Culture & History

Life in Wiler


Wiler 1900

If one looks for information about the history of the village of Wiler in the literature of the 20th century, the red blessing Sunday 1900 will probably not be missing in any report - no matter how short it may be. On Sunday, June 17, 1900, the village of Wiler was hit by a terrible village fire, in which all houses were burned down. Thus, during the procession in Kippel, believers noticed that black smoke was rising in Wiler. After only 4 ½ hours, the last of the 400 firstets of the village of Wiler fell. The beautiful village was only a smoking pile of rubble!
The poor people stood around the fire site with the saved belongings, mourning and crying. The total damage was estimated at an unbelievable 450,000.- for that time. From a telegram to the State Council it could be seen that the total of 268 homeless people were distributed among the communities of Ferden (9), Kippel (201), Ried (17), Weissried (3) and Blatten (5).


Wiler today

If one tries to imagine this event today, 113 years later, one might be tempted to regard this village fire as the greatest catastrophe in the history of the village of Wiler. But this is not the case. The village of Wiler had already experienced such horrors several times in the past. The available documents show that the village of Wiler experienced several catastrophes before 1900, some of them just as bad. Thus, the deportation of Lötschers to Gressoney, the warlike invasion of the bishop Tavelli, the invasion of the Oberwalliser, wars and raids and not to forget the plague belong to the eventful history of the village Wiler and the Lötschental.

On the occasion of the 100th year commemoration, on behalf of the community of Wiler, Mr. Ignaz Bellwald wrote a book, which illustrates the circumstances, the deeds and victims of the fire catastrophe in an impressive way. Even today, 100 years after the fire, the eyewitness accounts read like a thriller.

"The biggest scars are now healed and Wiler can be proud again of the "new" Wiler in the center of the valley (quote: teacher Stefan Henzen). 100 years have passed, what Wiler experienced and built up in poverty has today been transformed into a growing village, which has become the tourist engine of the valley.

The book "Der Rote Segensonntag 1900" - The village fire of Wiler (Ignaz Bellwald) can be obtained from the municipal administration. More information about the book can be found here.


The history of the Lötschental at a glance

January 1510

Alliance with King Louis of France

In 1510, the Lötschental - against the will of the bishop - joins an alliance with King Louis of France.

January 1519

Trade route to the Bernese Oberland is expanded.

In 1519, Ulrich Ruffinger was commissioned to build a path for muleteers over the Lötschen Pass, which had already been used for centuries as a trade route to the Bernese Oberland and via which the Walliser settled the Gastern Valley in the Middle Ages.

January 1578

The plague breaks out

In 1578, the district administrator of Gampel orders plague guards to be posted at the entrance to the Löschental valley, as the plague had broken out there.

January 1627

The plague breaks out once again

In 1627, plague guards are again posted at the valley entrance to Lötschen to protect the inhabitants of Gampel from the plague raging in the Lötschen valley.

January 1654

Pilgrimage chapel Kühmatt is built

In 1654/55, the pilgrimage chapel in Kühmatt was built under the chapel bailiff Peter Tannast of the valley community (inscription on the lintel).

January 1698

Construction of the "Grafenriedsche Street"

In 1698, the Bernese captain Abraham von Grafenried gives the order to build the "Grafenriedsche Strasse", a paved mule track over the Lötschen Pass. (The Lötschen Pass was the most important connection between the Upper Valais and the Bernese Oberland until the Gemmiweg was built (1739-1741)). The mule track was built up to the Lötschen Pass, but its completion failed due to the denial of the right of way by the Valaisans, probably in memory of various battles in the 14th and 15th centuries between Valaisans and Bernese on the pass.

March 1766

The "graves" are sold to Ferden

These graves, in the local language "Greber", are a locality between Goppenstein and Mittal in the front Lötschental. A part of this area was sold. This part of the Greber is still on the municipal territory of Gampel, but belongs to the municipality of Ferden.

