The Fortified Church of St. Arbogast in Muttenz is the only church in Switzerland that is surrounded by a defensive wall. The first church on the site was built in the Early Middle Ages, possibly as early as the 6th century but certainly by the 8th century. Around 1000 the nave was extended toward the west. The second church was built around 1100. This new building had a wider and longer nave and the choir was rectangular with massive walls. The second church was replaced in the mid-12th century by the third church, parts of which still stand today.
The third church, a Romanesque building, had a round apse, a rectangular choir and a bell tower on the north side which were probably grafted on the earlier nave. The church was heavily damaged in the 1356 Basel earthquake. Three years later, under Konrad Münch-Löwenberg, the church was rebuilt. The rounded apse was replaced with the current rectangular choir and the nave was raised to a height of about 1.5 m below its current height. In 1420 Hans Thüring Münch-Eptingen became the owner of the village and had a new, larger bell tower built.
Under Hans Thüring Münch-Eptingen the church was fortified with a seven-metre-tall rampart around 1435. The walls had two gatehouses north and south of the church. By fortifying St. Arbogast, the towns people now had defenses to replace the destroyed Hintere Wartenberg, Mittlere Wartenberg and Vordere Wartenberg Castles. The northern gatehouse is decorated with the coat of arms of the Münch or Münch von Münchenstein family. In 1450 Hans Thüring had the interior of the church covered in frescoes.
The Münch family had to sell the right to appoint priests and collect money for the church to Peter zum Luft in the late 15th century. He probably built the charnal house adjoining the church. After Peter's death, Arnold zum Luft took over the church in 1474. Under Arnold, the nave was raised the final 1.5 m to its current height and in 1504 given a richly painted wooden ceiling by Ulrich Bruder. Large windows were added on the north and south sides of the nave. Additional frescoes depicting the legend of St. Arbogast were added in 1507. In 1513 the charnal house was decorated with frescoes on the interior and exterior walls and ceiling.
In 1517 the city of Basel took over the church. When Basel converted to the new faith of the Protestant Reformation in 1528, St. Arbogast became a Protestant church. The relics of St. Arbogast were destroyed and the altars were sold off. The frescoes were painted over as part of the wave of iconoclasm from the Reformation.
The Sigristenhaus was built outside the south wall in 1553. In 1630 the bell tower was had an additional story added to it and was topped with a pointed spire. At the same time, the nave windows were replaced with new pointed arch windows and another pointed arch window was added on the south side of the choir. During the 17th century the Wächterhaus was added to the south wall to the west of the Sigristenhaus.
The town decided to demolish the walls and gatehouses around the church in 1853, but Zurich historian Johann Rudolf Rahn convinced the council in Basel to preserve them instead. In 1880/81 the church was renovated and the old frescoes were discovered. However their condition was judged to be too poor and they were covered in new plaster. The only exception was a painting of the Last Judgment above the portal which was repainted in 1884 by Karl Jauslin. In the 1970s the church was renovated again. This time, the 19th century plaster was removed and the medieval frescoes were restored.
All three walls are decorated with a series of paintings of the Apostles (1507). Additionally, the south side had the life of Mary and the Ten Commandments (1507). The west side is the Last Judgment (1507), repainted in 1884 by Karl Jauslin. The north side is a fresco of the Passion (1507).
On the north side of the choir above the sacristy is the apostle's medallion from the early 14th century. A fragment of another medallion is visible on the opposite wall. Also on the north wall are two frescoes of the life of St. Arbogast from 1450. In the first King Dagobert brings his son Siegbert, killed in the hunt, to Bishop of Strassburg, Arbogast, and asks for help. In the second the king and his wife pray as Arbogast awakens Siegbert from death.
On the south side the frescoes depict the Assumption of Mary and her crowning in heaven. Another fresco from 1450 shows Saint Nicholas giving three gold purses to the daughters of a poor man.
The vault of the choir features the coat of arms of Münch-Löwenberg from the second half of the 14th century. The remaining frescoes were too badly damaged to be repaired. The rest of the paintings were badly destroyed.
The exterior of the charnal house has a fresco of Saint Christopher on the left side and protective mantel on the right. Saint Michael is above the door and the year 1513 is above the window. Inside the charnal house is a fresco of the Last Judgement from 1513 and an example of the Legend of the grateful dead from the same year. The legend is of a knight who always prays for the souls of the dead. One day he is attacked by robbers and the dead come to his aid, driving off the robbers.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.