Rapperswil is also named "city of roses", which is a bit over the top, I'd say. They do have some nice rose gardens, but nothing overly spectacular. It's probably more history related as two roses are depicted in the coat-of-arms of Rapperswil.
I visited the two small-ish rose gardens at the foot of Schlossberg hill, close to the Capuchin monastery. One of them was an orchard once before it was turned into a rose garden in 1973. Roses are apparently the preferred flower in Rapperswil as you find them all over town, in private gardens as well as on the lake promenade and on top of Schlossberg hill in public places.
One rose garden I missed - unfortunately not enough time - is the smelling rose garden for blind people. It was created on the 'roof' of the underground parking lot at Obere Bahnhofstrasse in 1984. Due to the heated parking lot in winter this garden hardly ever experiences freezing temps in the soil, so the roses bloom very early in spring.
The end of the peninsula is occupied by the Capuchin monastery, built about 400 years ago. The church was renovated in the 1960s and appears quite bare nowadays (pic 3). In the front corner right is the Antonius grotto, where you can place a written wish or prayer (pic 4).
In 1992 the chapter of the German-Swiss Capuchins assigned the Capuchins in Rapperswil some new missions: Offering accommodation for anyone seeking this, trying out new forms of prayer and better integration into society. From what I saw the monastery is indeed quite open to anyone, it was busy, people went in and out, and nobody was shy of communicating.
When I was in Rapperswil the City museum was closed for renovation works. Back then it was named "Heimatmuseum", now it's reopened and renamed "Stadtmuseum Rapperswil-Jona." The old townhouse from 1492 and the medieval tower are now connected by a super-modern structure with a bronze facade that looks like a space ship has just landed, serving as foyer/entrance area. For that alien structure in the old town a part of the medieval city walls was torn down (pic 2).
Anyway, the museum certainly has a lot to offer, judging from their website. I was disappointed it was closed when I visited.
Open Wed - Fri 14 - 17 h, Sat/Sun 11 - 17 h.
Admission fee: 6 CHF
The chapel "Of Our Lady" just north of the catholic parish church is really interesting. It goes back to an ossuary from the middle of the 13th century, which is still preserved on the ground floor. On top of the ossuary a chapel was erected in the late 15th century. At first a flight of steps inside led up to the chapel, nowadays the access is from outside.
On the southern facade, right above the flight of steps, is a crucifixion group (copy, the original from 1490 in the parish church), in combination with secco paintings from the 17th century depicting Maria and Maria Magdalena. The interior is Neo-Gothic, from the early 20th century (mostly 1917), with a few Art Nouveau elements. On pic 4 you see a Gothic painting, original part of an altar in the old parish church, one of the few older works of art in the chapel.
Open during the day.
The catholic parish church St. Johann is a reconstruction in Neo-Gothic style after a devastating fire in 1882. Of the works of art - not that there were too many, reformation's iconoclasm had hit hard - only four Renaissance altars (pic 4) survived and were transferred to the new church. The other interior is Neo-Gothic, nothing overly exciting. I liked the ceiling very much, though - see pic 5. They say the treasury of the church is worth seeing, but I have no idea how or where, sorry.
The church is open during the day. Location is up on the hill above the old town, next to the castle.
On top of the hill, above Rapperswil's old town and with gorgeous views of the lake and the Alps, is the castle. It was erected at the end of the 12th century and reconstructed after 1350. Nowadays the walls are mostly medieval, but the interior is mostly 19th century. The castle is only accessible with special guided city tours, but the part that is home of the Polish museum is to see during regular opening hours. The courtyard is covered by an odd, but interesting transparent construction - see pic 3.
The Polish museum was founded 1870, closed in 1927 when the collections returned to Warszawa where they were destroyed in WWII. Since 1975 there is another Polish museum in the castle, carried by a Polish expat association. It is open daily 13 - 17 h in summer, admission fee is 5 Euro.
