength either to resist the advance of Germany
or to hold in check the ambitions of the feudal nobles in his
country. In despair he turned to the church for support, dis-
pensing his estates with careless lavishness upon the prelates
and the ecclesiastical institutions of his realm, until he became
so much impoverished that he was glad to receive the alms col-
lected in the churches. In 1016 he finally abdicated in favor
of Henry II. of Germany, but the latter left him in nominal
authority upon the request of the Burgundian nobles. It was
Henry's successor, Conrad II., who in 1032 defeated Odo,
Count of Champagne, leader of the Burgundian nobles, in a
battle at Morat, and was then crowned King of Burgundy at
Payeme, so .that the Kingdom was at length united to the Ger-
man Empire after having enjoyed more than a hundred and
forty years of more or less precarious independence.

While these events were taking place in Burgundy with the
result of bringing that country into subjection to the German
Empire, very different ones in Alamannia were leading to the
same issue.

The weak reign of Ludwig the Child had there also been
the signal for an independent movement. Burkhard, Margrave



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64 THE RISE OF THE SWISS REPUBLIC.

of Curraetia was the first to make a disastrous attempt to
revive the Duchy of Alamannia, but he was executed before he
could accomplish his purpose, mainly through the opposition of
Solomon, the crafty bishop of Constance and Abbot of St.
Gallen. This unfortunate rebellion was followed by another,
equally tragic, the one of Erchanger and Berchtold, two broth-
ers who were probably descendants of the ancient ducal family
of Alamannia. They, too, succumbed to Solomon, and were
executed. Nothing daunted, the son of Burkhard boldly pro-
claimed his right to the title of Duke, was hailed by the people
as such, and eventually confirmed in his position by the Ger-
man emperor himself. It was this Burkhard who defeated
Rudolf II., of Burgundy, at Winterthur, and later gave him his
daughter Bertha in marriage, the good queen whose acts we
have just been rehearsing. In this manner Bertha, Alaman-
nian by birth and Burgundian by connection, in a sense typi-
fies the struggle for independence at that time in the whole of
what is now Switzerland, and her name may well be placed at
the head of the chapter devoted to this period. Burkhard II.
died childless, though when somewhat advanced in years, he
had married a daughter of the Duke of Bavaria, the Hedwig
whose career was so intimately associated with St. Gallen.
Hedwig seems to have retained the title of Duchess after
her husband's death, but the authority conferred by the posi-
tion passed into the hands of a court favorite. Indeed the
succession thereafter devolved upon men who were either
related to the German emperors, or at least subservient to



Online LibraryWilliam Denison McCrackanThe rise of the Swiss republic: A history → online text (page 4 of 32)