Schöllenenschlucht


Useful Information

Vue de la Sortie de l'Urnerloch, Aquatinta, Dikenmann, Zürich um 1850. Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.
Twärrenbrücke, Theodor Barth, 1919. Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.
Location: Near Andermatt.
(46.650468, 8.586922)
Open: no restrictions.
Schöllenen Rundweg: MAY to NOV.
[2021]
Fee: free.
[2021]
Classification: GorgeGorge
Light: n/a
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography: Robert Schedler (1919): Der Schmied von Göschenen, . Deutsch - German
Meinrad Lienert (1915): Schweizer Sagen und Heldengeschichten. Deutsch - German
Address: Andermatt-Urserntal Tourismus GmbH, Gotthardstrasse 2, 6490 Andermatt, Tel: +41-41-888-71-00. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

~1230 gorge opened up as a bridle path with the construction of a wooden bridge.
1306 written mention of the stiebende Brugge (spray bridge).
1587 first written mention of the Teiffels Brucken (Devil's Bridge).
1595 wooden bridge replaced by a stone bridge.
1608 Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, lost his fortune on the bridge.
1640 first stone bridge destroyed by a flood.
1707-1708 new road, including a tunnel with a length 60 m, replaced the Twärrenbrücke.
1830 road through the gorge completed, suitable for coaches and sleds.
1882 15 km long Gotthard railway tunnel opened, longest tunnel of the world until 1905.
1887 Teufelsstein (Devil's Stone) sold to the Maestrani Schweizer Schokoladenfabrik.
1923 plans to demolish the Teufelsstein (Devil's Stone).
2014-2018 road through the gorge renovated.

Description

The old and new Devils Bridge. Picture by Markus Schweiß, © GNU FDL
Vue de l'entrée, Aquatinta, Straub Weber, Leuthold Zürich um 1840. Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.
Building the Devil’s Bridge, between 1830 and 1832, by Carl Blechen (*1798-✝1840). Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.
"Das Urner-Loch von der Teüfels-Brüke anzusehen" (the Urnerloch as seen from the Devils Bridge), Salomon Gessner, 1781. Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.
The Devil’s Bridge and Schöllenen Gorge (1802) by William Turner (*1775-✝1851). Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.
The Devil’s Bridge and Schöllenen Gorge (1803) by William Turner (*1775-✝1851). Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.
Teufelsbrücke, engraving from 1780. Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.
Teufelsbrücke, Heinrich Keller (*1778-✝1862). Schöllenenschlucht, Switzerland. Public Domain.

The Schöllenenschlucht (Schöllenen Gorge) is the gorge of the river Reuss. This river is created by the confluence of the Gotthardreuss which rises in the Gotthard massif and the Furkareuss which rises east of Furka Pass. At Hospental they join to form the Reuss, which downstream of Andermatt (1,432 m asl) passes through Schöllenenschlucht and under the legendary Teufelsbrücke (Devil's Bridge). The name of the gorge is an adaption from the Rumantsch word scalinae ("stairs, steps"). Before the 12th century, the gorge was the upper limit of Alemannic settlement in the Alps and the border between the bishoprics of Constance and Raetia Curensis. In the mid-12th century the gorge was passable, but only by a difficult footpath. At that time it was not possible to cross the southern part of the gorge, so the first trail climbed high above the gorge and descended on the other side again. This path was more or less a long staircase up and another down on the other side. This is probably the reason why it was called "steps".

The gorge was first opened up around 1230 as a bridle path with the construction of a wooden ledger attached to the rock wall, known as Twärrenbrücke, and a wooden bridge across the gorge called stiebende Brugge (spray bridge). This was of great strategic importance, because it was the access to the Gotthard Pass, one of the lowest passes across the Alps. A new north-south route through the Alps had effects on the Italian politics of the Holy Roman Empire. The Twärrenbrücke rested on beams laid across the gorge and its construction is attributed to the Walser. A 16th century historiography attributes the construction of the bridge to the blacksmith Heini from Göschenen. According to legend the wooden planks were supported by chains. This legend was converted into a historical novel named Der Schmied von Göschenen but is nevertheless quite unlikely.