Rapperwil's castle has a pretty imposing spot on a ridge high above Lake Zurich...it's really an obvious place to put a castle!
The fortifications and castle date from the early 1200s, when one Count Rudolf II and his son decided to build them. i'm not clear as to whether this was at the same time Rapperswil itself was founded...if so, it would certainly make sense. All castles require a surrounding village and its residents in order to ensure that they function properly.
It seems that the castle and fortifications were pretty much destroyed in the 1300s but were later rebuilt in the form visible today. You can still see the lines of the walls and defences, and the deer park (the Lindenhof) remains as a grassy area to the north of the Altstadt.
The castle itself makes a sort of triangle, with a tower in each corner, a 'palas' (large living building) and a small courtyard area covered by a very odd plastic 'roof'...I'm not sure why. I explored the exterior a little (free) but did not feel inclined to visit the Polish museum which is inside the castle. Why a Polish Museum? Well, the castle was leased to a Polish emigre in 1870...the lease to run for 99 years. He restored the castle at his own expense and there's been a Polish Museum there ever since.
There are lovely views form the level of the castle, so it is definitely walking up the steps to get there even if you are not interested in historical buildings.
This tiny little chapel, standing right next to the Stadtpfarrkirche St Johann, was built in 1489. It incorporates an ossuary (underneath) which dates from the 1200s...and it was the highlight of my Rapperswil visit. The chapel was originally a simple rectangle with a steep roof and a tiny spire...the pentagonal 'choir' was added in 1675.
The interior is beautifully and intricately painted. Although this is not original (the Art Nouveau frescoes date from 1917, when there was extensive renovation work) the interior walls *would* have been painted in the 1400s. So, for me, the frescoes add both atmosphere and a sense of 'the past'.
The Liebfrauenkappelle now serves as a cemetery chapel and is also a popular wedding venue.
This rather lovely church stands high on the ridge above Rapperswil's Altstadt, pretty much next to the castle.
It's an old church although, to be honest, it does not feel like it. the first church on the site was built in the early 1200s, at the same time as the castle. This original building was enlarged in the 1300s and further changed and enlarged in the 1400s, when a Gothic choir was constructed. Further changes took place but the church was devastated by a fire in 1872...so what you see now feels much newer, because it was largely rebuilt. The church was further restored and renovated between the 1950s and 1970s.
There are a few bits of interest. Two painted wooden altarpieces from the 1500s were elsewhere at the time of the fire, so they survived (apologies for the blurriness of the photo). and, if my Swiss-German is correct, the wooden crucifix hanging over the altar dates from the late 1400s (ditto). Presumably it too was elsewhere at the time of the fire.
I liked the intricate stained glass in some smaller windows, even though it dates from the late 1800s/early 1900s...very pretty.
Rapperswil's Capuchin monastery was built by Rapperswil's citizens in 1606. Its buildings still belong to the citiizens of the town rather than to the church or monastery itself (which is unusual).
The little church used by the monks is accessible from the steps leading up to the castle ridge. Dating from 1607, it's small, peaceful and really rather lovely.
There's a small cloister opposite, with memorials to various brothers who have dies, and a rather lovely walled rose-garden on the opposite side of the steps. The garden wasn't in bloom when i visited but I think it must be a lovely sight when it is.
Rapperswil's Altstadt (old town centre) is very attractive. The majority of its buildings seem to date from the 16th-18th centuries, with later additions and modifications, although there are a few which are earlier. The oldest is thought to be the Einsiedlerhaus, a building in the grounds f the Capuchin monastery possibly dating from the 900s.
Whilst the buildings may have changed somewhat the Altstadt's narrow streets and alleyways remain much as they have been since early Medieval times. The large Fishmarktplatz has, I'm certain, always been a vast space for the daily sale of fish from the lake.
All the buildings I came across were extremely well-maintained with lots of colourfully-painted shutters, lots of balconies and oriel windows and some with painted exterior decoration. Some have information plaques on their walls, although the information is in Swiss-German.
