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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 36. The Grisons (Graubünden).


Colonel Landammann Theofil Sprecher a Bernegg at Maienfeld, Graubünden, has a complete library of the history of the Grisons, including some of the manuscripts of Campell and De Porta. I was permitted to use it for this and the following two sections under his hospitable roof in June, 1890. I have also examined the Kantons-Bibliothek of Graubünden in the "Raetische Museum" at Coire, which is rich in the (Romanic) literature of the Grisons.

I. Ulrici Campelli Raetiae Alpestris Topographica Descriptio, edited by Chr. J. Kind, Basel (Schneider), 1884, pp. 448, and Historia Raetica, edited by Plac. Plattner, Basel, tom. I., 1877, pp. 724, and tom. II., 1890, pp. 781. These two works form vols. VII., VIII., and IX. of Quellen zur Schweizer-Geschichte, published by the General Historical Society of Switzerland. They are the foundation for the topography and history of the Grisons in the sixteenth century. Campell was Reformed pastor at Süs in the Lower Engadin, and is called "the father of the historians of Rätia." De Porta says that all historians of Rätia have ploughed with his team. An abridged German translation from the Latin manuscripts was published by Conradin von Mohr: Ulr. Campell’s Zwei Bücher rätischer Geschichte, Chur (Hitz), 1849 and 1851, 2 vols., pp. 236 and 566.

R. Ambrosius Eichhorn (Presbyter Congregationis S. Blasii, in the Black Forest): Episcopatus Curiensis in Rhaetia sub metropoli Moguntina chronologice et diplomatice illustratus. Typis San-Blasianis, 1797 (pp. 368, 40). To which is added Codex Probationum ad Episcopatum Curiensem ex proecipuis documentis omnibus ferme ineditis collectus, 204 pp. The Reformation period is described pp. 139 sqq. Eichhorn was a Roman Catholic priest, and gives the documents relating to the episcopal see of Coire from a.d. 766–1787. On "Zwinglianisms in Raetia," see pp. 142, 146, 248. (I examined a copy in the Episcopal Library at Coire.)

II General works on the history of the Grisons by Joh. Guler (d. 1637), Fortunatus Sprecher a Bernegg (d. 1647), Fortunatus Juvalta (d. 1654). Th. Von Mohr and Conradin Von Mohr (or Moor): Archiv für die Geschichte der Republik Graubünden. Chur, 1848–’86. 9 vols. A collection of historical works on Graubünden, including the Codex diplomaticus, Sammlung der Urkunden zur Geschichte Chur-Rhätiens und der Republik Graübunden. The Codex was continued by Jecklin, 1883–’86. Conradin Von Moor: Bündnerische Geschichtschreiber und Chronisten. Chur, 1862–277. 10 parts. By the same: Geschichte von Currätien und der Republ. Graubünden. Chur, 1869.—Joh. Andr. von Sprecher: Geschichte der Republik der drei Bünde im 18ten Jahrh. Chur, 1873–’75.2 vols.—A good popular summary: Graubündnerische Geschichten erzählt für die reformirten Volksschulen (by P. Kaiser). Chur, 1852 (pp. 281). Also J. K. von Tscharner: Der Kanton Graubünden, historisch, statistisch, geographisch dargestellt. Chur, 1842.

The Reformation literature see in § 37.

III. On the history of Valtellina, Chiavenna, and Bormio, which until 1797 were under the jurisdiction of the Grisons, the chief writers are: —

Fr. Sav. Quadrio: Dissertazioni critico-storiche intorno alla Rezia di qua dalle Alpi, oggi detta Valtellina. Milano, 1755. 2 vols., especially the second vol., which treats la storia ecclesiastica.—Ulysses Von Salis: StaatsGesch. des Thals Veltlin und der Graftschaften Clefen und Worms. 1792. 4 vols.—Lavizari: Storia della Valtellina. Capolago, 1838. 2 vols. Romegialli: Storia della Valtellina e delle già contee di Bormio e Chiavenna. Sondrio, 1834–’39. 4 vols.—Wiezel: Veltliner Krieg, edited by Hartmann. Strassburg, 1887.


