The Schwyz townscape is defined by splendid manor houses with large gardens. These represent a key part of the cultural heritage of this canton and all of Central Switzerland.
The history of the Schwyz manor houses can be traced back to medieval times. These estates are important to the culture of the canton of Schwyz and Central Switzerland, as they are an expression of a way of life enjoyed by the rural patrician class. Built between 1170 and 1340, the stone residential towers, which are reminiscent of a more urban setting, were joined by log buildings featuring outstanding carpentry. From the 16th century onwards, these two basic architectural forms served as the foundations of the prestigious manorial estates that we see today. In many instances, the architecture and interiors are of great quality and originality.
The early 17th century marked the dawn of the golden era for the houses of the three sons of Rudolf and Dorothea Reding. The sons themselves grew up in the Bethlehem House. On the area of land known as the Brüel, to the south of Schwyz’s centre, the oldest manor house was built by Heinrich Reding. Built in solid stone, the house’s architecture clearly draws inspiration from patrician townhouses within the territory of the Old Swiss Confederacy. Schwyz’s traditional architectural style was also eschewed during the construction of the Ital Reding House by Ital Reding. The house’s painted corners give it architectural gravitas and expressiveness. This is presumably also the first time that a garden terrace – flanked by two summer houses – was set in front of a house in Schwyz. Rudolf Reding, the third son, designed his house in the Schmiedgasse in the palazzo style. This gives the building the distinctive overall character of a Renaissance palace. It is assumed that an inner courtyard was created in the centre of the house.
The splendid manor houses were built with the proceeds of mercenary work. The patrician families of Schwyz thereby used a variety of methods to show off their status and wealth. It is interesting that the governing families made the interiors much more splendid than the exteriors. They wanted to preserve the façade of the ‘Landesgemeinde’ (‘cantonal assembly’) democracy and not highlight the contrast with the peasantry too strongly.
Most of the manor houses are not open to the public. The Ital Reding estate with the Bethlehem House is open to visitors from early May to late October.
We will be happy to organise a guided tour of Schwyz’s manor houses.