We climbed the 368 steps to the top of the 76 meters high tower and were rewarded with a fantastic view of the countryside and town.
This Gothic-style cathedral with its beautifully stained glass windows.
It took 207 years to build this cathedral
A surprising and ecological system is used to operate this funicular since 1899. So the wastewater of Fribourg move the Funi from the Neuveville District up to downtown Fribourg. Ah the eternal power of gravity!
Mo-Sa: 7.00-8.15AM and 9.30AM-7.00PM
Su: 9.30AM -7.00PM
I love to observe the eternal mouvement of water and mecanics of this Tinguely masterpiece. The fountain has a big round basin in the centre of which sits the fantastic black machine, a firework-like display of iron and water.
The artist Jean Tinguely is born in Fribourg. In 1984 he built this fountain in memory of his friend and Formula1 driver Seppi Jo Siffert, who died in an accident at Brands Hatch in 1971. The two men had previously drawn up plans for a fountain in the 60s.
Two other original fountains could also be found on public place as the Carnival Fountain built in Basel in 1977 and the Strawinsky Fountain in Paris in 1983.
No matter how often I walk these streets, particularly the streets of L'Auge and Neuveville I am always thrilled to be here.
Three distinct neighborhoods comprise the Old Town, the oldest area referred to as L’Auge is closest to the river and includes the parcel of land located between the Bern Bridge and the St. Jean Bridge, crossing St Jean Bridge in a sort of northern direction you enter into a separate area referred to as the Neuveville district. The area referred to as La Bourg is on the top side of the hill and the area of the city where you will find the Cathedral St. Nicholas, the Eglise des Cordeliers, the train station and a bevy of other attractions that are also important “attractions” of the city.
L’Auge and Neuveville are the original sections of the city that have been occupied since the earliest days of settlement here, built originally along the banks of the River Sarine or Saane(French or German spellings)When you visit here you’ll find a large number of structures that date to the 15th Century as well as homes, a school, some lovely cafes, old churches and wonderfully designed historic fountains. Scholars and tourism officials SAY that up to 200 building facades that date from the medieval era are located here.
Streets are narrow in some cases and cobbled stone. You’ll find a couple of nicely designed “squares” and places to enjoy a nice meal or beverage. It’s a “people” place and you’ll find people coming and going, some car traffic and even a Museum of Puppetry here in the Old Town.
I’ve made brief visits here both in summer and in winter. Both seasons offer different perspectives but the flowers and foliage that you’ll see decorating many of the houses certainly add to the feel of the place and in winter the fountains obviously aren’t functional so if you have choices try to visit during the summer months if you can.
Given its proximity to the river it’s a natural that you’ll cross some bridges on your walkabout in the Old Town including the Bern Bridge, Middle Bridge and le pont de St Jean or St Jeans Bridge, all of which are unique and quite old and different from each other.
If you take the time to cross the Bern Bridge you can easily make your way to see the Bern Gate that dates from between 1270 and 1290 and the Cats Tower, and also the Red Tower that dates from the late 14th Century. These three surviving structures formed a part of the defensive fortifications of medieval Fribourg. A little further up the steep hillside you can see today what remains of the Gotteron Gate, another access to and from the “city” during the medieval era of Fribourg.
Churches that you’ll come across will hopefully include the Headquarters and Church of Knights St Johns Hospitaller. Unfortunately you cannot access this property or at least I couldn’t on the day that I tried but you should know that the “Knights of the Hospital of St. John” originated in about 1099 in relation to the First Crusades. A group of knights that were hurt and recovered from the Siege of Jerusalem devoted themselves to helping the unwell and caring for pilgrims trekking to the Holy Land. This Holly place is connected to the modern day Order of St John which is involved in charity work around the World.
Also try to make time to at least look at the murals that are still visible on the front walls of the Augustinian Monastery. The Mauritius church found inside of the Monastery was built around 1311 .Sadly the doors were locked up and I couldn’t get inside to look around.
Some of the fountains that you can around the Old Town, including the “Fountaine de la Samaritaine” sculpted in 1551 by Hans Gieng and the “Fontaine de Saint Anne” crafted between the years 1557 and 1559 by Hans Geiler as well as the Fountaine de St Jean…a significant component of the Planche Superieur, a large square adjacent to the Commandery of the Knights of St John.
