Showcases referring to the Peasants' Wars

The battle of Sempach/Switzerland on 9 July 1386 (Diorama 1)

In 1291 the 3 districts of central Switzerland (Urkantone Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden) founded a confederation (Eidgenossenschaft) to defend their old freedom-rights against the House of Habsburg. Since the 1273 election of Rudolf of Habsburg as Germany´s emperor the Habsburg dynasty tried to expand its rule over the whole territory of Switzerland anterior to the range of the Alps. But the battle of Morgarten 1315 was Habsburg´s first severe defeat. Between 1332 and 1353 the cities Luzern, Zürich and Berne joined the confederation. On the other hand, Freiburg submitted itself voluntarily to the protection of the House of Habsburg  in 1368.

When in 1386 Sempach and Entlebuch also joined the confederation Duke Leopold III. decided to intervene. Southern German knights to an exceptional extent were mobilized to invade Swiss territory. On 9 July 1386 the Habsburg retinue (Aufgebot, Gefolge) of 4000 soldiers encountered 1500 confederates near Sempach. When the knights used their lances to form a hedgehog-like combat position the confederates began to attack in wedge-formation. As the legend relates, it was the confederate Arnold von Winkelried who exclaimed “let me pave the way for freedom” and threw himself into the lances of the knights and thus enabled his comrades to break through the battleline. During the following close-range attack the mobile confederates could overwhelm the knights who were impeded by their armour. The victory of Sempach granted independence to central Switzerland. The Austrian side faced more than 1500 victims, among them Duke Leopold III. and 400 knights - to a great part members of Freiburg nobility. This enabled the guilds of Freiburg to acquire community leadership in 1388.