Fountains and Statues Walking Tour (Self Guided), Bern

With over 100 public fountains in its Old City alone, Bern has a well-deserved reputation as the "City of Fountains". During the medieval time, the local life revolved around fountains since they provided water to residents and served as public places for news exchange and social gatherings.

Bernese used to decorate their fountains and built elaborate statues in the middle of them. These included Biblical characters, historical figures and folklore warriors, often brightly painted and recounting stories of the city. Some of these statues are over four and half centuries old. This self-guided walk takes you to some of the oldest and most famous fountains and statues in Bern's Old City. So have you camera ready!
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Fountains and Statues Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Fountains and Statues Walking Tour
Guide Location: Switzerland » Bern (See other walking tours in Bern)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Author: ChristineS
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice)
  • Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier Fountain)
  • Lenbrunnen (Len Fountain)
  • Mosesbrunnen (Moses Fountain)
  • Simsonbrunnen (Samson fountain)
  • Zahringerbrunnen (Zahringen Fountain)
  • Kindlifresserbrunnen (Child Eater Fountain)
  • Schützenbrunnen (Marksman Fountain)
  • Anna-Seiler-Brunnen (Anna Seiler Fountain)
  • Pfeiferbrunnen (Bagpiper Fountain)
1
Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice)

1) Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) (must see)

In a city of over one hundred fountains, the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen ("Fountain of Justice") in the Old City of Bern is most definitely one to see. It is the only Bernese fountain to retain all of its original design elements, and it is listed as a cultural heritage site of national significance.

Due to Hans Gieng's famous statue of Lady Justice, the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen surpasses all other Bernese fountains in artistic merit. The iconic figure was copied throughout Switzerland up until the middle of the 17th century. At the feet of Justice, four smaller busts crowd the pedestal: a Pope, an Emperor, a Sultan and a Schultheiss, whose golden chain of office is believed to have originally borne the Bernese arms. All figures have closed their eyes as in submission. They represent the Four Earthly Powers, the four forms of government according to Renaissance humanism: theocracy (the Pope), monarchy (the Emperor), autocracy (the Sultan) and the republic (the Schultheiss).

The statue represents the supremacy of Justice over all Earthly authorities; a variant of the medieval pictorial formula of virtue defeating vice. Divine Justice was a frequent element of political discourse in Reformation-era Bern. In the view of the reformators, doing justice according to God's word was the highest duty of all authority, superseding feudal rights. Such arguments were used, among others, to justify Bern's conquest of Vaud in 1536 from the dukes of Savoy.

While the sword and scales are traditional attributes of Lady Justice, the Bernese statue's blindfold is a novelty; only later did it become a common element in personifications of Justice and a general symbol for the principle of equality before the law. The blindfold implies that justice ought to be done without respect to rank or standing; that a just verdict is arrived at through introspection rather than with a view to outward looks. Gieng's Lady Justice is a symbol of republican justice and was a forceful public reminder of the Bernese Republic's authority through law.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier Fountain)

2) Vennerbrunnen (Banner Carrier Fountain)

The Vennerbrunnen or Banner Carrier Fountain is located in front of the old City Hall or Rathaus. The statue, built in 1542, shows a Venner in full armor with his banner.

A Venner was a military-political position in medieval Switzerland responsible for protecting a section of a city and leading troops from that area into battle. In Bern, the Venner was very powerful and important to the operations of the city. Each Venner was part of a guild and chosen from that guild. A Venner was one of only two positions from which Lord Mayor was chosen.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Lenbrunnen (Len Fountain)

3) Lenbrunnen (Len Fountain)

The Lenbrunnen (Len Fountain) in the basement of the State Chancellery building is the oldest spring system and the oldest preserved historic monument in Bern. It is located in Bern's old town at Postgasse 68, entrance via the State Chancellery or Lenbrunnengässli. The well system is no longer in operation, but it can be viewed freely during the office hours of the State Chancellery.

It is believed that the fountain was built around 1252 and was the only source of drinking water for the city at that time. The tower-like fountain with an estimated 7 × 7 meter floor plan is also considered the oldest surviving building in the city. The fountain has a capacity of holding 15,000 liters of water, which is enough for the roughly 3,000 inhabitants living in Bern at that time. It is estimated that a person consumed only 3-5 liters of water a day in the Middle Ages.

Today the fountain has been carefully restored to its original condition. There are information boards, a building model and a hydrological model on site on site to tell visitors about the history of Len Fountain.
4
Mosesbrunnen (Moses Fountain)

4) Mosesbrunnen (Moses Fountain)

The Mosesbrunnen (Moses Fountain) is a fountain on Münsterplatz dates from 1544. After storm damage it was rebuilt in 1790-1791. The statue represents Moses bringing the Ten Commandments to the Tribes of Israel.

Moses is portrayed with two horns on his head, which represent Exodus 34:29–35. It says tells that after meeting with God the skin of Moses' face became radiant. During the middle age, it was a standard in Western art to depict Moses with horns on his head as a way to represent his radiant skin.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Simsonbrunnen (Samson fountain)

5) Simsonbrunnen (Samson fountain)

The Simsonbrunnen or Samson fountain is a fountain built in 1544 and is modeled after a fountain with the same name in the town of Solothurn in the northwest of Switzerland.