In any event, if you have any interest at all in medieval architecture the Old Town of Fribourg offers you a great opportunity to see one of the best kept secrets of Western Europe and I think if you take the time to explore here you’ll be happy that you did. Take the time and check it out!
Walking across the Bern Bridge coming from Place de Petite St. Jean if you turn left onto Route des Neigles you will soon arrive at the approaches to the Bern Gate, a significant structure that was so critical in the defensive fortifications of the old city. You can still see the old doors and a portion of the draw bridge, when you walk through the gate you get a sense of the strength of the gate, it’s enormous!
Its really thickly built…the exact dimensions Im not sure.
The Bern Gate dates to the 13th Century and was expanded during the 14th Century, made higher. About that same time the Cats Tower was built to strengthen the defensive integrity of the walls and you can see it standing today just up the hill a little ways from the gate.
A little further up the hill you see the Red Tower, yet another of the towers built here but this one constructed about the same time that the gate was built.
A portion of the defensive walls along here were torn down in the early 1800’s to make way for the completion of the Gotteron Bridge but there is still a fairly large section that can be seen here, connecting the Bern Gate with the Cats Tower.
Try to keep in mind if you’re walking about to look upwards…you’re bound to see on the sides of buildings sculptures that have been incorporated into the architecture of the structures.
I noticed three in the short time that I had available to me on my last visit to Fribourg in July of 2010
The first one that I noticed was on a house on the Rue De Semaritaine , you’ll see this in the first photo attached here..
The second is not too far from the Cathedral heading back towards the Train Station area where we had parked, the specific address I can’t tell you…and the third is located on a Government building on Ruelle de Saint Nicholas.
The third photo is of a sculpture found on the corner of a Government building just downt he street from 55 Grands Rue.
Finally the fourth photo is of the façade of a former Patricians house, located at 55 Grands Rue, you can see the Coat of Arms of the de Castella Family that once lived here, a family that has been connected to Fribourg since the mid 1500’s.
So…seems trivial perhaps but if you watch for them you can see some interesting sights if you look for them…often in the places where we’d least expect to see them.
On your walkabout in the Lower Town you are probably going to cross the river on three separate and distinctly unique bridges, Middle Bridge, the St. Jean Bridge, and the Bern Bridge.
All three traverse the River Saane or Sarine at different places. Two of the bridges, the Middle Bridge and the St Jean Bridge are presently constructed of stone, and the third; the Bern Bridge is constructed of wood. Its is thought that the St. Jean Bridge and the Middle Bridge at one time were also constructed of wood and both are thought to have been covered as well. When they were re-constructed in the 1700’s the design was modified and they were both rebuilt using stone.
The Bern Bridge is the most appealing and photogenic, likely because of the wooden construction, and also as it is a covered bridge, similar in design to what we see here in Canada in some places, I think this is my favorite “style” of bridge found here.
This “incarnation” of the Bern Bridge that you see here today is a design that originates from the Baroque era, a truss and heavy wooden beam construction, named the Bern Bridge simply because it was a component of the roadway or track that lead out of the city, through the Bern Gate and onwards to the city of Bern.
It’s the only covered bridge that exists today still in Fribourg, and as I’ve mentioned previously all of the bridges that crossed the River Saane or Sarine were probably covered and likely fortified along both sides. In this modern era during the summer months, the Bern Bridge is decorated with…you guessed it…geraniums; the contrast with the aging wood is always an appealing look.
There is speculation that the first Bern Bridge to exist here at this location was likely not built until about 1253, probably a delayed construction beyond the original settlement date because in this era most bridges were a technological challenge and very expensive to build.
Since then the bridge has undergone a few documented refits and renovations and what stands before you today is from a reconstruction carried out in 1853.
In the first photo attached here you can see the pilings in the center of the bridge, this dates from a reconstruction carried out in the 1600’s comprised of a type of rock, Tufa, found nearby in a river side deposit., Tufa is a type of Limestone which is relatively soft and porous.
