Translating the Attinghausen entry in the Nobiliaire Militaire Suisse

The title page

The title page

The Nobiliaire Militaire Suisse was an incredibly ambitious effort by an Abbot named Jean-François Girard in the 1700s to compile genealogies of aristocratic Swiss military families. Too ambitious in fact. The first volume, published in 1787, was over 700 pages. It documented 50 families from Aa-Ayent in extensive detail.

Sadly for families B-Z, the author never finished even the second volume, let alone all 26. But luckily for us, he did document our ancestors because (in a rare example of our family benefiting from alphabetical order) he included them in the entry for the Attinghausen family, from which the Zumbrunnen family originated.

This work is an especially important source because just a dozen years after its original publication, a major fire devastated the town of Altdorf in 1799, destroying many of the records to which Girard had access. Had he not written down this information in excruciating detail (and had Google Books not recently digitized it!) it’s likely that the full story of the Zumbrunnen and Attinghausen family would have been forever lost to time.

What follows is a sentence-by-sentence translation. (My own commentary, provided for context, is in parentheses and highlights like this) The original is on Google Books and any improvements to the translation would be welcomed.


Attinghausen, a parish village with a castle, the ruins of which can be seen some distance from the village of Altdorf, beyond the Reuss River in the Canton or Uri.(For a map of these locations, see here.) Attinghausen gave its name to one of the most ancient, most illustrious and most respectable of the Houses of Switzerland, long since extinct in its elder branch with the original name, but which has survived to to the beginning of this century in a junior branch. (He is referring to the Zumbrunnen!)

Without any dispute, the House of Attinghausen can be traced to the 1100s. The family had an inviolable attachment to the interests of the fatherland, and the churches and convents of the country are indebted to their largesse. The family has been known for 600 years, and all the historians of the nation have guaranteed the family’s presence back into antiquity. The archives show that the House of Attinghausen filled the first jobs of the Swiss Republic, even before its birth and emancipation from the yoke of the Holy Roman Empire and the House of Austria, and when Switzerland was controlled by the church. The sources are immune from criticism and the slightest suspicion. A certain mark of the family’s early grandeur is undoubtedly the title of Baron which it carried from the 12th century, unlike today when there’s an infinite number of titled families even in the dregs of people.(This paragraph hints at Girard’s political agenda of Swiss patriotism. It’s clear that despite his fascination with the history of nobles and their genealogy he had a healthy contempt for the nobles who were his contemporaries.)

There is no doubt that, if we had all the records which the insults of time have destroyed, we might witness the name of Attinghausen in the centuries in which it was first adopted.(There’s a debate over the origins of this family. Girard believes they’re an ancient family from Uri; the alternate theory is that they were colonizers from western Switzerland.) But we do not have earlier records than those for Werner, Baron of Attinghausen, who lived in 1189. This Werner is one of the founders of the House of Schweinsberg through Diethelm of Attinghausen, his grandson. And he is the founder of the Zumbrunnen, through his second son Walter who took the name of a castle that he inherited. He is also the founder of a third branch, Der-Frowen, but we do not know its junction with the other branches.(At this point in the original, there’s an overview of the Von Schweinsberg and Der Frauen families which I’ve translated here.)

  1. Werner, Baron of Attinghausen, first of the name. Lived in 1189 (this is not a birth date, but rather his first appearance in records.); chief magistrate in 1206 and 1216. He contributed to the alliance of 1206 between the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, guaranteeing mutual aid and protection against the attacks of nearby princes and lords against the liberty and freedom of the country. (There is no doubt that the modern nation of Switzerland ultimately grew out of these early alliances that were made between these three communities on the shores of Lake Lucerne.) With his wife Richenza von Löwenstein, heiress of the Castle Zumbrunnen (He calls it the “Château de Zumbrunnen.”), he left behind 1) Werner, who follows. 2. Walter, the founder of the Zumbrunnen. 3. Ulrich, who is recorded as making a donation to the Engelberg Abbey in 1240. (Other records suggest that Ulrich was not Werner II’s brother, but rather his son. Ulrich is certainly the father of Werner III.)
  2. Werner, Baron of Attinghausen, second of the name. Mentioned in public documents in 1220. Upon the death of his father in 1234 he became the chief magistrate, a role which he filled with glory until 1241. His children were 1. Werner who follows (In fact the next Werner is his grandson and his son is Ulrich.). 2. Eglolff, knight of the Order of St. Lazarus, benefactor of Seedorf. 3. Richenza, wife of the knight Von Brunberg and Pundt, from whom the noble Puntener Von Brunnberg family are descended.

