Näfelser Fahrt 2023: Date, History, Facts about Swiss Culture

Näfelser Fahrt 2023: Date, History, Facts about Swiss Culture

The annual Nafelser Fahrt commemorates the “Battle of Nafels” and is held on the first Thursday of April each year. This year’s event occurs on April 6. It is a public holiday in the Canton of Glarus to commemorate the last battle fought between the Swiss Confederacy and Austria, in which the Swiss emerged victorious despite being outnumbered by Austria by a factor of sixteen. As the pilgrimage reaches the site of the conflict for the official procession, local officials, civilians, and the military are accompanied by a marching band.

The background of Näfelser Fahrt

At the turn of the 14th century, external forces waged bloody wars to obtain control of the Swiss territory, posing a variety of threats to the Swiss people. Due to its strategic location and proximity to waterways, the Canton of Glarus was ruled by Austria at the end of the 1300s. In 1336, the valiant inhabitants of Glarus took up arms against the occupying forces and initiated the Battle of Sempach. Two years later, on April 9 of the following year, the Austrians besieged the town of Nafels. The only defence of the Nafels was a tiny garrison of approximately 400 Swiss Confederation soldiers who retreated into the surrounding hills.

As snow began to fall, desperate Austrian troops began to attack nearby villages. As a result of their miscalculation, the garrison, which had been trained to fight in snow and fog, attacked the occupying forces. Austrians, incapable of dealing with the formidable force, attempted to retreat to the neighbouring town when the weight of the soldiers caused the bridge to collapse, causing the majority of the battalion to drown. The conflict ended when the 5,000-man Austrian army commanded by Graf Donat von Toggenburg and the Knight Peter von Thorberg were unable to withstand the counterattack of 400 Swiss Confederation soldiers.

Nafelser Fahrt commemorates the Old Swiss Confederacy’s victory over the Archduchy of Austria. Nafelser Fahrt, which translates to “journey to Nafels,” is an annual pilgrimage to the battlefield and remembrance of the deceased soldiers. Since 1420, the official commemoration held in the Canton of Glarus has played a significant role in uniting the canton and fostering a nationalist attitude within the Glarner community.

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Year Date Day
2022 April 7 Thursday
2023 April 6 Thursday
2024 April 4 Thursday
2025 April 3 Thursday
2026 April 2 Thursday