Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Sacred Space

In my years of research I have often come across passages that mention the final resting place of certain ancestors as this or that Swiss Cathedral. These passages often date from the 18th century or earlier so I don’t know if the tombs still exist or ever did.

On a recent trip to Switzerland I went to Lausanne to see if an ancestor who was said to buried there, still was. It has been documented in family records that Barbara Wyttenbach, mother of David de Büren, who also happens to be my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother (I hope that’s enough greats) is buried in the ambulatory of the Cathedral of Lausanne. As there is no ancestor help line at the cathedral, I needed to go to Switzerland and look for myself.

Barbara de Wyttenbach (1585-1652)

Cathedral of Lausanne Ambulatory © Sacred Spaces

After parking in town I made my way up the many steps to the Cathedral. I was dressed for cold weather, and wanted to ditch my winter coat halfway to the top on the unseasonably warm day. Upon making it to the Cathedral, I walked inside and was greeted by a beautiful holy expanse. I walked to the back of the church where I knew the ambulatory to be and started to look at the inscriptions on the tombs I found.

As I made my way around, I saw some names that I recognized like de Loys and de Tscharner, but as yet no de Büren. I held out hope that I would find her name and upon almost exiting the ambulatory, eureka! I was oddly emotional when I found her name, perhaps because I didn’t think I would find her to begin with. She was not listed as de Büren or von Büren but rather as her maiden name of Widenbach (Wyttenbach). She is buried with three of her children, who died in infancy, from her second marriage to François Güder.

She was from an old Bernese family, so why is she buried in Lausanne? When she died in 1652, her son David de Büren was chief magistrate of Lausanne for Bern and it appears that he pulled some strings to have buried in the Cathedral. I think that he wanted to respect his mother’s memory and those of his half-sisters with a burial place of honor.

Below is a photo of the tomb as well as my interpretation of the Latin inscription.

When I entered the Cathedral initially the door was opened for me by a man begging his next meal. He hoped I would repay his gesture with one of my own in the form of a Franc or two. Upon leaving the Cathedral I found him again and placed a couple of Francs in his cup. It seemed only right, he had after all invited me into a sacred space not just for others but also for my family.

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