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BASLE TO BIENNE AND BERN BY THE VAL moutiers (Münster Thal), WITH EXCURSION TO THE WEISSENSTEIN.
BASLE, or Bâle. (Germ. Basel, Ital. Basilea.)—Inns: Drei Könige (Three Kings), well situated, overlooking the Rhine, which washes its walls-a good inn, but expensive; dinner at the table d'hôte, 3 fr. at 1 o'clock.-4 fr. at 5 o'clock - in private, 6 fr.; - the Stork (Cigogne), good; - Krone (Crown); Kopf (Tête d'Or).
Basle, capital of the now subdivided canton called Basletown, is situated on the Rhine, and the larger portion lies on the 1. bank, which is connected with the rt. by a bridge of wood, partly supported on stone piers. The territory of the town extends for about 4 miles on the rt. side of the river. It has 21,240 inhab., and it enjoys considerable prosperity from the residence of many rich merchants, bankers, and families of ancient descent, and from its position in an angle on the frontiers of France, Germany, and Switzerland, about a mile below the spot where the Rhine first becomes navigable. It has some manufactures, of which the most important are those of ribands and paper. English travellers have hitherto been too much in the habit of considering Basle merely as a halting-place for the night, which they quit as soon as they are furnished with horses: yet its situation on high, sloping banks, overlooking the Rhine, which rushes past in a full broad flood of a clear, light green, bounded by the hills of the Black Forest on the one side, of the Jura on the other-but, above all, its Minster, and its Gallery of the Works of Holbein, deserve some attention. It must be remembered that Basle, though politically a portion of the Swiss Confederation, is yet, historically, a part of Suabia, and that it retains many of the characteristics of an imperial free town more distinctly than many of those which have continued German, and have become incorporated in modern sovereignties.
The Cathedral, or Münster, on the high bank on the 1. of the Rhine, above the bridge, distinguished by its two spires,
and the deep-red colour of the sandstone of which it is built,
Behind the Minster is a Terrace, called Die Pfalz, nearly 60 ft. above the river, planted with 10 chesnut trees, and commanding a beautiful view over the Rhine, the town, and the Black Forest hills. Close to it is the Club called Cassino, containing a reading-room, etc.
The Minster is situated in a square of considerable size-in one corner of which, in a recess, stands the Public Library, containing 50,000 volumes among them, the Acts of the Council of Bâle, 3 vols., with chains attached to the binding, many very important MSS., of which there is a good catalogue, and a few of the books of Erasmus; also, a copy of his " Praise of Folly," with marginal illustrations by the pen of Holbein.
There are autographs of Luther, Melancthon, Erasmus, and Zuinglius. On the ground-floor is the Gallery of Paintings and Drawings by the younger Holbein—a highly interesting collection of the works of that master, including the Passion of Christ, in 8 compartments; a dead Christ-both formerly in the Minster; Holbein's Wife and Children, with countenances full of grief and misery; portraits of Erasmus, of Froben the printer-excellent; of a Mlle. von Offenburg-twice repeated; two representations of a School, painted by the artist at the age of 14, and hung up as a sign over a schoolmaster's door in the town of Basle. Among the drawings are Holbein's own portrait-a work of the highest excellence; heads of the family Meyer, sketched for the celebrated picture now in the Dresden Gallery; original sketch for the famous picture of the family of Sir Thomas More-the names of the different personages are written on their dresses; 5 sketches for the frescoes which formerly decorated the Rathhaus in Basle, with one or two fragments of the frescoes themselves; sketches in ink for glass windows, for the sheaths of daggers, for the organ in the Minster; the Costumes of Basle, etc. etc. Here are also preserved some fresco fragments of the original Dance of Death, which once adorned the walls of the Dominican Church in Basle, and a set of coloured drawings of the whole series of figures. The Dance of Death has been attributed without cause to Holbein, since it existed at the time of the Council of Basle, at least 50 years before his birth. Holbein was born at Basle in 1489: his circumstances were by no means prosperous; he was even reduced to work as a day-labourer and house-painter, and painted the outer walls of the houses of the town. It is related of him that, being employed to decorate the shop of an apothecary, who was intent on keeping the young artist close to his work, and being disposed to repair to a neighbouring wine-shop, he painted a pair of legs so exactly like his own on the underside of the scaffolding, that the apothecary, seated below, believed him to be constantly present and diligently employed. Erasmus, writing from Bâle a letter of introduction for the painter to one of his friends, complains that "hic frigent artes," and the want of encouragement, drove Holbein to seek his fortune in England, where he met with high patronage, as is well known.
