A Glossary of the Swiss Political Offices Held by the Zumbrunnen

The Zumbrunnen family was deeply involved in Switzerland’s civic life for many generations. This is the reason that records exist for the family dating all the way back to at least the 1200s. Members of the family held a wide number of official leadership posts for which records have been kept. These are some of the senior offices for the Swiss Cantons (cantons are similar to U.S. states although in the time of the Zumbrunnen, Swiss Cantons were significantly more independent, almost their own small countries).

Here’s a glossary of definitions of some of the major offices held by the Zumbrunnen family in Switzerland (primarily in the Canton of Uri).

Landammann – a chief magistrate for a Canton who was the head of state. Akin to a governor, chief justice and military leader all in one. This was the most important administrative/political official of a Swiss Canton. This was a role of high distinction, held by the region’s most-respected statesman. Over the years, eight different Zumbrunnen held the office of Landammann of Uri, including Burkhard Zumbrunnen, his son also named Burkhard Zumbrunnen, Walter Zumbrunnen, Johannes Zumbrunnen (I), Johannes Zumbrunnen (II), Mansuetus Zumbrunnen, Johann Zumbrunnen (III) and Johann Heinrich Zumbrunnen.

A list of all the men who served as Landammann of Uri is available here.

Landschreiber – something like a chief clerk or chief secretary, who would have been in charge of the record keeping and bookkeeping of their region. Josue Zumbrunnen, Mansuetus Zumbrunnen and Johann Zumbrunnen were landschreiber in Lugano. Johan Zumbrunnen, Hugo David Zumbrunnen, Burkhard Zumbrunnen and Josue Zumbrunnen IV were landschreiber of Uri.

Landesstatthalter – literally, a steward. This was generally the title of the deputy to the Landammann. Johann Zumbrunnen and Johann Heinrich Zumbrunnen were steward of Uri, before they became Landammann.

Landessäckelmeister – the Treasurer of a region. Mansuetus Zumbrunnen was the Treasurer of Uri.

Des Rats. – The Council. Swiss Canton’s like Uri had a sort of governing and executive council, that was led by the Landamman and included other top officials of the Canton like the Landschreiber.

Landvogt – this is a really interesting position with really no equivalent in the English-speaking world. Though generally translated as bailiff, it was much more interesting than that. The central Cantons of Switzerland jointly administered the frontier territory of Switzerland via a system of castles and fortresses. Some of the places for which the Zumbrunnen served as landvogt are the towns of Thurgau, Sargans, the Rhine Valley and the Livinen Valley. These fortresses are primarily in regions along the modern borders of Switzerland. (You can see these locations in this map). The Landvogt was appointed by the central cantons to live in these castles and be the chief overseer of these regions. The Landvogt enforced the law and led defensive efforts when necessary to prevent the regions from falling under the rule of the Austrians or the Milanese or the Hapsburgs or whomever. In this way, the Zumbrunnen played a major role in establishing the political borders of modern Switzerland.

Landvogts include: Johann Zumbrunnen and Heinrich Zumbrunnen in Livinen; Johann Zumbrunnen the younger, Ulrich Zumbrunnen, Burkhard Zumbrunnen and Josue Zumbrunnen in Sargans; Johannes Zumbrunnen in Baden; Mansuetus Zumbrunnen and Johann Zumbrunnen III in Thurgau; Johann Zumbrunnen in Bollenze.

Tagsatzungsgesander und Ratsbote – a representative to the Federal Diet of Switzerland, which was the chief counsel of the Old Swiss Confederacy. While it was an important body, I believe its role was primarily diplomatic, rather than legislative or executive, as the individual cantons were pretty autonomous. These representatives include Walter Zumbrunnen, Johannes Zumbrunnen (I), Johann Zumbrunnen (III), Johann Heinrich Zumbrunnen, Josue Zumbrunnen, Burkhard Zumbrunnen and Josue Zumbrunnen.

Hauptmann – a captain or commander in a military or guard unit. The Landeshauptmann was the top military official for the canton.

Kirchenvogt – this is often translated as church bailiff. This person would have been something like a chief administrator and chief security officer for a church and its property. When the church played a large and quasi-governmental role in civic affairs this person would have had many duties but my understanding is that overtime this job became increasingly ceremonial. Josue Zumbrunnen, Heinrich Zumbrunnen, and Burkhard Zumbrunnen were church bailiff in Altdorf.

Spitalvogt – something like hospital bailiff. A chief administrator and security officer for a hospital. (Consider that in a time of leprosy and plagues it was as important to keep the patients in a hospital, as it was to keep anyone out!) Josue Zumbrunnen and Josue Zumbrunnen were hospital bailiff in Altdorf.


  1. […] speak of Werner in the year 1189. By the year 1206, Werner had become the chief magistrate (the title of Landammann) of the Canton of […]

  2. […] Der-Frowen was chief magistrate (the Swiss title Landammann) of the canton in 1374, captain general in 1386, commanded the Uri at the Battle of Sempach on July […]

  3. […] In the late 1200s, Burkhard Zumbrunnen, the chief magistrate of Uri (the canton official known as Landammann), had two sons named Johann Zumbrunnen and Heinrich Zumbrunnen. The younger son Heinrich is the one […]

  4. […] long-time benefactors of the church. They were active in the civic life of Switzerland, holding many government offices for which records have been kept, and participated in the creation of the Old Swiss Confederacy (the early alliance of Swiss Cantons […]

  5. […] Burkard Zumbrunnen, first of the name. Landammann (For an explanation of these Swiss titles, see this glossary.) of the Canton of Uri from 1241 until 1251, was deputy this last year to swear the alliance […]

  6. […] all the offices held by the Zumbrunnen in Switzerland, the most important was that of the Landammann, who served as the leader of all the […]

  7. […] Uri, took control of the Sargans region. To administer their frontier territory they appointed a “landvogt,” often translated as “bailiff” or “reeve” to administer the region. The […]

  8. […] son of Emman. Bailiff (Bailiff is a rough translation; the Swiss title is “Landvogt“.) of Vaulruz 1551-1556, of Illens 1561-1566. Died in […]

  9. […] of our ancestors were active in political offices, especially as leaders, clerks and secretaries in the Canton of Uri. By the 1500s in Switzerland, people with such aspirations often pursued some […]

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