The canton of the Grisons or Graubünden208208    Respublica Grisonum; I Grigioni; Les Grisons. was at the time of the Reformation an independent democratic republic in friendly alliance with the Swiss Confederacy, and continued independent till 1803, when it was incorporated as a canton. Its history had little influence upon other countries, but reflects the larger conflicts of Switzerland with some original features. Among these are the Romanic and Italian conquests of Protestantism, and the early recognition of the principle of religious liberty. Each congregation was allowed to choose between the two contending churches according to the will of the majority, and thus civil and religious war was prevented, at least during the sixteenth century.209209    The Grisons are ignored or neglected in general Church histories. Even Hagenbach, who was a Swiss, devotes less than two pages to them (Geschichte der Reformation, p. 366, 5th ed. by Nippold, 1887). A fuller account (the only good one in English) is given by Dr. McCrie, a Scotch Presbyterian, in his History of the Reformation in Italy, ch. VI. The increasing travel of English and American tourists to that country, especially to the Engadin, gives wider interest to its history, and may justify the space here given to it.

Graubünden is, in nature as well as in history, a Switzerland in miniature. It is situated in the extreme south-east of the republic, between Austria and Italy, and covers the principal part of the old Roman province of Rätia.210210    Raetia or Rhaetia, a net, is derived from Rhaetus, the mythical chief of the oldest immigrants from Etruria, or from the Celtic rhin, Rhine, river, and survives in the names Realta, Rhäzüns, and Reambs, i.e. Raetia alta, una, and ampla. It was conquered under Augustus by Drusus, 14 B.C., and ruled by a governor at Coire or Curia Rhaetorum till c. 400. The ivy-clad tower of the episcopal palace of Coire is of Roman origin, and is called Marsoel, i.e. Mars in oculis. It forms a wall between the north and the south, and yet combines both with a network of mountains and valleys from the regions of the eternal snow to the sunny plains of the vine, the fig, and the lemon. In territorial extent it is the largest canton, and equal to any in variety and beauty of scenery and healthy climate. It is the fatherland of the Rhine and the Inn. The Engadin is the highest inhabited valley of Switzerland, and unsurpassed for a combination of attractions for admirers of nature and seekers of health. It boasts of the healthiest climate with nine months of dry, bracing cold and three months of delightfully cool weather.

The inhabitants are descended from three nationalities, speak three languages,—German, Italian, and Romansh (Romanic),—and preserve many peculiarities of earlier ages. The German language prevails in Coire, along the Rhine, and in the Prättigau, and is purer than in the other cantons. The Italian is spoken to the south of the Alps in the valleys of Poschiavo and Bregaglia (as also in the neighboring canton Ticino). The Romansh language is a remarkable relic of prehistoric times, an independent sister of the Italian, and is spoken in the Upper and Lower Engadin, the Münster valley, and the Oberland. It has a considerable literature, mostly religious, which attracts the attention of comparative philologists.211211    The Romansh language (to distinguish it from other Romanic languages) has two dialects, the Ladin of the Engadin, the Albula, and Münster valleys, and the Romansh of the Oberland, Ilanz, Disentis, Oberhalbstein, etc. It is spoken by about 37,000 inhabitants. The whole population of the canton in 1890 was 94,879,—53,168 Protestants and 41,711 Roman Catholics. The largest number of Romansh books is in the Cantonal Library at Coire, and the Böhmer collection in the University Library of Strassburg. Colonel von Sprecher at Maienfeld also has about four hundred volumes.

The Grisonians (Graubündtner) are a sober, industrious, and heroic race, and have maintained their independence against the armies of Spain, Austria, and France. They have a natural need and inclination to emigrate to richer countries in pursuit of fortune, and to return again to their mountain homes. They are found in all the capitals of Europe and America as merchants, hotel keepers, confectioners, teachers, and soldiers.