    (This is the rightful spot in the genealogy for Ulrich Von Attinghausen and Von Schweinsberg. He was the son of Werner II and father of Werner III, and he is witnessed in the records from 1240 to 1257.)

  3. Werner, Baron of Attinghausen, third of the name (Most other sources refer to him as Werner I, because he was the first to carry the titles of both Attinghausen and Schweinsberg). Chief magistrate from 1261 to 1267. Made a donation in 1276 to the Abbey of Seedorf of various lands and families of serfs. Left behind: 1. Werner who follows. 2. Diethelm, the founder of the Barons of Schweinsberg. 3. Anne, Abbess of St. Felix and Regula at Zurich, from 1315 to 1339. During her reign she received confirmation of the privileges of her abbey from Emperor Frederick of Austria and of Louis IV in 1331. I will observe in passing that according to a letter from Pope Innocent VII to this abbey of young ladies of nobility, the Abbess possessed rights which equaled the princes, of which she took some titles. (Most of Girard’s information has other sources but I haven’t located any other sources about Anne.)
  4. Werner, Baron of Attinghausen, fourth of the name (Most other sources refer to him as Werner II, because he was the second to carry the titles of both Attinghausen and Schweinsberg although later in life he dropped Schweinsberg and only used Attinghausen). Chief magistrate of the Canton of Uri from 1298 to 1318. He covered himself with immortal glory by his zeal for the prosperity of his country. (This Werner is one of the main characters in the famous play about the Swiss hero William Tell, and is thus himself one of Switzerland’s most famous patriots.) The hereditary zeal in his family had won the hearts of all good citizens. He did not associate with the abusive barons who wrought chaos and took advantage of the troubles of the Holy Roman Empire, by fomenting the enmity of the families of Gruba and Izzelingen, burning the country, and forcing families to seek asylum abroad. On the contrary, Werner endeavored to appease the quarrels at their root. His behavior was especially distinguished as the Swiss began to work for liberation from all foreign domination.

    Around the year 1304, the insatiable Prince Albert I of Hapsburg, Duke of Austria, sought by any means necessary to annex the lands of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, which enjoyed liberties that his father had respected. He dispatched the barons of Liechtenstein, with an order to make his dominion recognized. But the Barons of Liechtenstein were justly rejected. This vexed the prince who chose the path of intrigue, hoping to succeed in his designs through secret deeds of his emissaries.

    Werner persuaded the three cantons to travel to Albert and demand the confirmation of their privileges, and that they have a judge who reports only to the Holy Roman Empire, rather than reporting through Albert. The demand undermined all the goals of Prince Albert and showed the Swiss would never consent to submit to him. Werner himself was chosen to bear the requests of the cantons to the foot of the Imperial Throne. Albert could not conceal his grief at these unexpected proposals, and the tone in which he spoke to his deputy, showed he was going to avenge himself for this alleged disobedience. After vainly endeavoring to appease him, Werner came to share with his fellow citizens the success of his embassy and the threats he had sustained. No sooner had he returned to Switzerland than he received an order from Albert, demanding the three states raise a contribution for the Wettingen Abbey. Other unusual acts of despotic authority emanated successively from the Austrian Chancellery. Albert dispatched tyrannical bailiffs and judges (In William Tell, it is the tyrannical Austrian bailiff Gessler who orders that William Tell attempt to shoot an apple off his son’s head. While some modern historians consider William Tell an exaggerated folk legend, there’s no dispute among historians that Werner Von Attinghausen is a historical figure who was genuinely a leader in resisting the Hapsburgs). Werner declared openly in the assemblies that such conduct could not be sustained any longer.

