St. Ursus Cathedral or Solothurn Cathedral is the cathedral church of Basel’s Roman Catholic Diocese. Located in Solothurn, Switzerland, this masterpiece is a major landmark and tourist attraction.
Eleven years went into building the St. Ursus Cathedral. It’s a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
There are also a lot of elevens in the cathedral. 11 imposing steps lead up there. 11 altars are inside, and the tower is 66 meters tall with 11 bells.
Solothurn: Home of St. Ursus Cathedral
Built with light-colored Solothurn marble, St. Ursus Cathedral is one of Switzerland’s most significant early neoclassical buildings.
You’ll find it in Solothurn, a small but charming city on the River Aare that blends Italian, French, and German culture.
In Switzerland, Solothurn is considered the most beautiful baroque town. And Solothurn’s St. Ursus Cathedral is one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Switzerland. Solothurn also has 18 World Heritage Sites including the St. Ursus Cathedral, the Church of the Jesuits, the Clock tower, the Waldegg Castle, the old Armory, the Steinbrugg Castle, and more.
Solothurn is also known as the City of Ambassadors because, in the 16th and 18th centuries, it was home to the French ambassadors.
History of St. Ursus Cathedral
The St. Ursus Cathedral in Solothurn is dedicated to St. Ursus, a 3rd-century Roman Christian martyr, and saint. Historical sources say Ursus was tortured by Emperor Herculius (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus) and Governor Hyrtacus for not worshipping false gods. The St. Ursus Cathedral holds his relics.
Originally, St. Ursus Cathedral was built as early as the Middle Ages. But the first written record dates from 1294. As with most churches built at that time, it was constantly being remodeled and widened.
St. Ursus Cathedral was inspired by Roman churches from the 1600s.
In 1762 to 1763, Gaetano Matteo Pisoni of Ascona helped build the church as we know it today. In addition to him, his nephew Paolo Antonio Pisoni also helped build the Cathedral after he left.
The Bishop of Lausanne consecrated the new church on September 26, 1773. Eventually, St. Ursus Cathedral would be reorganized to become part of and the seat of the Diocese of Basel. Now it’s a cathedral, a bishop’s seat, and a parish church.
Solothurn Church Architecture
St. Ursus Cathedral is along the main street of Solothurn near the Jesuit Church and the Clock Tower (Zeitglockenturm in German).
From the main street, you’re welcomed by a grand staircase leading to the western front. There’s a Romanesque fountain flanking the staircase with Moses and Gideon. With its white stone facade and triangular pediment, the western facade is neoclassical. Welcoming green doors beckon you inside.
The statues by Johann Baptist Babel with the many saints will be visible as you get closer. There are also reliefs of Saint Ursus and Saint Viktor.
Inside St. Ursus Cathedral, there are depictions of most Catholic events, like the Last Supper, Mary’s Coronation, the Crucifixion, Resurrection, the Nativity, and the Annunciation.
This building has a cross-shaped ground plan with a front bay and three full bays in the nave. The wide entrance is supported by massive columns inside. Segmented arch windows and beautifully painted ceilings add to the beauty. The high altar is made of marble.
Victor Ferdinand and Karl Josef Maria Bossard commissioned the main organ from 1772 to 1773. The main organ was rebuilt in 1942, and then again in 1975.
The treasury has a lot of artistically outstanding gold and silversmith’s work. Among them are late-medieval, Gothic, and above all Baroque instruments such as chalices, monstrances, and reliquaries. On liturgically important feast days, many of these ecclesiastical utensils still adorn the high altar.
The most important reliquary in the cathedral is the large arca, which holds the relics of Ursus and Victor.
Some of the works that are at St. Ursus Cathedral are the following:
- Chalice by Johannes Jakob Läublin (Schaffhausen)
- Chalice by Hans Peter Staffelbach (Sursee)
- Chutzechännli by Johann Georg Wirz (Solothurn)
- Globe reliquary by Anton Byss (Solothurn)
How to get to St. Ursus Cathedral
The impressive St. Ursus Cathedral is a significant landmark. To visit it, you can take the direct train to Solothurn from Zurich, Olten, Lausanne, Geneva, Biel/Bienne, Neuchâtel, Yverdon-les-Bains, Aarau, or Bern.
St. Ursus Cathedral is an 8-minute from the Solothurn train station across the River Aare through the main street of the city. The Cathedral is free to visit and is open from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM. Furthermore, its tower is open from April through October.
Final Words: St. Ursus Cathedral
The St. Ursus Cathedral is a beautiful baroque cathedral and definitely worth a visit. It’s in the heart of Solothurn, Switzerland, so you should definitely stop by when you’re there. It’s also worth checking out the whole city itself, especially if you’re into pretty, quiet towns.
Check out the Jesuit Church a few steps away while you’re there. It has even more elaborate and intricate baroque designs than the cathedral. The Jesuit Church is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful baroque buildings
- Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz, Fachbereich Kulturgüterschutz. GSK: Kunstführer durch die Schweiz. Bern. St. Ursenkathedrale: Bedeutendstes Bauwerk des Frühklassizismus in der Schweiz. Band 4, 2010. Accessed on 14 March 2022. https://data.geo.admin.ch/ch.babs.kulturgueter/PDF/kgs_04692_gsk-d.pdf
- Mershman, F. (1912). St. Ursus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Accessed on 14 March 2022. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15230a.htm
- St. Ursus Cathedral. Solothurn City. Accessed on 14 March 2022. https://www.solothurn-city.ch/en/attractions/st.-ursus-cathedral-584e978961.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.