Waldstätte ("forested sites", singular Waldstatt) is a term, which has been used since the early thirteenth to refer to the Stätte (singular: Statt, "sites"), or later Ort (plural: Orte, "lieu") or Stand (plural: Stände, "estate") of the early confederate allies of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden in Central Switzerland.
From 13th to 19th centuries, the term Waldstätte also synoptically referred to the nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden; later, the term was gradually replaced by the term Urschweiz.
The term Wald ("forest; woods") is to be understood in contrast to Forst, the former in Middle High German terminology referring to cultivated land of alternating pastures, fields and woods, while the latter referred to deep, uncultivated forests (silva invia et inculta).
The Middle High German terms Waldstette or Stette is used alongside Stett (in the sense of "town") and Lender (in the sense of rural countrysides) in reference to the individual confederate allies into the first half of 15th century and became gradually replaced by the term Ort ("lieu") or Stand ("state"), which stayed prominent in German-speaking Switzerland until Helvetic Republic; the term canton was still unknown for the German-speaking allies until 1650.
The first recorded use of the term specifically as referring to the wooded valleys of Central Switzerland is in a document dated 1289, mentioning ze Swiz in der waltstat (i.e. "in Schwyz, in the wooded site").
In 1323, Glarus is named a Waldstatt alongside Schwyz. The application to the allies of the early Swiss Confederacy dates to 1309. In 1310, Duke Frederick the Fair complains about the king impeding his rights to the civitatibus Silvanis.
With the establishment of the Confederacy in the 1310s, the term is adopted as an exonym, and in the pacts which expanded the Confederacy, with Lucerne in 1332 and with Berne in 1353.
In the protocols of the Swiss Diet in the second half of the 15th century, under the presidency of Lucerne, the term vier waltstette sees frequent use. Albrecht von Bonstetten in his Superioris Germaniae Confoederationis descriptio (1479) suggests that the term vier Waldstett (latinized quatuor Loca Silvarum) was in common use.
Lake Lucerne is given the new name of Vierwaldstättersee (aka Lake of Four Forested Sites) in the 16th century.
- Formation of the Old Swiss Confederacy
- Federal Charter of 1291
- Canton of Waldstätten
- Josef Wiget: Waldstätte in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2014-12-27.
- Georg Kreis: Urschweiz in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2013-11-13.
- So Wiget (2014); but Konrad von Würzburg has the Middle High German term as a common noun referring to a forest wilderness in Der trojanische Krieg v. 5902 (ed. Keller 1858): ez was ein wildiu clûse / und ein vil tiefiu schrunde [...] zuo dirre wüesten waltstete / kam Thetis gerüeret (cited after Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch).
- Andreas Kley: Kantone in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2016-04-13.
- Josef Wiget: Waldstätte in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2014.
- Hans Stadler: Vierwaldstättersee in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2013.