• Deborah Kade

Is "11" your lucky number?

If the number 11 is your lucky number, you definitely must visit Solothurn.

We took the train from Interlaken West to Bern where we changed to a regional train straight to Solothurn.

Solothurn is located in the north-west of Switzerland on the banks of the Aare and on the foot of the Weissenstein Jura Mountains. Solothurn is a town, a municipality, and the capital of the canton of Solothurn.

The town is the only municipality of the district of the same name.

The town got its name from Salodurum, a Roman-era settlement. From 1530 to 1792 it was the seat of the French ambassador to Switzerland. The pedestrian-only old town was built between 1530 and 1792 and shows an impressive array of Baroque architecture, combining Italian Grandezza, French style, and Swiss ideas. The town has eighteen structures listed as heritage sites.

Agriculture, once the dominant sector of employment, has become almost non-existent. Most people today are employed in manufacturing and education.

The official language of Solothurn is (the Swiss variety of Standard) German, but the main spoken language is the local variant of the Alemannic Swiss German dialect.

In Solothurn, they are a little obsessed with the number 11.


The adoption of the number 11, or “elf” in German, was the townsfolk's tribute to their saviors, or so the tall tale goes. A far more reasonable explanation is the number's biblical connotations, with many Solothurn inhabitants deeming 11 to be a “holy” number and prophetic.


Earlier the town had, among other things, 11 guilds, 11 portals, 11 towers, 11 bastions, 11 public fountains, etc. Even today the number 11 is still very much present in Solothurn. For example, there are 11 museums, 11 fountains, 11 chapels, 11 churches, and even a clock that shows only 
11 hours. Even the local beer brand is known as “Öufi” (eleven in the local dialect).

 This is the first time I have seen the Solothurn clock with 11 hours. The bus stop we took to the Verna Gorge is close by.

The Solothurn clock 

With its 11-hour dial the Solothurn clock in an original design not only 
indicates "Solothurn time", but also plays the "Solothurn song" on 11 bells, usually at 11.00, 12.00, 17.00 and 18.00. A special characteristic of the clock is the harlequin which strikes the hours. This beautiful metal sculpture was designed by the artist Paul Gugelmann of Gretzenbach/SO. The project promoter is the family business Trigona AG, Lengnau. The "Solothurn clock" can be seen and admired on the West wall of the UBS branch at Amthausplatz 1 Schanzenstrasse.


“Solothurn is regarded as the finest Baroque town in Switzerland, where Italian grandeur is combined with French charm and German practicality. The so-called “ambassador’s town” is at the southern end of the Jura by the River Aare, about 18 miles (30 km) east of Biel/Bienne.

From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the Catholic town of Solothurn was the residence of the French king’s ambassador. Fine Baroque and Renaissance buildings, such as the noble Palais Besenval, and magnificent religious buildings meet the visitor at every end and turn – the Old Town has eleven churches and chapels and the same number of fountains and towers. Truly magnificent is the St.Urs Cathedral, with an Italian-style staircase in front. Inside are wonderful Baroque stuccos.

The town walls, which are still intact in some places, were built according to the principles of the French military engineer Vauban.

Between the beautiful historic monuments, the patrician buildings and the sturdy fortifications, the traffic-free Old Town is a pleasant place to wander, with lots of small shops and inns.

Solothurn’s Old City couldn’t be more impressive. Romantic little streets, old cobblestones, grand cathedrals the magical number 11 can be found among Solothurn’s sights as well. 


In the Middle Ages, the marketplace was an important hub. People thronged here to purchase food and find out the latest news. Visit ‘Märetplatz’ in Solothurn’s old town today, and you’ll experience the same bustling atmosphere – where the past and present meet. Come see the ‘Zeitglockenturm’ clock tower and wander the stalls of the biweekly market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

On warm summer evenings, it is very pleasant to sit in the garden restaurants and bars by the Aare.

The town has a range of cultural attractions going far beyond the regional, including the Solothurn Film and Literature Days. The museums range from the History Museum to the internationally acclaimed Natural History Museum, a Museum of Stones, the ENTER PC Museum and Schloss Waldegg, not to mention a collection of sentimental light fiction. Finally, in the “Old Arsenal” is one of the largest weapons collections in Europe.”

Children feel perfectly at home in Solothurn. The Natural History Museum is particularly popular with families and a fascinating way of viewing the region’s animal, plant and mineral life. Utterly unique are the 150 million year old fossilized turtles from the quarries of the city, the beautiful starfish from Weissenstein and of course the famous Lommiswil dinosaur tracks.

St. Ursus Cathedral is considered the most significant Swiss building from the early neoclassical period, and was constructed using light-colored Solothurn marble. The cathedral is also full of Solothurn’s magic number 11: three sets of 11 imposing steps lead up to the cathedral; inside, the cathedral has 11 altars; and the tower is 66 m tall (6 x 11) and has 11 bells. The third complete reconstruction of the cathedral took place from 1762 to 1773 according to a design by Gaetano Matteo Pisoni from Ascona – lasting exactly 11 years. Pisoni’s nephew, Paolo Antonio Pisoni, managed the later years of the construction. Eleven bells from the Kaiser foundry in Solothurn (1764–1768) hang behind large acoustic openings. The high altar by Carlo Luca Pozzi echoes the form of a sarcophagus. The cathedral treasure is stored on the ground floor of the tower.

The masterpiece inspired by this magic number eleven is St. Ursus Cathedral, the landmark of Solothurn. Master builder Gaetano Matteo Pisoni from Ascona was so fascinated by the ubiquitous figure in 1762 that he designed the church entirely in line with it. The bell tower measures 6 x 11 meters and houses 11 bells, while the cathedral's 11 altars are simultaneously visible from just one place in the nave – the eleventh black stone. Its kneelers are arranged in rows of eleven and the monumental outer staircase comprises three sets of 11 steps. The number of pipes in the great organ is divisible by 11. True to the theme, the cathedral took 11 years to build (1762 – 1773).

The cathedral is well known for its stations of the cross.

The cathedral treasury contains a large number of artistically outstanding gold and silversmith's works. These are late medieval, Gothic and above all Baroque instruments such as chalices, monstrances and reliquaries; among them are exhibits by famous Augsburg masters; chalice and monstrance by Johannes Jakob Läublin (Schaffhausen); chalice by Hans Peter Staffelbach (Sursee); Chutzechännli by Johann Georg Wirz (Solothurn); globe reliquary by Anton Byss (Solothurn). The large arca with the two head relics of Ursus and Victor is the most important reliquary in the cathedral. Many of these ecclesiastical utensils still adorn the high altar on liturgically important feast days.

In the parament room, paraments from five centuries are kept in wide drawers. They are magnificent, multi-piece vestments with chasubles, dalmatics, chalice vellums, burses, stoles and manipulums, which were donated by important personalities of the city. In addition, richly decorated heiltum tablets are presented. Gaetano Mateo Pisoni, the builder of the cathedral, is portrayed in context, along with written documents from the period.

I lit five candles for family and friends.

A very short distance from the cathedral is the Jesuit church.

The Jesuit Church is thought to be one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in Switzerland, and St. Peter’s Chapel features post-gothic design with lancet windows and a chancel closed on three sides.

A monument to the great Christian king's bounty

It was built between 1680 and 1689 according to the principles of the master builders of the Vorarlberg region. It is designed as a unified baroque space and features incredible Italian-style stucco. The high altar is made of marbled wood and shows an image of the Assumption of Mary by Franz Carl Stauder.

I lit candles for family and friends