    Along with his close friend, the illustrious Von Stauffach, Werner threw his fate in with the other brave patriots. Werner knew the difficult measures it would take to expel the Hapsburg tyrants. And Werner was not dazzled by the hope of a brilliant fortune if he betrayed his countrymen. He sacrificed the favors he had been offered by the imperial court and took the side of the oppressed peoples. He had the consolation of seeing himself at his death as the head of a free people, who regarded him as their father, and blessed him with many benedictions.

    His children were 1. Thuring, priest of the Einseideln monastery in 1298, who became the Abbot of Disentis in 1339. This abbey had difficult relations with the three cantons. Thuring, allied with his brother, who was the chief magistrate of Uri, restored the good harmony between the two abbey and the cantons. He made an alliance with Glaris in 1340, and helped to conclude the peace between the Canton of Schwyz and the Einseidlen Abbey in 1350. He died, according to some authors, on November 8, 1352. 2. Johann, who follows. 3. Anne, wife of Johann Von Rudenz. The Castle of Fluelen which collected the toll along the Gotthard Pass had belonged to the Attinghausen family, but after the death of Anne’s brother, she received the castle and so it passed into control of the Von Rudenz family. 4. Verene, married to a Baron Von Rarogne. 5. Ursula, married to Johann Von Simpelen, a Baron of the Vallais. 6. Walter, commander of Seedorf in 1336.

  5. Johann, Baron of Attinghausen, Knight, chief magistrate of Uri in 1325, 1331, 1334, 1337, 1339, 1345, 1352, 1355. Sent by the Swiss to Como to negotiate a peace between the Lepontians of Northern Italy and Uri, who had quarreled. This treaty was concluded on August 12, 1331, under the hand of the brothers of Rusea. On the Saturday before St. Nicholas of the following year he signed, along with his father, the act by virtue of which the city of Lucerne was admitted into the Swiss Confederation. On the Sunday after the Feast of St. Agatha, Feb. 9, 1337, in Lucerne, he formally declared that he had received as a fief of Count John of Habsburg-Lauffenburg half the toll of Fluelen in the Canton of Uri, on the condition that he should assist that prince against every one, except the other Confederates of Switzerland. In that case his promise would be incompatible. The witnesses were Herman de Hunwyl, Rudolf Biber, Rudolf Truchses von Rapperswil, knight, Johann von Burglen & Heinrich von Hunenberg. The period of this infidelity is after the extinction of the empire of the Austrian princes in Switzerland, which proves, as the Treasurer of Balthasar remarks, that the Swiss, by shaking off the Austrian yoke, always allowed the princes to enjoy their revenues until, at a later period, they themselves acquired it. This conduct does honor to their disinterestedness. (So it seems Johann agreed to give the Hapsburgs half of the Gotthard Pass toll as long as they agreed to otherwise leave the Swiss alone, which the author seems to consider only a semi-justifiable course of action. Other sources say that he died in 1359. Some historians once believed that Johann abused his power later in life and was overthrown by a Democratic revolt, thus ending the Barons of Attinghausen, but the explanation here, which is now more widely accepted, is that Johann had no sons who outlived him to assume the title.) Baron Johann of Attinghausen left no posterity.


  1. Priska von Beroldingen says:

    What a fascinating and well done site. The Attinghausen family is of interest to me as well, since one of the earlier Beroldingens is Walter, who was in service to the family in the 13th century. I appreciate the links, which will go onto the ever-growing research list. Being one of the last ones in my line from Josue Beroldingen, I also have a kind of passionate determination (my kids might say obsession) to continue my work to assemble a family
    history. Cheers to your excellent work!

  2. Josh Zumbrun says:

    Thanks for your note, Priska. We must be very distant cousins. At least three Zumbrunnen men married Beroldingen girls over the years.

    Our 15xgreat grandfathers would probably be quite amused that Beroldingens and Zumbrunnens are still interacting all these centuries later.

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