Take a close look at the Bern Bridge; I think you’ll appreciate the craftsmanship that’s required to build such a fine structure as this is. No matter how many times I venture into the Lower town I always end up here to enjoy this setting.
This little museum offers a whimsical interlude and an opportunity to examine a collection of puppets gathered during the World travels of the owners and curators, Jean Bindschedler and Marie Jose Aebi.
Just across the Middle Bridge and just before you enter the Place de Petite St.Jean you'll find this little museum connected to a small cafe named the same....This is why we discovered the museum, we were looking for a place to have a bite to eat.
To see the “meat and potatoes” of the museum you enter the main door and make your way up a flight of steps to the second level of the structure. Here you’ll find a smartly presented assortment of marionettes contained within glass display “booths” that are well lit and grouped according to country of origin and “ethnic” backgrounds.
You’ll see various themed puppets from the countries of China, Africa, India, Canada and the United States, and Indonesia as well as a grouping from the “host” country, Switzerland; all representing a cultural experience and “taste” from each of the exhibited countries puppets!
There is a small theatre where performances happen but none was about to be presented and we didn’t stay for the next showing.
The museum is quite small and receives small funds to operate from the City of Fribourg and the Swiss L’office Federal de la Culture and so in spite of access being “free” it’s suggested that a donation be made and we did this without hesitating. We each happily contributed about 5.00 CHF.
If you’re tired of walking and would like to take a small break and at the same time see something pretty unique, take the time to pop in here and take a look around, its minimal cost and a little bit of fun as well..
The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 1000 until 1700. Mondays and Tuesdays the museum is closed except for tour groups that have made special arrangements.
This is a “meeting place”, a large old town square if you will, a wide open space found at the bottom of Rue Samaritaine where it intersects with Rue d’Or. Here you can find a small selection of restaurants or cafes to choose from if you would like to enjoy a meal or a beverage here, it makes a good spot to take a break if you’ve been walking for a while which is what we did before continuing our little walkabout.
Just a word of caution though…we discovered that the restaurants that we attempted to have a light snack in ANYWHERE in the Old Town closed they’re kitchens at 1400 or 2:00 PM for a “siesta”, not re-opening until the dinner hour. They did serve beverages though during this time period.
From April until November on the FIRST SATURDAY of the month there is a large FLEA MARKET that operates here so if you’re interested in antiques and knick knacks you could check this out.
Just a stone’s throw up Rue Samaritaine you will find the Fountain de St Anne, a wonderfully crafted work of Gothic Art by Hans Gieng
If you’re passing through on a walkabout take a few minutes here to soak up some ambiance of the Old Town, it’s a really pretty place.
The St. John’s Hospitaller was originally established in Fribourg in the Auge area of the Old Town between the years 1224 and 1228, as development occurred in this area they moved to the present location in 1259.
Grouped around a courtyard the walled compound of the Commandery is a group of buildings that include, a church, a small chapel, a cemetery and a hospital structure, located close to the River, just adjacent to the Pont or Bridge St. Jean.
The doors were locked that I tried to access on both the church and the metal gate that leads you into the small cemetery and the St.Anne Chapel.
The structure of the church that you see today was modified twice for certain, once in 1885 and again in 1951, the only original part structure that is still present are the walls which date to 1264.
The smaller St. Anne Chapel was built in about 1514 and originally was built as a charnel house or a repository for bones and human remains.
Aside from the obstructions to examining the interiors of these wonderful looking structures it is certainly a historic Institution situated along the edge of the very picturesque square known as the Planche Superieure.
If you’re walking the Old Town you’re certainly likely to come across this SECURE little gem tucked along the river banks of the Sarine or River Saare. I would have liked to have ventured indoors of these structures to visit some of the art that’s certainly inside…maybe if you do you’ll have better luck than I did!
Although Fribourg is not revered for its beautiful fountains like other cities such as Rome or Paris or even Bern you may be surprised to know that here in Fribourg you’ll find a wide variety of them, many of them created in the 1500’s and all of them designed with wonderful sculpted center pieces set atop artsy columns of stone situated in the center of a large water basin.