The fountain tells the Biblical story of Samson killing a lion. According to the story, Samson was born to a sterile Israelite couple on the conditions that he and his mother abstain from all alcohol and that he never shave or cut his hair. Because of his commitment to live under these conditions, Samson was granted great strength.

As a young man, he fell in love with a Philistine woman and decided to marry her. At this time, the Philistines ruled over the Israelites and Samson's decision to marry a Philistine woman caused great concern among his family. He calmed their concerns and traveled to marry his love. On the way he was attacked by a lion, but with his incredible strength he killed the lion.

Later, he saw that bees had built a honeycomb inside the lion's body. He used this event as the basis of a riddle, which when not answered, gave him a pretext to attack the Philistines and lead an unsuccessful rebellion.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Zahringerbrunnen (Zahringen Fountain)

6) Zahringerbrunnen (Zahringen Fountain)

It should not surprise anyone that there is a fountain dedicated to the founder of Bern, Berchtold von Zahringer.

The Zahringerbrunnen (Zahringen Fountain) was built in 1535 as a memorial to Berchtold von Zahringer. According to legend, Zahringer was searching for a site to build a city and said he would name the city after the first animal he killed during a hunting expedition. He killed a bear on the Aare peninsula where he later built the city and named it Bern, or Bear in German.

The statue is a bear in full armor, with another bear cub at his feet. The armored bear carries a shield and a banner, both emblazoned with the Zahringen lion.

The basin below the fountain bore the date 1542 until 1889. 1889 was the year when the entire basin was replaced, and the column and figure were repainted. The current basin is an exact replica of basin under Pfeiferbrunnen (Bagpiper Fountain).
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Kindlifresserbrunnen (Child Eater Fountain)

7) Kindlifresserbrunnen (Child Eater Fountain)

The Kindlifresserbrunnen, or Child Eater Fountain, can be found in the Old City of Bern at the Kornhausplatz. Like other fountains in the city, Kindlifresserbrunnen was once wooden but converted into a stone statue for longevity. The replacement, which stands today, was crafted by Hans Gieng in 1545.

The fountain depicts an ogre eating a child with a bag of children at his side. There has been speculation over the years that the ogren in question may be a representation of either a fable, myth or real person. There are several interpretations of what the statue represents. It has been suggested that the ogre is a Jew with a pointed Jewish hat or perhaps the Greek god Chronos. However, the most likely explanation is that the statue represents a figure from folklore that scares disobedient children.

The ornate Kindlifresserbrunnen is easy to spot in Bern. Tourists can be found snapping photos of the fountain 24 hours a day in the midst of the walking path of the Old City. Though Bern has no shortage of beautiful fountains, the Child Eater is arguably the most grotesque and the most memorable.
8
Schützenbrunnen (Marksman Fountain)

8) Schützenbrunnen (Marksman Fountain)

The Schützenbrunnen or Marksman Fountain was built between 1527-1543. Originally at the site was a wooden fountain and in 1527 it was replaced by a stone one. The statue in the fountain dates to 1543 and it shows an armed rifleman carrying the banner of the Society to Shooting in his right hand and a sword in his left hand. Between his legs a bear cub is holding a rifle. At fountain's original location the little bear's rifle aimed at the entrance of the former home of the Society to Shooting.

In 1558 the sword had to be repaired and in 1670 the column and the base of the fountain were replaced. In 1783/84 the fountain basin and the pedestal were replaced. In 1890 and 1939 the fountain was relocated twice. In the 1939 renovation, the fountain was also rotated 180 degree. At its current location, the little bear's rifle is badly off target, but it does not matter any more since the Society to Shooting had been dismantled back in 1799.
9
Anna-Seiler-Brunnen (Anna Seiler Fountain)

9) Anna-Seiler-Brunnen (Anna Seiler Fountain)

The Anna-Seiler-Brunnen or Anna Seiler Fountain is a fountain dedicated to Anna Seiler, the founder of the first hospital in Bern. On November 29, 1354 in her will, Anna Seiler asked the city to help found a hospital in her house which today stands on Zeughausgasse. The makeshift hospital converted from Anna's house initially had 13 beds and 2 nurses, but its goal was to serve as a hospital on a permanent basis.

When Anna Seiler died around 1360 the hospital was renamed after her. In 1531 the hospital moved into an empty monastery which offered a much larger place to accommodate the expanded operation of the hospital by that time. The hospital still exists today six centuries after Anna Seiler founded it. Today the hospital has about 6,000 employees and treats about 220,000 patients per year.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Pfeiferbrunnen (Bagpiper Fountain)

10) Pfeiferbrunnen (Bagpiper Fountain)

The Pfeiferbrunnen or Bagpiper Fountain was was built in 1545–46 by the Swiss Renaissance sculptor Hans Gieng. The statue in the fountain was based on a 1514 woodcut print "Bagpiper" made by the well known German painter and woodcut printer Albrecht Durer.

Originally the fountain was located in front of Gasthaus zum Kreuz which was a guesthouse serving the traveling minstrels. During the medival time Europe, a minstrel is an entertainer such as musician, juggler, acrobat, and singer. Often minstrels performed songs which told stories of distant places or existing or imaginary historical events. Given its location, one can imagine the reason for the statue.

The current basin was built in 1889. In 1919 the fountain was moved to the east from its original spot to its current location in front of Spitalgasse 21.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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