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History of Graubünden

Graubünden and its capital Chur can look back at over 11,000 years of settlement history, undoubtedly enough time for domestic traditions to emerge. Whether "Chalandamarz" in the Engadine or "Pschuuri" in Splügen, such recurrent, annual historical festivals have moulded the rugged race of men in the largest holiday region in Switzerland as much as the diversity of languages. Indeed, Graubünden is the only region of Switzerland under the influence of three cultures and languages, namely the German, Romansh, and Italian.

The Graubünden canton has nearly 192,000 inhabitants (Switzerland 7.8 million) and holds a sixth of Swiss territory. Moreover, its varied mountain scenery sets two country records. First, its 7,106 km² make Graubünden the largest canton in Switzerland (17.2% of the total land area) and second, its approx 26 inhabitants per km2, the most sparsely populated. In stark contrast lie the canton of Zurich with 736 inhabitants per km2 and Tyrol with 53. Chur, a 5,000-year settlement amongst the oldest in Switzerland, is home to around 33,000 people

History at a glance

15 BC Subjugation of Graubünden by the Romans
8th century AD Integration of Rhaetia by Charlemagne
1000 AD Gradual germanization of Currätiens
13th century Migration of the Walser
1352 Werdenberg-Belmont-feud
1512 Conquest of the Valtellina
1524 Constitution of the Three Leagues
1618-1639 Grison turmoil during the Thirty Years' War
1803 Demise of the Free State and affiliation with the Confederation
1815 Valtellina lost permanently after Vienna’s Congress
1830-1870 Emergence of transits
1854 New constitution, division of cantons into districts, counties, and municipalities
1880 Start of tourism
1926 Approval of automobile traffic
1938 Recognition of Romansh as fourth national language

The Graubünden canton, as a former Free State of the "Common Three Leagues", affiliated with Switzerland later on. Indeed, the Grisons will only become a Swiss canton upon the mediation of 1803. The Raethian pass land, populated in part since the Middle Stone Age, was conquered by the Romans shortly before the beginning of our era, as they recognized its strategic and commercial value. It was regarded as part of the Raetia Prima province of their empire. The Roman influence had a deep, long-lasting effect on the country, as evidenced by the Christian tradition - Chur is a diocesan town since 451 AD -, the Romansh language, and the Roman civilization.

Largely unaffected by mass people’s migrations, the country became a de facto independent Church state from the seventh century under the indigenous dynasty of the Victorians and joined East Franconia, the later German Reich, upon the imperial partition in 843. However, the bishop of Chur and the abbot of Disentis, both caretakers of critical mountain pass-paths for the Emperor, built largely independent feudal states.

In the 14th Century, the Cathedral capital, the valley communities, and the city of Chur joined a common defensive line, the later League of the House of God (Gotteshausbund). This was followed in 1395 by the Grey or Upper League and the League of the Ten Jurisdictions in 1436. Both were to assure the independence and peace of the land. The general League Treaty in 1524, the first Graubünden’ Bundesbrief, provided the Jurisdiction communities of the three Leagues with a common constitution. The "Free State of the Communities of the Three Leagues" was born. As such, it embodied a certain state form where the Jurisdiction communities were largely autonomous. In the 17th Century, given the importance of its passes as strategic European crossroads, the mountain country fell back again under the crossfire of warring superpowers.

Not even during the French Revolution era did peace return. French and Austrian armies fought fierce battles over the Graubünden’ passes. The Helvetic Republic confederation issue divided the Leagues in two once again until, in 1891, Napoleon declared the union with Switzerland. Finally, Graubünden became formally a Swiss canton upon the mediation of 1803.

Tourism history

The mountain landscape, perceived for over 200 years as hostile and inaccessible, constitutes today the basis of a thriving sporting, recreational and health tourism industry. It was mainly the intensive road network improvement but also the new findings about the healing effect of mountain climate and mineral springs that contributed to the development of modern tourism Graubünden.

Here you can learn more on the history of tourism in Graubünden:
History of tourism in Graubünden (in German)
Highlights of Graubündens' winters (in German)
Highlights of Graubündens' mountaineering (in German)
100 years of Graubündens' Tourism / Graubündens' Tourist Office (in German)

The Ibex - the heraldic animal of the Grisons

The Ibex (Capricorn in Romansh language) belongs to Graubünden as the water in our lakes. Visitors see them everywhere, not only on the cantonal shield but also on car license plates, figures or painted emblems on building walls, as in the name of several hotels, restaurants and, of course, in the great outdoors - in the higher, more remote mountain regions. Last but by no means least, an Ibex salutes you from the Graubünden logo.

Today's representation of the Graubünden emblem was established by the Small Council (Today: Government) by order of 8 November 1932 and approved by the Federal Council in February 1933. Until then, the Graubünden official emblem, unchanged since the canton was founded in 1803, was based on the heraldic shields of the three individual leagues:
- Grey or Upper League (1395) divided shield (white, black)
- League of the House of God (1367) black, upright Capricorn
- League of the Ten Jurisdictions (1436) four-area shield / cross (blue, yellow)

The Graubünden canton is named after the former political weight of the Three Leagues, from which it arises. Founded in the 1395, the Grey League was so named for the first time in 1442. At that time, it used possibly Zurich and Austrian nicknames before its name was assumed by the league people in 1486. In the 15th Century, the name for the other three leagues referred to all the leagues. In the 16th Century, humanists assigned the name of the Roman province Rätia as Rhaetia to the territory of the Three Leagues. In 1799, the leagues of Napoleon were incorporated as Canton Rhaetia of Switzerland. The name is still common today for institutions such as the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) and the Rhaetian Museum in Chur. Since the constitution of the modern canton of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, the name of Graubünden is the official one. The State emblem comprises the emblems of the Three Leagues.

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