THE HISTORY OF THERMAL SPRINGS


Appreciated by the Romans…

The origins of the thermal springs in Brigerbad go back too much earlier times. Even the Romans knew about them and appreciated the warm, healing mineral waters, because they were used to the mild climate of the South. However, in the 15th century the springs were buried by falling mountain debris or flooding, so that the location of the springs was forgotten. Nevertheless, the healing properties of the water stayed in the memories of the population. In the year of 1544 the scholar Johannes Stumpf declared: “it heals external damage to the skin like scabies and smallpox, relieves nasal mucus, trembling of the limbs, numbness of the ears, cramps, and is also a remedy for barren women…”

Experienced a changing history…

After the thermal springs were rediscovered, Peter Owlig bought the bathing facility in the beginning of the 16th century and undertook considerable expansions: new bathing huts were installed, the guest house enlarged, and the garden area with walking paths and wines was newly developed. After his death, the bath was managed by his children and enjoyed considerable prosperity for decades to come. Peter Owlig’s granddaughter Margaretha who later married Crispin Stockalper, became the grandmother of the famous Kaspar Jodok von Stockalper.

From recordings in the commercial books of the Stockalpers emerge the facts that the rights of the springs passed over into his possession in 1642. At this point in time the previous brilliance of the thermal baths was a distant memory. Collapse of tunnels and flooding of the Rhone blocked up the waters, and filled the bathing huts with mud.

However, this did nothing to discourage such a personality as Stockalper, who entrusted his people with the finding and digging out of the bath area. After the era of the high nobility of the Stockalper family, the thermal springs moved into the possession of several different families. Already during the era of the Stockalper family it became tradition that the estate was inherited by the eldest daughter.

Renewed and enlarged…

At the beginning of the 30s in the last century, the facility came into possession of Viktor and Erika Lauwiner-Gemsch. At this point in time the thermal springs were known almost exclusively by the local people, and used by them in an unorthodox fashion. They borrowed the key from the proprietor, and bathed in the so-called bathing hole, which was a 16 foot tunnel in the mountain, and served thus as a basin. The proprietor couple Lauwiner-Gemsch moved the bathing from the tunnel pool into the open air, and opened 2 swimming pools, each one 25 square meters in length. Bathing in those days was segregated between men and women. On an additional lawn area, two single and one family bath were installed. In the meantime electricity had reached the Brigerbad enabling an electric pump to transport the warm waters from the tunnel into the swimming pool.

Brought to new brilliance…

In 1956 Hans Kalbermatten and Albert Jost bought the thermal spring,s including some surrounding land, from the couple Lauwiner-Gemsch. Shortly after, Hans Kalbermatten together with his wife Cécile took over the other partner’s share and together they created the foundation of the extraordinary development of ‘their’ thermal bath. By 1957, a brief year after the take over, the whole complex had been renovated. In the following year a 30 meter tunnel was forced into the mountain in order to reach the water directly at its source. Several experts visited Brigerbad in 1959 to thoroughly analyse the hot water spring. The results were so encouraging that just a short time later, building of the indoor pool and the famous ‘grotto’ was undertaken. While digging for the ‘grotto’ the workers encountered a long stone wall with an enormous towering rock behind it. The old wall presumably served as the North face of an ancient bathing place.

In addition a sunbathing area and two big outside pools were being built – in other words – the curing and sports baths of today. In the summer of 1980 a long awaited ‘river bath’ was opened as a novelty. In the middle of this island a ‘spring fountain’, which still exists today, produces a spray that can be seen far and wide. In the surrounding areas of the baths generous developments, including a restaurant, camping facilities and a sports centre, were created. Special pleasure was found in the well-groomed ornamental gardens, lawns and the sun terraces on the steep climbing hill. A further stage was inaugurated in 1995 when an enormous building cavity began the creation of the Olympic sized pool, of the regulatory 50 meters in length. A year later, in July 1996, a further attraction followed with the 182 meter water slide, especially for the younger generation.

Hans Kalbermatten passed away in 2004 and was unable to enjoy the last big milestone in the history of Brigerbad. After almost 2 years of building, ‘New Brigerbad’ was opened in December 2014. His wife Cécile, who in 2008 left her shares to the organisation Cécile and Hans Kalbermatten-Volken, was a daily observer of the comings and goings of the company. The centre’s restaurant was named in her honour with the name ‘Cécile’. Cécile Kalbermatten passed away in the year 2016.