More interesting is the legend of the devils bridge. The name was first recorded in 1587, the legend was first published by Johann Jakob Scheuchzer in 1716. He stated that he was told the following legend by locals.

The people of Uri recruited the Devil for the difficult task of building a bridge across the gorge. The Devil requested to receive the first thing to pass the bridge in exchange for his help, who expected to receive the soul of the first person to pass the bridge. To trick the Devil, the people of Uri sent a dog across by throwing a piece of bread, and the dog was promptly torn to pieces by the Devil. Enraged because he was tricked, the Devil went to fetch a large rock to smash the bridge. Carrying the rock back to the bridge, he came across a holy man who "scolded him" and ordered him to drop the rock. The rock was hence called Teufelsstein (Devil's Stone).

The strange thing is, that the legend is much younger than the name. A possible reason would be that the travelers misunderstood the actual name of the bridge and wrote down the wrong name. Later the legend was added, fitting this name. The legend is obviously not unique, similar legend are told about numerous bridges. A modern retelling was published by Meinrad Lienert.

The council of Urn went to the dangerous place in the gorge of the river Reuss. They discussed the problems for hours, but got no result. Finally, one of the councilmen went so angry that he shouted: "Do sell der Tyfel e Brigge bue!" (There may the devil build a bridge!). Immediatly the devil appeared and told, he would build the bridge, if he got the soul of the first one crossing the bridge. The clerk of the council noted this agreement, and the following day a stone bridge crossed the gorge. But now the price had to be paid. One councilman asked a few boys to drive a huge billy goat across the bridge. When the goat saw the devil with his horns, it paced towards him. The devil became so angry that he was tricked, he teared the goat to tatters, then he went to fetch a large rock to smash the bridge. When the Devil was taking a break, exhausted from carrying the rock, an old woman came by and painted a cross on the rock. The cross forced the Devil to abandon the rock and flee.

Another strange story happened on 17-MAR-1608, St Patrick's Day, when Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, was fleeing the English with 98 of his fellow-Gaels. When they crossed the Devil's Bridge, but one of the horses carrying his fortune plunged into the torrent below. The horse was recovered, but the gold was lost.

In 1707/8 the wooden Twärrenbrücke was replaced by a new road with a road tunnel with a length of 60 m. This tunnel named SubterraneaUrnerloch was the first road tunnel ever built in the Alps.

The Teufelsstein (Devil's Stone) is a large block of granite near Göschenen. It is 12 m high and weights 2,200 tons, obviously it was transported here by a glacier. In 1887, it was sold to the Maestrani Schweizer Schokoladenfabrik for 80 francs. They painted it yellow as an advertisement for chocolate. For this reason there were plans to demolish it in 1923. Max Oechslin, president of Naturforschende Gesellschaft Uri (Natural History Society of Uri) preserved the rock and hat the colour removed. In 1970 the stone was in the way for the construvction of the N2 motorway and again there were plans to demolish it. But this time there was a broad movement to preserve it, and the officials stated it would cost 250,000 francs to move it. As a result the public oppinion changed, the cost was seen as excessive. But actually the rock was still owned by the Naturforschende Gesellschaft Uri and so it was illegal to destroy it. As a result the Federal Council finally moved the stone 127 m in an operation which cost CHF 335,000. It can be seen at the Göschenen exit of the motorway, near the entrance of the Gotthard Road Tunnel.

The visit to the gorge has two parts. The gorge between Göschenen and Andermatt is connected by a road with numerous parking lots with outlooks along the road. This part is suitable for everybody. The second part starts at the Devils Bridge, at the Restaurant Teufelsbrücke. From here a trail through the gorge starts, called Schöllenen Rundweg. It allows views into the dramatic and narrowest part of the gorge. And there is a trail to the nearby Suvorov monument, which was commissioned by the Russian Empire in 1899. The Suvorov Monument commemorates the difficult battle of 25-SEP-1799, when General Suvorov and his troops fought the French at Devil's Bridge. It honours fallen Russian soldiers. These trails are not difficult, but require some walking on uneven ground and are accessible only in summer.