The battle monument on Lake Ägeri

Around 2 km north of the battlefield with its chapel, Morgartenhaus and tower, the Morgarten Monument has been surveying Lake Ägeri for more than a hundred years.

Inaugurated in 1908, the monument is unique in the panoply of Swiss monuments. There is nothing quite like it for situation and design, size and shape.

The edifice is constructed entirely of Nagelfluh conglomerate. The base consists of cyclopean masonry, while the ashlar masonry and protruding pillars feature coarsely worked sides; the inclined roof is worked to a smooth finish. The restrained architectural arrangement of the protruding pillars, grooved within the capitals, is barely noticeable. The same applies to the shield-shaped cartouche in the tympanum, framed by stylised tassels. In it, picked out in bronze, are the words DEN HELDEN VON MORGARTEN 1315 (To the heroes of Morgarten 1315).

The central canopy features high open arches on three sides, while the rear flank with its protruding wing walls facing the mountain also bears an inscription picked out in bronze letters. It reads: AM 15. NOV. 1315 KÄMPFTEN FÜR GOTT UND VATERLAND DIE EIDGENOSSEN AM MORGARTEN DIE ERSTE FREIHEITSSCHLACHT (At Morgarten on 15 November 1315 the Confederates fought the first battle for freedom, God and the Fatherland). It surmounts a relief depicting "The stone-thrower" by Hermann Haller (1880-1950).

This exceptional monument also has a chequered history: several thousand enthusiastic people attended the inauguration of the memorial on Buchwäldli Hill by Lake Ägeri on 2 August 1908.

This celebratory moment had been preceded by a year of building work peppered with debates on the monument's design and funding – and historical basis. Neither historians nor politicians could agree on the course of the battle or on its precise location. Hotly contested debates and differences of opinion abounded, especially between Cantons Schwyz and Zug.

Initial endeavours to devote a monument to the "heroes of Morgarten" are discernible in the Ägeri Valley as early as 1844. The idea was revived in military circles in 1890 and a fund established. Matters began gaining momentum when the Company of Officers of Canton Zug took over the central committee of the Swiss Company of Officers in 1902 and thereby the Officers' Gala in 1904. An initiators' committee formed from the ranks of the Company of Officers of Canton Zug, including at first a representative of Schwyz, was tasked with developing the idea of a monument.

The moment it reached the decision to locate the monument on Buchwäldli Hill – historically far from appropriate but very appealing from a tourism point of view – the Schwyz contingent withdrew to focus its efforts on renovating what it saw as the "genuine" battle monument – the Morgarten Chapel at Schornen – and on erecting a national monument in Schwyz.

A competition was held, won by the Winterthur architect, Robert Rittmeyer. Once Canton Zug had acquired the land at Buchwäldli, work on constructing the Zug-sponsored monument began in earnest in November 1906; it ended the following autumn. Spring 1908 saw the addition of the interior decoration and lettering, and the inauguration took place amid festivities on 2 August 1908. The "heroes of Morgarten" now had their monument and the Ägeri Valley a nationally recognised tourist destination.

The erection of the Morgarten Monument no doubt also eased the emergence of the Morgartenschiessen marksmanship competition, inaugurated on 15 November 1912.

The Morgarten Monument binds landscape and history in many different ways and, with the story underlying its conception and with its aura of idealism, it has turned into a place of remembrance for the Swiss.