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The Council of Glarus (Ratsherr / Councilman)

Glarus had a complicated community structure. The smallest unit formed the administrative or economic Tagwen. These were responsible for the common land- and forest use, for public waters, wells, purchase and sale of real estate, the fire police and for litigation in connection with the Tagwen property. The business ran a so-called Tagwenvogt chosen by Tagwen.


For the election to the Council of Glarus, the canton was divided into 15 election Tagwen, which also formed the basis for the military and police classification. Only in Mollis and Elm economic and election Tagwen did form at the same time the parish communities. In all other municipalities, the electorate and the parishes incorporated the economic Tagwen quite differently.


The oldest list of the 15 election Tagwen was written in 1644 on the occasion of a military team selection:


• 5 major Tagwen: Glarus (with Riedern), Kerenzen (Filzbach, Obstalden, Mühlehorn), Bilten, Rüti, Schwanden and Näfels

• 5 middle Tagwen: Nieder- and Oberurnen, Betschwanden (Haslen, Hätzingen, Diesbach), Mollis, Netstal, Engi and Matt

• 5 small Tagwen: Elm, Ennenda, Linthal, Mitlödi (Schwändi, Sool), Nidfurn (Leuggelbach, Luchsingen)


Each of these election Tagwen had four council members. The distribution to the religious denominations was set in the religious treaty of 1623: Catholics were awarded 12 seats (4 in Näfels, 1 in Glarus, 2 in Oberurnen, 3 in Netstal, 1 in Mitlödi and 1 in Linthal), the Reformed the other 48 mandates. In addition, the Catholics succeeded in acquiring another 3 seats on the grounds that they represented the Catholic peasants living scattered in other election Tagwen (2 in Glarus and 1 in Näfels).


The Ratsherr (Councilman) represented his Tagwen in the council from the election to his death, because there were no time restrictions for this office: The Councilmen were elected for life time.

The Council of Glarus (Ratsherr / Councilman)

The Judges in Glarus

Punishment of Crimes (Landsgemeinde / Pleas of Life and Member)

The punishment of crimes, namely the death worthy (murder, theft, robbery, perjury, blasphemy, moral offense, bigamy), was initially a matter for the Landsgemeinde. Already in the course of the 15th century, the jurisdiction switched to the simple council. This council, which was also called Pleas of Life and Member, was presided by the Landammann. He exercised his function according to the letter of liberty of 1415 in place of the Emperor or his representative, the Imperial Governor. As late as the 18th century, the Imperial Governor or the Provincial Governor or other provincial officials attended the execution on horseback, accompanied by a bailiff in national colors, in order to subsequently report to the authorities on the execution of the death sentence.

Neunergericht (Court of Nine Judges)

In addition to the council, which functioned in certain cases as a judge, the effective court was established, which is already witnessed for the Säckinger period. It counted at the beginning only 12, after the charter of 1387 15 judges. Like the model in Schwyz, already in 1414 it was composed of only 9 men under the chairmanship of the Landammann, who had no voting rights. The Court of Nine Judges decided after the oldest known judgments on ownership of land and chattels, on easements, inheritance, slander and also about compensation for personal injury.


The Court of Nine Judges developed in the subsequent period to a semi-judicial and semi-administrative authority. In the sixteenth century it also assumed the character of a very influential political council, composed of the most distinguished men, such as former Landammänner, Landvögte and other important functions. Since the Court of Nine Judges met at the beginning of the week, it was also called Monday Council. It conducted correspondence with the foreign authorities in minor businesses and oversaw the poor and guardianship. From 1630 onwards the administrative activities of the court of Nine Judges gradually disappeared, as such functions were passed over to the main towns of Glarus, Näfels, Mollis and Schwanden. Thus, the once highly respected Court of Nine Judges lost their power and reputation. The Monday Council as such was dissolved in 1683.

Fünfergericht (Court of Five Judges)

For subordinate court cases such as debt claims, in 1452 a Court of five Judges was established, which met up to the 18th century under the chairmanship of the Landweibel. He was replaced in 1768 by the oldest, no longer officiating Landammann.

