The Society for Emblem Studies

SES Switzerland Branch

Applied Emblems in Switzerland:, the First Decade

In Switzerland, an extraordinarily rich diversity of applied emblems survives from mostly the 17th and 18th centuries, in both the once predominantly catholic and the protestant cantons. They attest to the enduring popularity of the emblematic vogue with Renaissance and Baroque artists in all four of the country’s linguistic and cultural regions.

Examples include painted emblems on church altars and ceilings, often occurring in clusters or cycles; decorated façades and walls; stucco emblems used as part of a scheme of interior ornamentations; emblems on stained glass windows; and any other emblematic works of art, both religious and secular, used in architectural and other contexts during the Early Modern period.

An inventory of applied emblems in Switzerland was launched in 2012 by Dieter Bitterli and may be found at The aim of the project is to locate and fully document all known occurrences of emblems in public and private buildings in the country, and to make them available in an electronic catalogue that can serve as a tool for both experts and non-experts in academic research, heritage preservation, pedagogy and beyond.

The entries are listed according to geographic location and include a link to Google maps. For each object, there is a complete photographic record of its emblems, together with notes about dating, authorship, sources, iconographic context and references. All motifs and accompanying mottoes are identified and transcribed, and they are collected in a detailed index.

So far, has documented nearly four hundred emblems in more than thirty places throughout Switzerland. The number is steadily increasing as more objects are being prepared for publication. The project will also include the more than 330 emblems to be found in the pilgrimage church of Hergiswald near Lucerne (see the author’s overview at

Dieter Bitterli