Kaspar Jodok Stockalper came from a well-off family that once managed the Stockalp, an alpine estate in the Simplon mountains, and named themselves after that property. Their family crest shows three sticks as reference to their name.
In his youth Stockalper wanted to become a priest but he quit his studies halfway and returned to Brig. He spoke six languages and travelled a lot in Western and Central Europe.
Stockalper soon realized the enormous strategic importance, this was in the middle of the Thirty Years War after all, and the economic potential of the Simplon pass route for trade and travel between Italy and Northern Europe. He became known with European nobility when he organized and accompanied the transfer of Marie de Bourbon Condé, the wife of the Prince of Savoy, in 1634. Two good marriages increased his property and influence. He refurbished the Simplon pass trail and established a transport business for both people and goods. His trade connections expanded over half of Europe. He had the monopoly on the salt trade and some other products and made a fortune with trade and speculations. His motto was, Nihil solidum nisi solum – nothing is solid except soil. In other words, the best way to invest one’s money is buying real estate. And that’s what he did. Soon he owned large estates and mines in Italy, France and Switzerland. Another field of trade he succeeded in sounds less pleasant: soldiers.
Stockalper became the richest man near and far and gained himself the nickname as „King of the Simplon“. Pope and Emperor, the King of France and the Duke of Savoy granted him nobility. As a nobleman he named himself Stockalper vom Thurm (hence the tower in the crest). In his hometown Brig he built a palace that would have befitted any prince. He brought Capuchine and Jesuite monks and Ursuline nuns to Brig, donated churches and abbeys, schools and orphanages.
Such success caused envy. Almost everyone was in debt with him. In 1678 the alliance of his opponents accused him of illegal ativities, abuse of his monopoly and treachery. By death threats he was forced to plead guilty. Stockalper was banned from Brig, his property in Valais confiscated. He spent the next five years in Domodossola beyond the simplon. A small house in the grounds of the sanctuary of Monte Calvario became his exile, he donated notable sums to embellish the church and sanctuary. When the political situation in his hometown changed, he was allowed to return.
Fondest memory: The portrait on horseback (photo 1) shows Kaspar Jodok Stockalper vom Thurm in his prime and on the climax of his power. It is on display in the main hall of Stockalper palace, you can see it during the guided tour. Equestrian portraits like this one are the way a nobleman presents himself. Anyway, it seems the only painter available wasn’t a very good one. The horse’s face is already strange enough but have a closer look at it – the front is dapple-grey, the hind part is black.
Meander up from the station to this pretty square where the tiny Sebastianskapelle can be found here as well as several outdoor bars and cafes to while away the time. The shops always seem to have a sale on when we were visiting - good choice and more reasonable than mountain resorts.
In this platz is a fountain commemorating the Peruvian pilot Geo Chavez who flew over the Simplon for the first time in 1910. (pic 5)
Further up and to the right is the old town and the castle of Brig...Stockalper Brig.
The history of Brig is closely linked with the Simplon Pass, one of the most beautiful alpine passes which starts immediately beyond the city gates. Napoleon built a road through the Simplon Pass in the 19th century to move his armies, thus creating the first man-made road in the Alps. You can hike here from Brig - some 4.5 hrs but there are shorter hikes too.
Brig is a great base for many excursion - to Zermatt by train of Saas Fee by post bus. As for pass routes Brig is the most northerly border station for the Simplon railway tunnel to Italy. To the east, you pass through Goms, and the Furka Pass leads to central Switzerland; the Grimsel Pass into the Bernese Oberland; and the Nufenen Pass into the Ticino.
I really liked walking around the old part which is around Sebastiansplatz and along Alte Simplonstrasse.
I especially like the bridge like piece connecting the "big" and the "small" Stockalperpalast and the onion domes on the Stockalper towers of the three kings.
Favorite thing: Have a coffee & something to eat in the airy square surrounded by some beatiful buildings, framed by some beautiful mountains.