Battle of Sempach

Battle of Sempach

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An armistice was agreed upon on 12 October, followed by a peace agreement valid for one year, beginning on 14 January 1387.

The battle was a severe blow to Austrian interests in the region, and allowed for the further growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy
Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy
The growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy began as an alliance between the communities of the valleys in the Central Alps to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains...

.
Already weakened by the 1379 division of Habsburg lands
Treaty of Neuberg
In the Treaty of Neuberg, concluded between the Habsburg Dukes Albert III and Leopold III on September 9, 1379 in Neuberg an der Mürz, the Habsburg lands were divided between the two brothers...

, Leopoldian
Leopoldian line
The Leopoldian line was a line of the Habsburg dynasty. It was begun by Leopold III, duke of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola .The division of the Habsburg territories between the Albertinian line and the Leopoldian line was a result of the early death of Rudolf IV...

 control of the territories left of the Rhine would collapse over the following years, not least due to the death toll among the local elites loyal to Habsburg.
This allowed the confederate cities, especially Lucerne, Berne
Berne
The city of Bern or Berne is the Bundesstadt of Switzerland, and, with a population of , the fourth most populous city in Switzerland. The Bern agglomeration, which includes 43 municipalities, has a population of 349,000. The metropolitan area had a population of 660,000 in 2000...

 and Solothurn
Solothurn
The city of Solothurn is the capital of the Canton of Solothurn in Switzerland. The city also comprises the only municipality of the district of the same name.-Pre-roman settlement:...

, an unchecked expansion into the undefended Habsburg lands.
Berne, which had not participated in the Sempach war, took the opportunity and began its conquest of what would become the canton of Berne
Canton of Berne
The Canton of Bern is the second largest of the 26 Swiss cantons by both surface area and population. Located in west-central Switzerland, it borders the Canton of Jura and the Canton of Solothurn to the north. To the west lie the Canton of Neuchâtel, the Canton of Fribourg and Vaud. To the south...

, sending military expeditions into the Jura
Canton of Jura
The Republic and Canton of the Jura , also known as the Canton of Jura or Canton Jura, is one of the cantons of Switzerland. It is the newest of the 26 Swiss cantons, located in the northwestern part of Switzerland. The capital is Delémont...

, the Oberland
Bernese Oberland
The Bernese Oberland is the higher part of the canton of Bern, Switzerland, in the southern end of the canton: The area around Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, and the valleys of the Bernese Alps .The flag of the Bernese Oberland consists of a black eagle in a gold field The Bernese Oberland (Bernese...

, Emmental
Emmental
For the cheese made in the region, see Emmental .The Emmental is a region in west central Switzerland, forming part of the canton of Bern. It is a hilly landscape comprising the basins of the Emme and Ilfis rivers. The region is mostly devoted to farming, particularly dairy farming...

 and Aargau
Aargau
Aargau is one of the more northerly cantons of Switzerland. It comprises the lower course of the river Aare, which is why the canton is called Aar-gau .-History:...

.
Lucerne by 1389 was able to consolidate its control over the towns around lake Sempach, Willisau and the Entlebuch
Entlebuch
Entlebuch is a municipality in the canton of Lucerne in Switzerland. It is the seat of the district of Entlebuch. The area has been designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2001.-Geography:...

, largely corresponding to the extent of the modern canton of Lucerne
Canton of Lucerne
Lucerne is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the centre of Switzerland. The population of the canton is . , the population included 57,268 foreigners, or about 15.8% of the total population. The cantonal capital is Lucerne.-History:...

.
Glarus
Glarus
Glarus is the capital of the Canton of Glarus in Switzerland. Glarus municipality since 1 January 2011 incorporates the former municipalities of Ennenda, Netstal and Riedern....

 also took the opportunity to rebel against Habsburg control and established its independence in the Battle of Näfels
Battle of Näfels
The Battle of Näfels was fought on 9 April 1388 between Glarus with their allies, the Old Swiss Confederation, and the Habsburgs. It was a decisive Glarner victory despite being outnumbered sixteen to one.-History:...

 in 1388.