January 1790

Buyout from the upper censors - Own constitution

In 1790, Lötschen buys itself free from the jurisdiction of the five upper Zenden for 10,000 crowns.

3 January 1815

Declaration of Independence of the Canton of Valais

8 July 1815

Valais is admitted to the Confederation of the Confederates

8 August 1840

first ascent of the Hockenhorn

In 1840, the Englishman A. T. Malkin climbs the 3293 m high Hockenhorn in August.

January 1849

Construction of the road Steg - Goppenstein

In 1849, the English entrepreneur John James Rippon builds a road from Steg to the lead mines of Goppenstein. These lead mines, which are mentioned in a document as early as 1474 and where quite a few people from the Lötschental earned their living, are not finally closed down until 1953.

13 August 1859

First ascent of the Bietschhorn (3934 m.a.s.l.)

1859 First ascent of the Bietschhorn (3934 m) by Leslie Stephen (1832-1904) and the Lötschental mountain guides Anton Siegen (Ried), Johann Siegen (Ried) and Joseph Ebener (*1808, Wiler) on August 13 at the urging of Prior Lehner from Kippel.

January 1868

Hotel Nesthorn (Ried) is opened

In 1868 the first hotel, the Hotel "Nesthorn" was opened in Ried. The guests were mainly English-speaking tourists (alpinists).

January 1897

Lonza AG starts production

In 1897, Lonza AG opened its first industrial plant in Gampel. Thanks to a larger chemical plant in Visp from 1907, as well as intensive research and innovation, the product range was steadily expanded even in economically difficult times.

6 May 1901

Wiler village fire

January 1903

Construction of the Hotel Lötschberg

In 1903 the present Hotel Lötschberg was built in Kippel


Albert Nyfeler begins his work as a church painter

In 1906, the church painter Albert Nyfeler came to the Lötschental with the commission to paint the Kippel church. He stayed in the valley, photographed, drew and painted the life of the inhabitants and collected objects that laid the foundation for the Lötschental Museum opened in 1982.

1906 - 1913

Construction of the Lötschberg tunnel

1906-1913 Construction of the Lötschberg tunnel. Goppenstein, until then a small village, grew within a very short time to the second largest of the whole Konton Wallis and had up to 3,500 inhabitants. Gampel also grew to over 2000 inhabitants during the construction of the BLS line.

January 1932

High mountain sound film is shot

In 1932, the first Swiss high mountain sound film was shot. Its original title: "Die Herrgotts-Grenadiere".

January 1939

Opening of the valley road Gampel - Goppenstein

In 1939, after 12 years of construction, the Gampel-Goppenstein road was opened.

January 1940

Opening of the anthracite mine in Ferden

In 1940, the anthracite mine near Ferden brought not only a new and welcome earning opportunity, but also a new work and time rhythm to the valley.

7 July 1942

First summit cross on the Bietschhorn

In 1940, the first summit cross was erected on the Bietschhorn. For 28 years, the wooden cross withstood wind and weather.

9 August 1949

Coal mining in Ferden is discontinued

In 1948, coal mining at the mine near Ferden was finally stopped. Coal had been mined here especially during the two world wars.

1953 - 1954

Extension of the valley road to Blatten

January 1956

Construction of the first ski lift

In 1956, in order to promote winter tourism in the valley, the first ski lift - as a drag lift - is built from Kippel to Haispil below Hockenalp.

January 1961

Opening of Alusuisse


First Tschäggättu parade in the Lötschen valley

January 1972

The valley road is continued to Fafleralp

12 February 1974

Opening of the Lauchernalp cable car

9 June 1976

The dam in Ferden is completed

Der Stausee Ferden ist ein Stausee an der Lonza im Lötschental. Er befindet sich auf etwa 1300 m. ü. M zwischen den beiden Ortschaften Ferden und Goppenstein im Kanton Wallis und gehört zur Gemeinde Ferden.

January 1982

Opening of the Lötschental Museum