Nestled in a trough valley between the mammoth rock faces of the Bernese Alps, lies the village of Lauterbrunnen. It is aptly named, meaning “many fountains,” as seventy-two waterfalls are scattered throughout the valley. In places the cliff walls that flank the valley are over 3,000 feet high. Friedhof Lauterbrunnen, the village cemetery, is located near the highest waterfall in Switzerland, Mürrenbach Fall, cascading 1,638 feet off the cliffside. The Lauterbrunnen valley is described as stunning, picturesque, and one of the most beautiful settings on earth.
Since the 13th century, when the valley first appeared in historic record, the land has passed through the hands of Freiherr of Wädenswil, Interlaken monastery, the Lord of Turn, and the parish of Gsteig bei Interlaken, and on to village governments. This 18th century drawing depicts the valley, waterfall, river, church and other structures.
In 2010, when two districts merged, Lauterbrunnen became part of the Interlaken-Oberhasli District. The striking valley, its surrounding mountain hikes and views, as well as popular winter sports, make Lauterbrunnen a major tourist destination year-round. You can visit by train or car and also take the tram to neighboring Mürren.
At the back of the village, Friedhof Lauterbrunnen is laid out in tidy rows with rock pathways, each plot its own flower garden.
The headstones are unique in shape and construction; such as hewn rock, granite slab, or wood with a small roof structure. Some of the headstones are etched to include a home in a mountainous landscape.
The cemetery allows burials for those that live in Wengen, Mürren, Gimmelwald, Stechelberg, and Lauterbrunnen. Often the town where they are from is included on the headstone.
We learn from this inscription that Markus Aellen-Graf was a glaciologist while living in the Bernese Alps. It’s likely he studied nearby glaciers, such as Aletsch or Eiger. In this cemetery there are headstones etched with a helicopter, bus, truck, tram, and even a sailboat giving us a glimpse in to their lives and hobbies.
The people of Lauterbrunnen live in what seems like a mystical land of waterfalls, myst, and crisp mountain air. An interesting sidenote, J. R. R. Tolkien visited Lauterbrunnen while on a trip to Switzerland in 1911. He hiked in to the valley from Interlaken. This experience stuck with him and influenced his creation of the valley of Rivendell. In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien he is recorded saying, “From Rivendell to the other side of the Misty Mountains, the journey … including the glissade [of Bilbo and the Dwarves] down the slithering stones into the pine woods … is based on my adventures in Switzerland in 1911.” You can see the resemblance of Lauterbrunnen and Rivendell in his painted sketch here.
Have you visited Friedhof Lauterbrunnen? Tell us all about it!
So very beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this as I personally will never be able to see this in person.
Always interesting to see other countries customs. This is exceptional in the mountains.
Wonderland ! The closest I got was the Zugspitze South of Munich; wish I had known at the time, but that was 50-couple years ago – couldn’t do it now.
Thank you for sharing! This place is beautiful, I would not be able to visit in person, but now I can see it. Very interesting burial place.
This must be Heaven.
I have been in that valley, although I was not specifically at this cemetery. The area is more beautiful and more spectacular than the photos can show!
Really? You haven’t specifically been there, but what? Really?
Only wish we had known about this several years ago when we visited Switzerland, would have made a side trip there. Thank you for showing us this beautiful spot.
I lived a couple of hours from here for a while and am occasionally back in the area for work. The Lauterbrunnen valley is my happy place — the place I think about when I’m having my blood pressure taken. Cable-car or cog-wheel up, walk down = my favorite type of hiking.
One of my favorite places on Earth…I was there 4 days and cried when I had to leave.
A beautifully, well tended, garden cemetery. Those who care for it are greatly appreciated.
We absolutely love Lauterbrunnen. Our trips the last two years have been cancelled due to COVID. We are hoping to make it back this year. I’ve never seen this beautiful cemetery but will make it a point to visit on our next trip.
So lovely, wish I could see it in person!
How gorgeous! Have been in Switzerland several times…looked it up and I was a little over an hour away from this region. I can imagine it’s beauty because anywhere near the Alps is unbelievable. Thanks for sharing!
Absolutely beautiful. I have ancestors from Switzerland.
I visited here just recently, staying in the town of Wengen above the valley. It is every bit as incredibly beautiful as it is described here.
Such Beauty in the World that gives us hope with all the Ugliness going on right now! JMR
I have been there, thanks to my “travel-guide” sister. I have a poster of the waterfall on my cabin wall.
I’ve been there. That place is full of magic and mystique. This cemetery amazed me with the beauty of the tombs and the paradisiacal environment.
Absolutely stunning. the flowers on the grave are so beautiful.
So beautiful ❤️ thank you for sharing 🌹
We have never been to Switzerland but have watched you tube videos of trains traveling thru Switzerland. One of my ancestors Michael Bower was born in Germany but said his father was from Switzerland. They came to America for religious freedom. They were Lutherans.
This is 2 1/2 hours away from me ( living in Switzerland). Thank you for the interesting lead. I will definitely visit the area later in Spring.
Lauterbrunnen was my grandfather’s Gemeínde and I have relatives buried in this cemetery.
Lauterbrunnen was our destination for at least 12 years during our Christmas and summer vacations while working in Europe as a teacher. Originally we camped in the huge campsite near this cemetery and walked past on the way to the village and back. It is more beautiful than these pictures can illustrate. Add the sounds of tinkling cow bells from around the valley to this view. If you go, do take the chairlift to Murren and the cog train to Wengen. If you are really adventuresome, the cog train continues on up the Jungfrau mountain to the inside of the glacier on top!
So very beautiful! thank you for sharing and maybe one day I will be able to see this in person.
