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The Village

Facts and figures

Vättis lies in the southern most corner of the Swiss canton St. Gallen at 940 meters (3084 ft.) above sealevel. The village has a population of about 400 people. They work mostly as craftsmen, farmers and in the service-industry. Politically, our village is part of the municipality of Pfäfers, that includes the whole of the Tamina-valley, but many things concerning day-to-day living come under the authority of the village council ("Ortsgemeinde") of Vättis.

Self-reliant living is made possible by an infrastructure consisting of e.g.:

Climate and landscape

 

[View of the Calanda (mountain)]

Calanda, 2806 meters (9206 ft.) a.s.l. (Foto Lisi Noé-Kohler)

Surrounded by high mountains, Vättis' valley lies away from busy roads and industrial activity. The villagers are proud of the unspoiled mountainous landscape and take care to preserve it. The high peaks in the west protect the valley from rainy westwinds. Yearly downfall is moderate (1100mm; 43in.). Warm summers and cold winters make for a pleasant climate all year round. South of the village, the valley-floor slowly rises to 1306 meters a.s.l. (4285ft.), where the Kunkels-pass gives way to the inner-alpine mountains of the canton Grisons (Graubünden). The mountains give many a clou as to how our Alps came into being: Geopark Sardona (in german).
Lovely mountain meadows remind many visitors of the movie "The sound of Music" (1965 by Robert Wise with Julie Andrews) or the book "Heidi" (by Johanna Spyri).

History

High above Vättis, the earliest traces of human life were found in a cave (Drachenloch) at 2427 meters a.s.l. (7963 ft.). A teacher from Vättis, Theophil Nigg, conducted archeological excavations in the cave in the years 1917-1923 and found charcoal dating back about 50.000 years, as well as (seemingly?) artificially arranged bones of cave bears. The Drachenloch is the highest pre-historic cave in Europe.

The road through the Tamina-valley and over the Kunkels-pass has been important from Roman times up until the late Middle Ages. In those times, the Rhine-valley often was impassable because of the flooding river. Early habitation and the existence of roads is supported by archealogical finds of pre-roman spears and roman coins. In those days, the languages spoken was Romansh. Many local geographical names still show this origin.

Around the year 730, the monastry Fabariensis (later Pfäfers) was established by Frankish kings to guarantee the right of passage through the Alps. Written confirmation of the existence of "Vethin" (Vättis) dates from the Middle Ages. Several documents of the monastries Pfäfers and Disentis mention taxes paid by Vethin. Up until the French Revolution, Vättis was ruled by the imperial abbot of Pfäfers.

 

[In this document from the 15th century

In this document from the 15th century "in Vättis" is visible on the right hand site in the middle.

Certifiably, Vättis has had a parish church from 1274 onwards. The current St. Anian church was build in 1695 by the "build-happy" abbot Bonifaz I of Pfäfers. In the Calfeisen-valley the chapel St. Martin is documented in 1346 and so is the existence of a Walser community there. The Walser people originally came from Oberwallis and colonized unpopulated and often very poor areas in the Alps. They lived all year round in the Calfeisen-valley up until the 16th century. Later, because of climate change, they could only use the meadows in the valley as summer-grazing grounds for their cattle.

In 1838 the monestry of Pfäfers was disbanded and Vättis became its own parish. In the 19th century tourism brought some prosperity to Vättis and the first health resorts were build.

 

[Postkarte des frühen Vättner Tourismus (anfangs 20. Jh).]

Postcard of tourism in Vättis at the beginning of the 20th century.

In the 20th century, most Swiss mountain-villages schrank, but Vättis was able to keep its population constant. Some villagers find work in agriculture, small bussinesses and hotels. Most work out of town in the Tamina- and Rhine-valley.

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