City of Fountains
The incomparably beautiful scene of Bern’s medieval streets would be incomplete without its fountains (also dating from the Middle Ages), whose colorful figures and columns brighten up the grey of the long rows of building facades.
These elaborate fountains, erected in around 1550 to replace the previous wooden examples, reveal the wealth of the era’s bourgeoisie. As always, the Bernese practical approach combined the useful with the artistic. Today, the fountains preserve for posterity the memory of heroes and historic events from the Middle Ages.
The fountains’ colorful paintings have been repeatedly freshened up using the original colors. Some fountains can be found in the middle of busy roads: the most charming traffic obstructions in the world.
Bern has well over 100 fountains, eleven of which still retain the original tableaus with their beautiful allegorical figures.
The fountains (Justice Fountain or Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen, Ogre Fountain or Kindlifresserbrunnen, Zähringen Fountain or Zähringerbrunnen, and many more) dating from the mid-16th century bear witness to the wealth of the era’s bourgeoisie.
More than 140 years ago, public fountains played a key role for Bern’s water supply. They were a meeting place where people gossiped, washed, and of course drew clean drinking water.
The city stream – used as an open sewerage system – was equally important. It still links the fountains together to this day, sometimes visibly and sometimes underground.
Deep in the state chancellery basement lies the city’s oldest cistern: the Len Fountain (Lenbrunnen). Shielded from the public, it is only accessible as part of a guided tour.