Around Basel – looking for old boundary stones on a sunny cold day

It is one of those winter days in January when I am happy to live in Basel, because the sun shines here, while the plateau of Switzerland including Zurich is covered with clouds. It is a sunny, but very, very cold day today. The fields on the Bruderholz are “dressed up” for winter.


I start my winter hike here.


The small nature reserve lakes are frozen and covered with snow that are decorated by animal tracks.


The bench looks inviting, but a little cold.


I approach Therwil and capture the view of the Blauen mountain range and the border with France in the haze (looking west).


I have crossed Therwil and look south across the vineyards of Therwil.


In Therwil, I am on the ground of the former Prince- Bishopric of Basel. Then I approach the border of protestant Biel-Benken that has belonged to the city of Basel. The border between Biel-Benken and Therwil/Oberwil has been carefully marked by boundary stones. This is the first boundary stone I come across – I call it  “corner stone”.


Next to the stone, this panel explains the history.


The border between Therwil/Oberwil and Biel-Benken was a major frontier in history. In the beginning of 16th century, Basel acquired areas from the impoverishing noblemen, one of these areas being Biel-Benken. Also at that time, Basel joined Switzerland and became protestant. The bishop of Basel had to leave “his town”; he moved to Pruntrut and continued to belong to Germany and the German emperor. The possessions of the bishop were called “the Prince-Bishopric of Basel”. The bishop owned Therwil and Oberwil that were located between Biel-Benken and Basel. Biel-Benken – belonging to Basel – was an exclave.  Around 1800 the Prince-Bishopric was dissolved and in 1815, the Congress of Vienna allocated Therwil and Oberwil to Basel (see also André Salvisberg u.a.: “Historischer Atlas der Region Basel”, Christoph Merian Verlag 2010). The once important border separating two countries (Germany and Switzerland) became a border separating just communities.

The (historical) border around Biel-Benken is adorned with boundary stones from the 17th and 18th century marking the frontier between Basel and the Prince-Bishopric of Basel. I look for the stones in the forest above Biel-Benken.


This stone from 1774 has been beautifully restored. It shows the coat of arms of the prince-bishop Simon Nikolaus de Monjoie pointing to the Prince-Bishopric side.


Towards Biel-Benken there is the coat of arms of Basel – as Biel-Benken belonged to Basel.


This boundary stone shows the bishop’s crook and a coq on the side pointing to the Prince-Bishopric. This must be the coat of arms of Christoph Blarer that the panel near the “corner stone” mentions.



I finish my walk at the Friedrich Oser monument above Biel-Benken with the hazy view of the Blauen. I think the citizens of Basel have done a good job acquiring Biel-Benken with the southwards facing slope that produces quite a good wine (I liked it).


The pond near the monument of Oser is covered with ice and the sun plays with the trees.


With many history lessons learned I return home to warm myself up – it WAS cold today, though the sun had made my heart jump.

I think I will return to Biel-Benken to search for more boundary stones, but perhaps I will wait for warmer weather…

One thought on “Around Basel – looking for old boundary stones on a sunny cold day

  1. […]  blog “Around Basel – looking for old boundary stones on a sunny cold day” talks about my cold winter walk to the boundary stones between Oberwil (that until about […]

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