It is the oldest building in the Museum and one of the oldest wooden houses extant in Switzerland.
The black plague, the discovery of America, the invention of photography – this house saw and heard thousands of things during almost 700 years. It is the oldest building in the Museum and one of the oldest wooden houses extant in Switzerland. Analysis of tree rings revealed that the wood used for this house on the cantonal assembly square of Schwyz was felled in the 1330’s.
There was not much exceptional about the new house in 1336: the relatively squat “Tätschdach” roof with galleries under the eaves, the body of the house made of squared timber, two rooms deep (parlour, kitchen) – all was in the usual manner. An original feature of late medieval Central Swiss houses also remained intact, namely externally flush ends of floor planks: thick floor planks flush with the window wall and therefore visible on the exterior. For 680 years they have withstood the vagaries of time. Later generations adapted the house to their own needs: around 1400 a stove was installed, the large windows date from the time after 1700, even though small original windows are still present.
The original appearance of the hearth cannot be determined. On the other hand the tiny window of a chamber in the upper storey could be reconstructed. The little illumination in the harsh room gives an idea of what it must have been like to live here 700 years ago. In winter the small vents and lights of the parlour were closed with boards and stuffing, at best with the semi-transparent hides or bladders of slaughtered animals.
When rebuilding at the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum, care was taken to reproduce as far as possible the state of the building in 1400. Furnishings were omitted since the originals (and the skills to reproduce them accurately) were lost.
Adjacent to the parlour in the western exterior wall there is a small square opening. Research found that it was used for some time as a pissoir, perhaps for a sick patient unable to leave the room. Another noteworthy feature is a second door in the kitchen next to the gallery door. It led to a toilet probabbly built onto the house from the beginning. This is one of the first indications of a toilet in a farmhouse, an informative witness to everyday medieval life in the country.
Swiss Open-Air Museum
CH-3858 Hofstetten bei Brienz
6 April to 29 October 2023
10 am to 5 pm daily