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Fountains, fountains everywhere in Basel

They are part of its urban landscape, the many fountains in Basel. If thirsty you can drink their water, you can use some of them to take a dip, and a few are even known world-wide. A new book presents (almost) all of them.

By Martin Pütter

The Basel Journal wholeheartedly agrees with the following claim: “(…) Basel is a city of fountains”, made by Christiane Widmer and Christian Lienhard in the foreword to their book “Basel und seine Brunnen” (Basel and its fountains). During their research for this book they found over 300 fountains – 314, to be precise, and they present 246 of them. Their claim also alleviates an apology they make in their foreword: “However, we are quite certain that somewhere, in some backyards, further fountains are hiding that we may have missed, because (…)” – for the rest of the sentence please read their claim above again.


Fountains and wells deliver water, and water is life. This means Basel has scooped, drunk and used plenty of life – and still continues to do so today as this book shows. The majority of the locals probably take the fountains in Basel for granted. But quite a few of those who moved to this city – expats included – will certainly have noticed that this city boasts a multitude of different fountains.

Even The Basel Journal could not help falling for the fascination of fountains. For the front page of its print edition 5, June/July 2012 the editors chose a picture of a fountain with a basilisk, taken by photographer Kathrin Horn – admittedly, they added an element to the picture to illustrate the cover story (Basel’s small and micro breweries).

Cover picture of the print edition of The Basel Journal #5 June/July 2012 (picture by Kathrin Horn)

All in all, there are around 30 fountains with the city’s heraldic animal all over Basel, and the authors also supply information about it. Just one example: all the basilisk fountains along the Rhine on its right bank (i. e. the Kleinbasel side) are put up with the mythical creature looking towards the Rhine – with the fountain situated halfway between Wettsteinbrücke and Mittlere Brücke as an exception. The reason: thus pictures can be taken with the basilisk “looking” towards the camera, with the Minster as background.

The authors also supply information about all the other fountains they introduce. They write about the history surrounding the fountains – in the 15th century even Pius II. (long before he became Pope) had waxed lyrical about Basel’s fountains. It is all illustrated with photos, paintings and drawings. Other chapters deal with the creator of the fountain, or with the fountains’ various figures. They have their favourites, other chapters cover maintenance and repair of the fountains, the mechanics or the restoration of a figure on a fountain.

Finally, one note: yes, the book may be in German only – but many of the pictures speak for themselves, and the index at the back pages give enough information that you can visit those fountains yourself.


Widmer, Christiane & Lienhard, Christian:
Basel und seine Brunnen (in German only)
Basel, Spalentor Verlag 2016


208 Seiten, 384 Abbildungen, CHF 29.00
Available in bookshops or via www.spalentor-verlag.ch

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