It's definitely worth allowing an hour or so just to have a wander round.
Sonja pointed out this wooden bridge from the castle walls.
Holzbrücke Rapperswil-Hurden is the longest wooden bridge in Europe (840 metres) and was opened on April 6th 2001. It links Rapperswil and Hurden.
The historic bridge chapel -Heilig Husli, dates back to 1551, from the time of an earlier wooden bridge that was on this site. Pre-historic timbers have been found nearby that have been dated back to 1523 BC
Interestingly, this Oak bridge is part of the Pilgrims Way/The Way of St James/Jakobsweg that ends in Santiago di Compostela, in Galicia, North West Spain. (There are shorter routes too)
Later that afternoon, I spotted a sign outside a building, with a scallop shell - the symbol of the Pilgrims - it was a Pilgrims hostel Here, pilgrims can expect food and a bed, as well as getting their 'pilgrims passport' stamped For more into about The Pilgrims
The European E1 Hiking trail, that stretches between Norway and Italy also crosses this bridge to Einsiedeln
Wandering around the old town (Altstadt), I soon realised that this was a town of balconies.
These were of different styles and made of different materials.
Some had a slightly alpine appearance, with wooden railings and troughs of red geraniums, others were quite ornate wrought iron railed 'boxes'. Most had a roof or cover.
My favourite was the one in the main picture, which dated to 1630, which included 2 shields with crests and the initials HG and KR - Two families united by marriage?
Interestingly, balconies became an architectural feature of Tuberculosis sanitoriums, when the benefit of fresh air was recognised for its restorative qualities. Many of these hospitals were located in Alpine villages.
The Rathaus is located in the main square of the old town. It was built for Council (Rat) meetings around 1470, with further renovations in 1866 and 1895.
The medieval Rathaus was the Town Hall, where the council operated, and was the residence of the Mayor until December 31st 2006, when Rapperswil merged with Jona to form the municipality of Rapperswil-Jona. The Town Hall of Jona is now the Municipiality Town Hall.
The Rathaus is now owned by the Citizens Association. On Wednesdays a District Tribunal is held here. The city Archives are housed here too. It is one of Raperswils 'cultural property of national and regional significance'
Remember Mayor Brun from my earlier tip? I found this article, which shows part of the turbulent past of this building.
"In 1337, Rudolf Brun, mayor of the city of Zürich, defeated his political opponents, the former members of the Rat (council) of Zürich.
They refuged to Count Johann I of Rapperswil who was killed in 1337 at the battle of Grynau against Zürich troops. An attempted coup by the aristocratic opposition was forcefully put down in 1350: Count Johann II of Rapperswil, now the opposition's leader, was arrested for two years, and the town walls of Rapperswil, its castle and Altendorf castle were destroyed by Brun. The remains of the former Herrschaft Rapperswil – Rapperswil and some surrounding villages including Jona – were sold by Count Johann II and his brothers, Rudolf IV and Gottfried II, to the Habsburg family and partially (Höfe) to the city of Zürich, as the house of Rapperswil was not able to rebuild the town and the destroyed castles."
We didn't get to see inside this building. However, On the outside walls are various paintings of heradic shields, along with the town Coat of Arms, with its two roses (pics 1&2)
The Rathaus also operates a Restaurant, which serves modern cuisine
Stepping outside the chapel, I spotted a few Religious pieces of craft.
On the chapel wall was a fairly gruesome crucifixion, in bronze (1&2)
In the square outside St Johns church I spotted the modern looking panel in white metal,(3&4) with bas reliefs of Christ and 8 figures (Apostles?). I couldn't see any information about this.
Walking around the old town, I noticed the figure of the Madonna and Child, which appeared to be quite weather damaged.(pic 5)
Again, I can't find out anything about these pieces, How old? who created them etc must remain a mystery for now.