First traces of habitation in Küsnacht are lakeside settlements dating back to the Neolithic Age (4500 to 2300 BC) that existed by the shore at the “Hörnli” in the Heslibach quarter. Remains from the Late Bronze Age (2300 to 800 BC) have been found on the Wulp hill, which is located on one side of the Tobel, a gorge that divides the quarters of Itschnach and Allmend.
During the Roman period a large manor estate existed in the Allmend quarter. Its Latin name “fundus Cossiniacus” is thought to form the etymological root of the modern name Küsnacht. In the 6th/7th century AD when the Alemanni tribes occupied the area, the name gradually changed to “Chussenacho”. It is first mentioned in this form in a papal document dated 1188. Küsnacht’s coat of arms, a tasseled, golden cushion on a red background, placed diagonally on one corner, probably derives from the noble family in Küssnacht am Rigi whose coat of arms featured a similar image. Noble connections between both areas are well documented, and therefore it is quite possible that Küsnacht’s heraldic device can be traced back to this association. The cushion in the town’s crest, “chüssi” being the Swiss-German word for cushion, is probably meant to echo the town’s name.
In the High Middle Ages (950 to 1250 AD) the barons of Regensberg ruled from their seat in Castle Wulp, located in the Tobel. An historically important era began in the 14th century, the Late Middle Ages, when the Order of St. John established its administrative district, the commandery, in a building it erected next to the Church of St. George (St. Georgskirche). The last commander fell at the side of the Swiss religious reformer Ulrich Zwingli in 1531 in the Battle of Kappel. After that, until the French Revolution in 1798, the “Department of Küsnacht” was administered by the city of Zurich.
The liberal climate of the 19th century gave rise to a polemic pamphlet named the “Küsnachter Memorial” that demanded a new cantonal constitution granting equal rights to urban and rural areas. The liberal views of the lakeside communities were a contributing factor to the opening of the first teacher’s seminary under the direction of Thomas Scherr in the Seehof building that now houses the C.G. Jung Foundation. Since then, the seminary has become a cantonal high school, Kantonsschule Küsnacht, and still forms an integral part of the community.
Along with political events, the history of the municipality was also marked by natural forces and the influences of modern civilization. In 1778 and 1878 there were terrible flashfloods that wreaked havoc in the village center. Several dozen inhabitants were killed. And, in the 19th century, with the advent of the Seestrasse and the railway on the right lakeshore, progress became unstoppable. Küsnacht, once one the largest winegrowing villages in the Canton of Zurich, became the affluent town at the gates of Zurich that we know today.
Jeannette Rüdisühli/Ingrid Stöckler/Alfred Egli/Christian Renfer:
“Küsnacht am Zürichsee”
Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte GSK
Pavillonweg 2, 3001 Bern
Tel. 031 301 42 81
More Information About the History of Küsnacht:
Obere Mühle, Tobelweg 1, 8700 Küsnacht
Tel. 044 910 59 70