Yes, we have been there, and I recently featured photos from our trip on my blog, including a photo taken in this cemetery. It is an amazingly beautiful place!
Lovely treat to see this today. Several years ago we stayed for a week in Interlaken. Took transportation up to Murren, walked across mountain to ride cog railway down to the Lauterbrurnen Valley. Than walked in the Valley for the afternoon. Our most beautiful hike among many in Switzerland.
I would love to see this My ancestors came from Switzerland , then Germany, then here to PA Check out Switzerland on You Tube People post beautiful videos of the towns, waterfalls, clear blue streams, top of the snow cover mountains But watch it on a large screen!
Beautiful article. I have relatives from Sweden and love seeing these stories.
My mother’s maiden name was Ringgenberg, with the first ancestor, Peter, coming to the US in the 1700’s. Multiple family members have been there, including me. I rode the tram up to Jungfrau, rafted in the area, and had a wonderful visit, spending 5 days in the region. That was summer of 2005.
I have strolled by this cemetery and the nearby falls while in Lauterbrunnen and the rest of the Alps filming a travel documentary. It is indeed a magical place. I was fascinated to learn that this was an inspiration for Tolkien’s Rivendell; I believe it!!
Lovely cemetery…very striking and well manicured, Thank you
I’ve never been there, but it reminds me of another beautiful setting for a church cemetery in Hallstat, Austria in the Austrian Alps. The cemetery plots look very much like these with the little gardens for each one. After a certain time, the graves are dug up and the bones are put in the “Bien Haus” (Bone House) the skulls are painted with designs and displayed on shelves with the other bones piled under the shelves. It is an area where the Romans had a salt mine in the top of the mountain. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Thank you. I was wondering how so few people had been buried here over such a lengthy period of time. I’m not too sure about the painting of the skulls, but a bone house makes sense.
Thank you so much. Lauterbrunnen is where I memorably, age 3 and a half and traveling with my parents, looked out the window of our pension bedroom and shouted excitedly that the clouds were below us. The Mürrenbach Fall lives perpetually in my deepest good memories. I remember it all as if it were yesterday although it’s been more than seven decades. The folks who kept the pension were so nice. Is it still in the family, I wonder? I wish all the people of Lauterbrunnen well. They do indeed live in a magical place, and the cemetery certainly shows that they do know it.
If you want to cross off most of your bucket list for Switzerland, this is the place! You can drive up the valley and walk through caverns actively being carved by the melting glacier of the Jungfrau. Take a train ride to the top of Europe (the Jungfraujoch) and walk on the glacier. On the way down, get off at the Kleine Scheidegg station and have a picnic in the meadow (early summer is best) and then take a 2-hour walk (easy to moderate) on a good trail which provides priceless photo ops of the Eiger and other mountains. Then take the cable car down to the car-less town of Murren. From there you can take a bus or another cable car back to Lauterbrunnen where you can get some fondue for dinner. Very expensive trip but everything in Switzerland is expensive.
My grandfather traveled to the area in 1891 as a young man from Bern, Kansas, USA. Our ancestors (including some named Gertsch) lived in Wohlen near Bern, Switzerland. I’m 78 now and will never be able to make the trip, so these photos and stories are much appreciated. Perhaps one of my descendants will go?
I can not count the number of times we have visited this glorious valley. I was in the US Air Force stationed in West Germany 16 years. We first found the valley in 1970 and stayed in the small park platz with our 13ft trailer near the big waterfall. We were stationed at Lahr and it was an easy weekend trip to Lauterbrunnen. We visited many times in 1970 and 71. Then in 1984 the people of Wengen and the ski area gracesly allowed The European Division of The National Ski Patrol to train in their area. We also trained on Avalanche Rescue and Ski Mountainering on the glacier after a helicopter ride to the glacier and a week in a mountain hutte. In no way can I thank the wonderful folks of this valley for how welcoming they were to some American folks far from their home. I have an undieing love for the Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, areas and all the great Swiss people which live there. Thank you for being who you were and are. May God continue to bless you all and your valley.
Rode the tram to/ from Interlaken thru this valley in March,2000 up to Kleine Sheidegg to ski. Very relaxing trip. Witnessed a similar cemetery at Zermatt, which has many mountaineer stones. As another post indicates, Germanic countries recycle their cemetery plots, so I assume these beautiful stones will end up in family households?
When I worked for a tour company we used to stay at the camp grounds near the cemetery. It is a magical place and I always said I wanted to be buried there. The scenery is next level breathtaking.
Article very well done and beautiful pictures. Would like to someday visit the country and see area outside USA. Love to see whose names and dates of those buried there. Thank you for sharing these with me.
In the early summer of 1970 we camped at Lauterbrunnen in a beautiful setting. We climbed the Schilthorn (not all the way up) – an amazing hike! On another day we went up to the Jungfraujoch (Joch meaning saddle) by rail from Kleine Scheidegg – a stunning trip – and did some skiing on the Aletsch Glacier. We were lucky to have sunny weather during our whole time in Switzerland. Read an interesting article on the Jungfrau and area: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungfraujoch#Railway
This is the most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen. It’s my perfect idea of the tombstones. The individual gardens are so unique. I would love to be buried there. The caretakers mist so enjoy their work as it is magnificent.
Our relatives lived in Canton Bern and areas of Germany in different towns in the 1550-1700’s. Some emigrated to Pennsylvania where the oldest graves of the Wentzes in the Worcester area north of Conshohocken and in Lancaster County. We have visited most of the family burial sites as part of genealogical research over the years. The earliest European relatives were baptized Catholics (before the Reformation), then as Mennonites in later generations.
Germans build words so I’m not sure where they got many waterfalls. LAUT is Loud so loud falls would be more appropriate for translation.
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