Churches in Simmental
An historical journey through the valley
Impressively renovated churches with a fascinating history are located across Simmental and are open for visits.
Church Lenk (picture)
On 9 May 1949, construction began on the Evangelical Reformed Church in Lenk. It replaced the church that was completed in 1881 after the village fire on 16 July 1878, but which had to be demolished in 1949 due to a risk of collapse. In 2002, another pitch was added to the bells, making five altogether. In 2004, the church underwent a complete renovation. In the following year, a new window was fitted to the east and west front side.
Church St. Stephan
This medieval church with a steeple from the 15th century characterises the image of the farming community of Ried. The originally free-standing steeple is divided into four floors. The third floor features a baroque sundial. The church of St. Stephan has an extremely varied history. If you would like to find out more, please enquire about a tour.
Reformed Church Zweisimmen
Despite the fact that the Zweisimmen church had its first documentary mention in 1228, it is significant older. This was proved by various excavations in the past decades. During pre-reformation times the church was dedicated to Mary. Still today many clues to Marian dedication can be found at the west pediment (a scene of annunciation at the outside and coronation to queen of heaven behind the organ) and at the inner southside (a cycle of pictures of St. Mary’s life according to the apocryphal gospel of St. James). The ship’s hull ceiling was finished on August 15th, 1456, the day of St. Mary’s assumption. In the chancel room of the church a wonderful, late-gothic woodcarving rosette is to be seen in the centre. Even the church being the centre, the entire compound with wooden staircase, ossuary, church, parish meeting centre and parsonage is spectacular and gives testimony of the rich and eventful history of the Zweisimmen reformed parish. The church is open all day.
By 1510, a new church was formed, which probably replaced one that was originally smaller. In July 1840, the Church of Boltigen fell prey to a fire. The fire destroyed the tower and bells, completely burned out the inside of the church, and ruined rare and valuable stained glass. It also spread to the rectory and burned the roof timbers, destroying several registers and documents. The parish registers of all the farming communities were destroyed.
From 1524 to 1527, the predicant Moritz Meister worked in a reformatory capacity in Oberwil. He was one of the first supporters of the reformation in the Bernese Oberland. Oberwil was therefore probably one of the parishes in Niedersimmental in which the new belief was established at an early stage under the influence of Erlenbach reformer Peter Kunz. Disputes between predicant Moritz Meister from Oberwil and the predicants from Obersimmental are already apparent in the Bernese Ratsmanualen (official documents of the government in Berne) back in December 1524: In Niedersimmental, baptisms had already taken place in the German language, while baptisms under the surrounding authorities remained in Latin. Despite this, Oberwil was not part of the reformation in Niedersimmental in 1527, but – together with Obersimmental – converted to the new beliefs in 1528.
The church was supposedly founded by one of the barons of Weissenburg as a minster for the Augustinian monks at the end of the 12th century. This also explains why it is located outside the village and on the other side of the Simme, where all the other churches in the whole valley form part of the fixed villagescape. A 4,5 m high stature of Saint Christopher is stood in what used to be the nave area. He was worshiped as the patron saint. His vision was to protect against unexpected death. The second illustration is a donor portrait preserved in fragments in the area of the former monk's choir. In the entre you can see Maria, the patron saint of the church, with baby Jesus. The benefactor, who can be identified from the scroll as provost Ulrich, kneels at your feet.
Even just climbing the impressive wooden steps from the village is worth it. Here visitors can enjoy a stunning view of the village and Simmental. As soon as you enter the church, you are surrounded by unique murals in warm brown and red tones.
Guide churches and bell-ringing
The high-quality brochure «Churches of the Simmental, Diemtigtal, Saanenland, Jauntal and Pays-d’Enhaut» guides you through the churches with text and images. The locations are marked on a map. The brochure can be bought for CHF 5.– at Lenk-Simmental Tourism. They are available in German and French.
On the website of «Kirchenwege» (trail of churches) the information is also listed, in addition you can listen to the bells of the churches and chapels.
This project was realized by the Bernese Cultural Heritage Protection with the working group Simmentaler Houses and sponsors.
Pres. Hans Peter Dubi
Tel. + 41
Minister Theresa Rieder
Tel. +41 33 733 36 56
Church St. Stephan
Tel. +41 33 722 14 14
Tourist office St. Stephan
Tel. +41 33 722 70 80
Günter O. Fassbender, minister
Tel. +41 33 722 12 69
Linda Grüter, minister
+41 33 722 72 00
Tel. +41 33 773 69 19
Municipality of Oberwil
Tel. +41 33 783 13 53
Municipality of Därstetten
Tel. +41 33 783 11 73
Tel. +41 33 681 8230