Monday, July 30, 2012

The Swiss National Anthem

The Swiss National anthem has a unusual history that reflects the unique nature of Switzerland itself. Switzerland may be an old country, but its current National anthem has only been official since 1981. Although the Swiss National hymn was tentatively approved by the Swiss National council in 1961 and was in general use after 1965, the anthem did not actually become official for another 20 years (April 1, 1981).

The stamp above features part of the score and lyrics of the Swiss anthem by Zwyssig issue in 1954.
The Swiss Post Office released a miniature sheet composed of 4 stamps in 2011 honoring the National Anthem 50th anniversary. A special feature of the stamps is that if you subject the stamp(s) to a UV light source the first verse of the Swiss National Anthem will become visable. 

The anthem itself, originally known as the "Schweizerpsalm," is much older. In 1841 the priest and composer Alberik Zwyssig of Urn was asked to compose music for a patriotic poem written by his friend, Zurich music publisher Leonhard Widmer. He used a hymn that he had already composed, and adapted it for Widmer's words. The result was the Swiss Psalm which soon became popular in parts of Switzerland. But some Swiss cantons, such as French-speaking Neuchatel, had their own anthems. Efforts to select an official Swiss National anthem (to replace another representative anthem that was used for political and military events, “Rufst Du mein Vaterland” that used the British "God Save the Queen/King" melody) ran up against the country's five languages and strong regional identities until 1981. The lyrics below are for all four National languages, German, French, Italian, and Rumantsch.

Read the four national versions of the Swiss National Anthem in German, French, Italian and Romantsch.
Listen to Imni naziunal svizzer, the Swiss Psalm sung in Romantsch, Switzerland's fourth national language.

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