A new peace agreement between the confederacy and Austria was concluded on 1 April 1389, valid for seven years, extended to 20 years on 16 July 1394.

Legacy


Not without justification, the Battle of Sempach came to be seen as the decisive turning point between the foundation of the confederacy as a loose pact in the 14th century, and its growth
Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy
The growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy began as an alliance between the communities of the valleys in the Central Alps to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains...

 into a significant political and military power during the 15th century.
At the peak of the military success of the Eight Cantons in the period of 1470 to 1510,
Swiss historiography paid great attention to the Battle of Sempach. It is depicted in the Swiss illustrated chronicles
Swiss illustrated chronicles
Several illustrated chronicles were created in the Old Swiss Confederacy in the 15th and 16th centuries. They were luxurious illuminated manuscripts produced for the urban elite of Bern and Lucerne, and their copious detailed illustrations allow a unique insight into the politics and daily life of...

 of the period, and discussed by Reformation era historiographers such as Aegidius Tschudi
Aegidius Tschudi
Aegidius Tschudi was an eminent member of the Tschudi family, of Glarus, Switzerland....

 and Wernher Steiner
Wernher Steiner
Wernher Steiner was a chronicler of Zug. His writings are among the important sources for Swiss history during the first half of the 16th century.As a military chaplain he witnessed the Battle of Marignano in 1515...

.
Since there are few historiographical accounts of the battle predating 1470, it is difficult to judge the historicity of the individual details. The legend of Arnold Winkelried is recorded in this period, but it cannot be shown to predate 1500.

The battle chapel at Sempach was consecrated already in 1387. A yearly mass was celebrated there on the day of the battle. The chapel was repeatedly enlarged. It was decorated with a fresco in 1551, which was restored and enlarged in 1638-1643, 1695, 1741-43, 1747, and 1886. The current fresco is largely a restoration of the painting of 1643.

Swiss patriotism in the restored Confederacy of 1815-1847 re-discovered the formative phase of the Old Confederacy as a source of national identity. The modern Sempacherlied
Sempacherlied
Sempacherlied is the title of a number of patriotic songs celebrating the Swiss victory at the Battle of Sempach .The oldest versions are recorded in the late 15th to early 16th century, e.g. by Melchior Russ , by Wernher Schodeler and by Aegidius Tschudi...

is a product of 1830s patriotism. During the World Wars
Switzerland during the World Wars
During both World War I and World War II, Switzerland managed to keep a stance of armed neutrality, and was not involved militarily. However, precisely because of its neutral status, Switzerland was of considerable interest to all parties involved, as the scene for diplomacy, espionage, commerce,...

, the Swiss policy of armed neutrality was also ideologically fuelled by reference to the military successes of the medieval confederacy.

Swiss modernist author Robert Walser
Robert Walser (writer)
Robert Walser , was a German-speaking Swiss writer.-1878–1897:...

 (1878–1956) recounts the Battle of Sempach in brief but violent detail in his short story "The Battle of Sempach".

Sources


  • Die Schlacht von Sempach im Bild der Nachwelt (exhibition catalogue), Lucerne, 1986.
  • Stefan Jäggi,
  • Theodor von Liebenau, Die Schlacht bei Sempach. Gedenkbuch zur fünften Säcularfeier, Lucerne (1886).
  • G.P. Marchal, Sempach 1386, 1986.
  • G.P. Marchal, 'Zum Verlauf der Schlacht bei Sempach', in: SZG 37, 1987, 428-436.
  • Peter Xaver Weber, Der Sempacher Krieg. Erinnerungsschrift zur 550. Gedächtnisfeier der Schlacht bei Sempach, Lucerne (1936).

See also


  • Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy
    Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy
    The growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy began as an alliance between the communities of the valleys in the Central Alps to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains...

  • Battle of Näfels
    Battle of Näfels
    The Battle of Näfels was fought on 9 April 1388 between Glarus with their allies, the Old Swiss Confederation, and the Habsburgs. It was a decisive Glarner victory despite being outnumbered sixteen to one.-History:...