The Judges in Glarus

State Officials in Glarus

The "Requesting Offices"

Requesting offices were State offices for which the contenders applied to the Landsgemeinde. Such functions were not proposed, but interested parties had to announce their interest in an election themselves.

Waagmeister (Inspector of Weights and Measures)















Schiffmeister (Ship Master)

The ship master of Glarus, together with the ship masters from Zurich and Schwyz, was responsible for the shipping route between Walenstadt and Zurich. His salary consisted in certain fixed fees. He also had to pay a bail of 1'100 fl. to the State.

Ship masters were Kaspar Becker (Glarus # 88), Dietrich Stauffacher (Matt # 31), Samuel Blumer (Schwanden # 19), Mathias Zopfi (Schwanden # 16) and Fridolin Wild (Mitlödi # 6).

See also special article about the Schiffmeister

Hausmeister (Custodian)

The Hausmeister lived in the customs house in Ziegelbrücke and was responsible for collecting the duty there and for running the tavern on the Glarner side next to the bridge. Goods that were transported to or left the State of Glarus could be captured in Ziegelbrücke, the most important and, for most goods, single access into the valley. The importance of this customs office was therefore high.

Landweibel (State Bailiff)

The State Bailiff lived in the town hall in Glarus, which he administered together with the tavern located therein. He often appeared as a companion and assistant to the Landammann. The evangelical State Bailiff presided until 1768 the Court of the Five Judges. Since 1623 both religious denominations chose their own State Bailiff. For six years, the Reformed positioned the State Bailiff and the Catholic for three years. The term of office was nine years, six (respectively three) as common and three (respectively six) as confessional Bailiff. As a fixed annual salary the officer received 30 fl., In addition he received charges, various allowances and 6 fl. for the color coat (coat in the colors of the State).

Läufer (Runner / Messenger)

The Reformed chose two, the Catholics one Messenger for the time of ten, sometimes twelve years. Their most important duties were: transmission of official letters, distribution of the weekly mandates, which contained all sorts of magisterial communications, proclaiming of the bread prices, announcement of military contingents, announcements of the council and judicial meetings. They also served as court ushers and police officers, whereupon with the help of the Landschreiber. Their annual salary amounted to 15 fl. (Florins) 25 bz. (Batzen), which was increased by smaller contributions for certain mandates, such as market supervision and seating for the Landsgemeinde. For the State color coat, they also received 6 fl., in addition, every six years another 8 fl. for a new travel clothing.

Landschreiber (State Clerk)

For their election, the same rule applied as for the Messenger, the Reformed elected two and the Catholics one State Clerk. In addition to their actual duties as recorders, together with the Messenger they also served as court ushers and  and police officers. The State Clerk also received a fixed annual salary and a contribution to the color coat.

Glarus Ankenwaage.jpg

The Inspector of Weights and Measures was in charge of the so-called Landesankenwaage (State butter balance) in Glarus. Anyone who wanted to sell butter, had to weigh it on this scale and pay a commission to the Inspector. The Inspector of Weights and Measures had to provide a guarantee to the State and as from 1770 onwards he had to pay a bail in the amount of 3,000 fl. (Florin/Gulden).

The old Ankenwaage stood until 1837 in the center of Glarus. The Ankenwaage probably already existed in the 14th century. Their location in the center of the main town makes it clear that weighing and fairs have always been important magisterial tasks. In 1837, the new government building was built at the place where the old Ankenwaage stood.


The Honorary Offices

The holders of honorary offices took a special position in the political system of Glarus. As the only one of the state officials, they had their seat and vote in the council, where they took their place on the government bench, separated by a barrier or railing from the other council members. Hence their name comes from the Schrankenherren (Court Lords).

Landammann (Chief Magistrate / Head of State)

The Landammann compunded immense power. He chaired the Landsgemeinde and decided alone on the majority, if necessary, he could still involve three Schrankenherren (court lords). He also presided the Council, the Augenscheingericht (court for gathering of evidence), the Chorgericht (court for moral law cases) and the Court of Nine Judges, the latter, however, without voting rights. Then he was a deputy of the Federal Diet of Switzerland, chief treasurer and full member of the Tagwen authority in Glarus. As a former Landammann, he retained some authorities. Thus he sat until the end of his life ion the government bench (Schranken), in the State Council and in the Tagwen authority; respectively, the oldest Landammann presided the Court of Five Judges, in addition a former Landammann came back into function, if during a Landsgemeinde the leading Ammann had to hand over because of self-consciousness. Nevertheless, he was more of a Primus inter Pares. Although the Landammann was the head of the State, his decisions were significantly influenced by the rest of the Court Lords. The annual salary of a Landammann was as from 1692 37 ½ fl.

