Switzerland in the Making


The permanent exhibition at the Forum of Swiss History by the title of ‘Switzerland in the Making. Through the 12th to the 14th Century’ focuses on the foundation and early development of the Old Swiss Confederacy in the Middle Ages. Designed as an adventure tour to address our senses, the exhibition appeals to children and adults alike. The extraordinary scenography over all three floors makes a visit to the museum an event to remember.

No country or nation has existed forever; this holds true for Switzerland, too. The history of the Swiss Confederation goes back more than seven hundred years. The beginning of Switzerland is still a heatedly debated issue: when, where, and how did the history of our country commence? These are just some of the questions the permanent exhibition at the Forum of Swiss History tries to answer.

A view of central Europe

Rule | Literacy | Autonomy

The tour through the exhibition sets out from the top floor, where the visitor encounters an impressive, life-size knight astride his horse. He stands for the topic of this first part of the show: what was the relationship between king, church, aristocracy, and peasantry? How did the spread of literacy and the growth of universities change the way of life in the Middle Ages. The replicas of a scriptorium, a chancellery, and a university lecture hall give the viewer an impression of this age of profound change.

A view of the alpine region

Export | Import | Transport

A mountain in the museum

The Alps play a key role in the exhibition, symbolized by an impressive mountain range that rises within the museum from the ground to the top floor. The topic on the upper floor is the growth of mobility and trade in the alpine region during this era: what products were sold at fairs and markets? How did you pay for what you purchased? How heavy were the loads that humans and mules carried on their backs across the steep mountain passes? The replicas of a mountain hostel, a freight station, a market booth, as well as highly innovative media stations provide insight into the world of medieval merchants and freight haulers.

A view of central Switzerland

Feuding | Communes | Alliances

On the ground floor the visitor almost stumbles over the body of a dead cow killed wilfully. Around the year 1300, conditions in central Switzerland were a bit like the ‘Old Wild West’. Robbery, murder, and devastation were common methods for dealing with troublesome opponents. What lay behind the widespread practice of feuding, and how did the communities come to grips with these unbearable conditions. On a stroll through an artificial forest the visitors learn more about the communal associations the people inhabiting the valleys around the Lake of Lucerne established, the significance of the treaties they entered into with the growing towns, and the role that the early rural assemblies played.

Finally, the exhibition deals with William Tell, Arnold von Winkelried, and the Rütli legend. How and when the myth of the legendary foundation of Switzerland emerged is shown with the aid of images and literary sources in the last section.

Waldstätten mit Landsgemeinde und virtueller Guide Waldstätten mit Landsgemeinde und virtueller Guide


The exhibition provides the opportunity to explore the emergence of the Old Swiss Confederacy on your own with the aid of an audio guide.

Languages: English, German, Italian, and French
Fee: CHF 5 per audio guide, plus the deposit of ID card or driving licence

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