The institutions of the canton are thoroughly democratic and exemplify the good and evil effects of popular sovereignty.212212    "In no nation, ancient or modern," says Dr. McCrie (p. 293), "have the principles of democracy been carried to such extent as in the Grison Republic." "Next to God and the sun," says an old Engadin proverb, "the poorest inhabitant is the chief magistrate." There are indeed to this day in the Grisons many noble families, descended in part from mediaeval robber-chiefs and despots whose ruined castles still look down from rocks and cliffs, and in greater part from distinguished officers and diplomatists in foreign service; but they have no more influence than their personal merits and prestige warrant. In official relations and transactions the titles of nobility are forbidden.213213    The best known and most respectable noble families are the Salis (one of them a distinguished lyric poet), Planta, Bavier, Sprecher, Albertini, Tscharner, Juvalta, Mohr, Buol. See Sammlung rhätischer Geschlechter. Chur, 1847.

Let us briefly survey the secular history before we proceed to the Reformation.

The Grisons were formed of three loosely connected confederacies or leagues, that is, voluntary associations of freemen, who, during the fifteenth century, after the example of their Swiss neighbors, associated for mutual protection and defence against domestic and foreign tyrants.214214    The three confederacies or Bünde (whence the canton has its name Graubünden) are:—
   1) The Gotteshausbund (Lia de Ca Dé), the League of the House of God. It dates from 1396, and had its centre since 1419 at Coire, the capital of the canton.

   2) The Obere Bund or Graue Bund (Lia Grischa), the Gray League (hence the term Graue, Grisons, Grays). It was founded under an elm tree at Truns in 1424, and gathered around the abbey of Disentis.

   3) The Zehngerichtenbund (Lia dellas desch dretturas), the League of the Ten Jurisdictions. It originated in 1436 at Davos and in the valley of Prättigau.

   After the middle of the fifteenth century these leagues appear in the documents under the name of the Gemeine drei Bünde or Freistaat der drei Bünde in Hohenrhätien. A modern historian says: "Frei und selbstherrlich sind viele Völker geworden, aber wenige auf so rechtliche und ruhige Weise als das Bündner Volk." See the documents in Tschudi, I. 593; II. 153; and compare Müller, Schweizergeschichte, III. 283, 394, and Bluntschli, Geschichte des schweizerischen Bundesrechts, I. 196 sqq. (2d ed. Stuttgart, 1875).
These three leagues united in 1471 at Vatzerol in an eternal covenant, which was renewed in 1524, promising to each other by an oath mutual assistance in peace and war. The three confederacies sent delegates to the Diet which met alternately at Coire, Ilanz, and Davos.

At the close of the fifteenth century two leagues of the Grisons entered into a defensive alliance with the seven old cantons of Switzerland. The third league followed the example.215215    The alliance was formed with the two older leagues separately in 1497 and 1498. The league of the Ten Jurisdictions was not admitted by the seven cantons because the house of Austria had possessions there; but in 1590 it concluded an eternal agreement with Zürich and Glarus, in 1600 with Wallis, and in 1602 with Bern. See Bluntschli, l.c. I. 198 sq. and the documents from the Archives of Zürich in vol. II. 99-107.

In the beginning of the sixteenth century the Grisonians acquired by conquest from the duchy of Milan several beautiful and fertile districts south of the Alps adjoining the Milanese and Venetian territories, namely, the Valtellina and the counties of Bormio (Worms) and Chiavenna (Cleven), and annexed them as dependencies ruled by bailiffs. It would have been wiser to have received them as a fourth league with equal rights and privileges. These Italian possessions involved the Grisons in the conflict between Austria and Spain on the one hand, which desired to keep them an open pass, and between France and Venice on the other, which wanted them closed against their political rivals. Hence the Valtellina has been called the Helena of a new Trojan War. Graubünden was invaded during the Thirty Years’ War by Austro-Spanish and French armies. After varied fortunes, the Italian provinces were lost to Graubünden through Napoleon, who, by a stroke of the pen, Oct. 10, 1797, annexed the Valtellina, Bormio, and Chiavenna to the new Cisalpine Republic. The Congress of Vienna transferred them to Austria in 1814, and since 1859 they belong to the united Kingdom of Italy.



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