List with Landammänner, Ammänner and Meier as well a description of the Glarus Government and a List and description of the Glarus Landrat (Parliament)

Landesstatthalter (State Governor)

After two years, the evangelical State Governor moved up to the Landammann office. The annual salary of a State Governor was to 18 4/5 fl. In addition, he received 16 fl. for the color coat and compensation for the sealing of documents and other activities associated with his office.

Pannerherr / Bannerherr  / Venner (Ensign)

The Pannerherr kept the State ensign, which was only unrolled in a state of defensive or in the contingent of the military reserve. The holder of the office was elected for life time. The two religious denominations had alternately claim to the election of a Pannerherr. For the time that it came from the other party, the reformed determined a Pannervorträger (Ensign Carrier) and vice versa.

Landesseckelmeister (State Treasurer)

The State Treasurer was responsible for the financial affairs of the entire State. During six years, a Reformed exercised the office, then for three years a Catholic.

Seckelmeister (Confessional Treasurer)

For the administration of the confessional financial budgets and treasure, both parties appointed a special Treasurer for a period of six years.

The following honorary offices were elected for life time. In the State Treaty of 1623, the decision to participate in armed conflicts was expressly handed over to the two religious denominations. In compliance with this decision, each part of the religious denominations elected a Landeshauptmann (State Commander), a Landesfähnrich (State Officer Cadet) and a Zeugherr (Administrator of the Armory). With the decline of military activities, these offices, originally involved in military functions, developed to honorary offices, whose owners continued to supervise the army (in part, however, delegates exercised these activities), but also took over more and more governmental functions.

Landeshauptmann (State Commander)

He commanded the Glarus troops in case of war.

Landesfähnrich (State Officer Cadet or State Ensign)

The Ensign is understood to be the bearer of the flag of a military contingent. The flag had to always remain visible as a sign of recognition in the battle, it was not allowed to sink or even be conquered by the enemy. Carrying the flag was a special honour. In the case of the lansquenets, for example, it was entrusted to a stately servant with battle experience. In addition, the Ensign often held the so-called Venner office in the Swiss Confederation and was therefore also called Venner or Bannerherr in this function. In the course of the organization of the military hierarchy that emerged in the 17th century, the Ensign was assigned either to the non-commissioned officers (sergeant) or - as the lowest rank - to the officers. In the Swiss mercenary regiments, newly recruited young officers usually began their careers as Ensigns.

Zeugherr (Administrator of Armory)

He administrated and managed the State Armory.

Landmajor (State Major)


The extent to which the above posts had departed from their original function was demonstrated by the election of a Major General or a Colonel as commander of the Glarner troops in wars that had become rare after the Reformation. In 1694, the Reformed also considered it necessary to create another office to oversee the Protestant army. However, this Landmajor (State Major) who was elected at the Landsgemeinde, was only in the beginning a man with special military knowledge and capabilities. Over time, this office moved away from its original duties and in 1749 it was almost equaled to the evangelical honorary offices.

Landesbaumeister (State Master Builder)

Another office that appears for the first time around 1470 is that of a "Landesbaumeister" (State Master Builder). At that time, major floods forced the Landsgemeinde to deal with the restoration of destroyed paths and bridges. The restoration of paths destroyed by floods, gullies and avalanches was the responsibility of the respective owners. It was considered unreasonable to leave the construction and maintenance of the bridges to the owners. The management and supervision of this maintenance work was entrusted to the newly created office of the State Master Builder.



The office of the State Master Builder was a paid position. However, it was abolished at the Landsgemeinde in 1663 to save costs and its functions were transferred to the Landseckelmeister (State Treasurer). The Landsgemeinde was ill-advised to do so, because the retention of this post would have been very necessary to initiate further improvements to the country roads, which were still in poor condition.