If you have picked up the city brochure from the Tourist Information Center you can easily locate them scattered throughout the city center and Old Town areas of the city.
The days that I last visited in July of 2010 were quite warm and the waters of the fountains are cool and refreshing if you want to use them to cool off…I didn’t drink from them but it certainly was tempting.
Many of these wonderful sculptures are the works of a Hans Gieng, a Swiss Renaissance sculptor that is also responsible for many of the fountain sculptures found in the nearby capital city of Bern. He is thought to have originated from Swabia but is recorded as becoming a citizen of Fribourg and a member of the Traders Guild in 1527.
In this era of European history the term Swabia was mean to include geographical areas now known as Baden, the country of Liechtenstein, the modern German speaking areas of Switzerland, and the area now known as Alsace in France.
The light brown stone of the sculptures is likely to have come from the Jura Mountains, not too far away as the crow flies, just a little bit north and west of Fribourg.
Some of my favorites included the “Fountaine de la Vaillance” sculpted between the years 1549 and 1550 and is of a man in amour with a lion at his feet This can be seen next to the Choir of the Cathedral of St.Nicholas.
Another interesting fountain is the “Fountaine de St Jean”, another work belonging to Hans Gieng and located just outside of the compound housing the Headquarters and Church of the Knights St Johns Hospitaller..its the centerpiece of the large square that you’ll find here.
The “Founaine de St Pierre” was sculpted in 1592 by a Stephan Ammann and is located in front of the Civic Hospital. Not to be too irreverent but I LOVE the sparkle or aura that surrounds his head….reminds me of “A GOOD IDEA” kind of symbolism.
The “Fountain of the Samaritan Woman” is another Gieng sculpture and was completed in about 1551…the depiction is of Christ and the Samaritan woman speaking at the well of “Jacob”. This fountain is located in the Old Town on rue de Semaritane.
There are many more available to see, most of them similar in design and all of them wonderful works of art to be seen and appreciated without cost! Take a look for them.
These fountains are certainly a cultural feature of the city that is unique!.
Visiting this church is a MUST DO when you are visiting Fribourg , the medieval interior of this church is guaranteed to WOW you., and make for lasting memories.
As you walk into the interior of this grand open space, the first thing that you probably will notice is the brightness and the symmetry of this Holly place. On either side of the nave the church is lined with small individual chapels all similar in design, a painting, framed with carved marble or stone. The Friary dates from about 1256 and has been added to over the centuries. The Nave was rebuilt in 1745 in a late Baroque style and since then there have been modifications including a restoration completed in about 2005.
The church contains a number of important works of art including the Master of the Carnation Altar, a paneled work that was actually completed in Basel that dates from about 1480. The” Master of the Carnation” by the way was the title given to the Swiss painter Paul Löwensprung, who signed his work with either a red or a white carnation.
The Antonious Altar that dates from about 1506 is likely the most important work of the Fribourg Master Hans Fries, another paneled work that illustrates “Antony of Padua” in a city square preaching the scriptures. The Jean de Furno Altar that dates from the early 1500’s is also seen here…a three paneled bronze relief image of the Crucifixion.
There were people present during my visit here that were praying and so I really tried to not be too intrusive and interrupting of they’re privacy. I did not manage to obtain photos of the main altars found here.
You really can’t miss the carved image of “Christ at the Whipping Post” that dates from 1438.I couldnt find any information about the artist unfortunately.Its a mystery??
If you’re lucky enough that there might be a recital coming up please don’t miss the opportunity to hear the grand organ found here, constructed between the years 1747 and 1750, built by Johann Konrad Speisegger. Located at the opposite end of the church than the altars, look up and see it for yourself, elevated on the second level of the church.
Take a few minutes to examine the Chapelle des Ermites, a tiny chapel accessed from the main entrance of the church, its entryway consists of two black marble columns with Guardian Angels greeting you from the top of the entranceway. Inside you’ll have the opportunity to see, protected behind an enclosure of bars, a wonderful interpretation of a Madonna and child that has a black appearance and is surrounded by golden filigree. This Madonna is supposed to be a copy of the Black Madonna of Einsielden, a small town about 20 kilometers south east of Zurich. I haven’t been able to find any reference to it anywhere on the internet, at least in English and there’s nothing really mentioned about it in a book entitled L’eglise des Cordeliers de Fribourg. Im assuming that it’s protected behind bars because of the amount of gold that the art work contains.