In the lower story of the Library are also deposited a number of antiquities, bronzes, fragments of pottery, coins, etc., from Augst, the site of the Roman Augusta Rauracorum, 7 miles from Basle.
The University of Basle, founded 1460, was the first great seminary for the advancement of learning established in Switzerland: it once enjoyed a high reputation, and numbered among the lists of its professors the names of Erasmus, Euler,
and Bernouilli-the two last, mathématicians and natives of Basle. The University has been greatly injured by the recent and unjust seizure of part of its funds by the country division of the canton. Besides the Library mentioned above, there is a small and not very important Museum of Natural History, placed in a building near the Minster.
The Rathhaus, in the Market-place, is a building of pleasing Burgundian Gothic architecture, founded 1508, and recently repaired without changing its character. The frescoes, however, said to be designed by Holbein, previously partly obliterated, are now removed. The frieze contains the emblazoned shields of the original Swiss cantons; the armorial bearing of canton Basle is said to be meant to represent the case of a cross-bow. At the foot of the stairs is placed a statue of Munatius Plancus, the founder, according to tradition, of Bâle and of the Roman colony of Augst.
The greater and lesser councils of the canton hold their sittings in the apartments above.
The Arsenal contains a limited collection of ancient armour, of which the only curiosities are a suit of chain mail, once gilt, with plate mail beneath it, worn by Charles the Bold at the battle of Nancy; two Burgundian cannon, of iron bars bound round with hoops; and several suits of Burgundian and Armagnac armour.
The terraced Garden of M. Vischer, an eminent banker, overlooking the Rhine, is a very pretty spot.
The gateways, battlemented works, watch-towers, and ditch, which formed the ancient defences of the town, remain in a good state of preservation. The Paulusthor retains its advanced work or Barbican, similar to those which formerly existed at York, and, with its double portcullis and two flanking towers, is particularly picturesque. The machicolations are supported by strange but clever figures approaching to the grotesque.
Basle is scarcely surpassed in cleanliness even by the towns of Holland: its streets are plentifully supplied with fountains; and it would indeed be a reproach to the inhabitants, if, with the rapid and abundant current of the Rhine to cleanse them from all filth, they were allowed to remain dirty.
Down to the end of the last century (1795), the clocks of Basle went an hour in advance of those in other places of Europe-a singular custom, the origin of which is not precisely known. According to tradition, it arose from the circumstance of a conspiracy to deliver the town to an enemy at midnight having been defeated by the clock striking 1 instead of 12.
Attached to the clock-tower on the bridge is a grotesque head, called Lallenkönig, which, by the movement of the pendulum, is constantly protruding its long tongue and rolling
its goggle eyes-making faces, it is said, at Little Basle, on the opposite side of the river.
The ancient sumptuary laws of Basle were singular and severe. On Sunday all must dress in black to go to church; females could not have their hair dressed by men; carriages were not permitted in the town after 10 at night, and it was forbidden to place a footman behind a carriage. The official censors, called Unzichterherrn, had the control of the number of dishes and wines to be allowed at a dinner party, and their authority was supreme on all that related to the cut and quality of clothes. At one time they waged desperate war against slashed doublets and hose.
Since the Reformation, Basle has been regarded as the stronghold of Methodism in Switzerland. The pious turn of its citizens was remarkably exhibited in the mottoes and signs placed over their doors. These have now disappeared; but two very singular ones have been recorded
Auf Gott ich meine Hoffnung bau,
In God my hopes of grace I big,
Wacht auf ihr Menschen und that Buss,
Wake, and repent your sins with grief;
Even now, should the traveller arrive at the gates of the town on Sunday during church-time, he will find them closed, and his carriage will be detained outside till the service is over. The spirit of trade, however, went hand in hand with that of religion-and Basle has been called a city of usurers; 5 per cent. was styled a Christian usance "" (einen Christlichen zins), and a proclamation of the magistrates (1682-84) denounced those who lent money at a discount of 4 or 3 1/2 per cent. as " selfish, avaricious, and dangerous persons; "those who lent their capital at a lower rate were liable to have it confiscated, because, forsooth, such persons, 166 by their avarice, did irremediable injury to churches, hospitals, church property, etc., and are the ruin of poor widows and orphans.
The dissensions which broke out soon after the Revolution of 1830 between the inhabitants of the town of Basle, and those of the country, led to a civil war between the parties, and a bloody contest near Liesthal occasioned, in 1832, the