Offices in the Communities and Tagwen

Tagwenvogt (Chairman of the Tagwen)

Under the supervision of the Councilmen, the Tagwenvogt possessed powers that made him the actual village king. He presided not only the community meetings, which used to take place according to Alemannic custom (as still the Landsgemeinde is organized) in the open air, but he was at the same time municipal administrator and community clerk. In short, the whole community was entrusted to his energy and circumspection. According to the constitution of 1837, a municipal president (mayor) now heads the political affairs of the community. The Tagwenvogt enjoys today still significant reputation. He is mainly responsible for the building construction in the community.

Tagwenschreiber (Tagwen Clerk)

The Tagwen Clerk was the recorder of the Tagwen resolutions and all official proceedings the community.

Kirchenvogt (Patron of the Church)

In ancient times the Kirchenvogt was the secular patron of the church. However, as these patrons often became a nuisance to the clerical bodies concerned, they were anxious to turn the office more and more into a mere honorary office.

Schulvogt (School Official)

The Schulvogt was charged with the supervision of the local school system and he was in charge of the school property. Schul- and Kirchenvogt each of them presided the community meetings when they had to consult and vote on topics of their responsibility. 

The Councilmen, together with the Tagwenvogt and the Kirchenvogt, formed the so-called Stillstand (standstill), respectively the church-, school- and poor council of the community, which the local pastor presided.

Spennvogt (Administrator of the Charity Fund / Poor Fund)

The administrator of the local charity fund or poor fund was called Spen(d)vogt or Spennvogt. Spenn comes from the German word spenden which means donate. His office does not seem to have been much sought after. At least, those who were already elected often sought to escape the uncomfortable service of the public. However, the community members sometimes knew how to exploit this situation, for example the Näfelser citizens suggested to a quitter named Jost Schindler that if he establish a foundation himself, he would not have to be either a Kirchmeier (Church Steward) or an Almosenpfleger (alms-caretaker).


In times of need, other caretakers emerged: The Ankenvogt (Butter Caretaker) had to provide butter to the poor parishioners at affordable prices every day (1561), and during war times, the Bettelvogt (Beggar Caretaker) should keep a watchful eye on the warriors, beggars and hustlers. Often one had to resist the mob only by hunts in which the Councilmen occasionally ex officio had to attend as beater.


County Bailiff and Ambassador

These were not requesting offices, but differed from the honorary offices in the fact that with their election no political privileges in the State itself were connected. Only the Bailiff of Baden received after the end of his term of office a membership in the Council. For all other County Bailiffs or Ambassadors remained the honor to be allowed to carry the title of a Bailiff or Ambassador for the rest of their life.

Landvogt (County Bailiff)

The Bailiff offices were real benefices, in which it was up to the fate of the elected, in which way he will regain the necessary investments (conditions between 2'000 and 4'000 fl.) Only the Bailiff of Werdenberg received a base salary of 100 florins.


Glarus provided County Bailiffs in Baden, Freiamt (Aargau), Thurgau, Sargans, the Rhine Valley, Lugano, Mendrisio, Locarno, the Maggiatal, WerdenbergGaster and in Uznach.















The appearance of the County Bailiff of Werdenberg


Gesandter (Ambassador)

Evangelical Glarus assigned embassies respectively legations according to the appearance of the Catholic Bailiffs in Uznach and Gaster as well as in the South (so-called Ennetbirgische bailiwicks) for the control of the administration of the bailiwicks in Ticino. These were short-lived missions, which brought some economical benefits to the officials. They played a subordinate role in the political system. Often already established officials (Court Lords or Bailiffs) drew such embassies.

Up to 1798, always eight candidates were found in each new election for the requesting offices and the bailiwicks, who were drawing for the coveted position. From 1791, the ball lot was used in these two official groups.


The election process for the honorary offices was quite different. Although the voters in the Landsgemeinde had the right to propose the candidates for a State Office, they had to fall back for these honorary offices repeatedly on the same people. This was a consequence of the high demands (especially because of the financial investments) which were requested from the applicants for these posts.

Landvogt von Werdenberg.jpg
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