Try to take some time to explore here, and hopefully you’ll have the place to yourself, being respectful of this Holly place and its Patrons is quite important to the integrity of the church. I hope that you have sufficient time to investigate here and see all that you would like to here.
Admission is free and you can gain access from 0800 until 1700.
The cathedral is likely the most recognized “symbol’ of the City of Fribourg, its tower dominates the skyline and can be seen from many places throughout the city. I would think that a visit to the Cathedral is a MUST Do whenever you’re spending time here in Fribourg.
This wonderful structure took more than two hundred years to construct. The Cathedral is actually built on the location of an “original” “sacred” building that dated from the founding of the city in 1157. Construction started in the year 1283 and was more or less completed in about 1430 except for the tower portion of the cathedral which was completed in about 1490, just two years before Columbus sailed to “discover” the Americas…just to give you some perspective on the real age of this building.
The collection of “art” is rather eclectic in fact, the structure itself and some art found inside, Gothic in origin, some works of art from the Baroque era, and then some works including some of the stained glass that would constitute the “Modern” era, all coming together in a fabulous makeup that’s both humbling and impressive. There is a guide available for free when you enter the Cathedral and it outlines the various notable works of art and relics of the Cathedral, don’t forget this as it will help you know what it is that you’re looking at.
As you approach the front doors of the cathedral you’ll first see an immense set of heavy wooden doorways surrounded by an ornately designed archway decorated with stone sculpted figures with golden highlighted features representing the Last Judgment, a bevy of Prophets and Angels and in some ways is similar to the entrance portal of the Cathedral of Bern. It truly is an impressionable arrival!!
As you enter the Cathedral you enter into a grand open space with high decorated ceilings, the perimeter of the cathedral lined with small individual alters that are designed with art from throughout the centuries.
The main alter is closed off from public access but you can still see from a distance the “Holly Trinity” statues of the Father, the Son, the Holly Ghost suspended high above the alter.
Try to remember to take some time to investigate the “Chapel of St. Sepulchre”, the entrance being just to the right as you enter the front door of the Cathedral. This small and dimly lit chapel contains a large sculpted grouping of 13 characters or figures. This sculpting is considered to be the MOST important group of late Gothic “monument” sculpting in all of Switzerland.
The scene is of Christ laid to rest in the tomb by Nicodemus and Joseph. Mary is present as well as John, two unidentified women and two angels. Created in about 1433 it is thought to have been worked on by at least three artists. Again don’t forget to look up to see the beautiful ceiling paintings. The dim lighting and stained glass in the chapel sort of off to the side of the sculpted scene certainly make for a memorable visit.
I didn’t take the time to walk the steps to the tower, but as reported on other’s pages here and information available easily on the internet the view of Fribourg is quite spectacular from the top. The Carillon consists of thirteen bells, reputed to be some of the oldest bells in Switzerland although Im not sure just how old that might be.
Entrance to the Cathedral is free however there is a nominal charge if you want to access the tower. For adults the cost is 3.50 CHF and students and seniors the cost is 2.50 CHF.
Tower access is SEASONAL only and open to the public between April 5th and October 31st, the access hours vary depending on the season so please consult the website or telephone for current information.
Access to the Cathedral in general is from Monday to Friday 0930 - 1800 and Saturday from 0900 – 1600 and Sundays and public holidays you can visit between 1400- 1700.
Fribourg is a town that was built on several hills and at both sides of the meanders of a river, so you will see high bridges there and you have to step up and down at many places. All of these photos were taken from the bridge next to the townhall, from where you have a great view of the hill at the other side of the river.
The Town Hall of Fribourg is quite an impressive building, especially when you see it from the backside, where a high basement had to be constructed in order to build it at the edge of a mountain, see my 2nd photo, there is also some old medieval fortification-wall.
Dont miss to take a look into the arches under the big stairs : there you will see an old cannon and an old fire-fighting-wagon (my pics 3-5).