How Mount Pilatus came to its name
Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judaea. After he had sentenced Jesus of Nazareth to death, Emperor Tiberius called him to Rome and imprisoned him. It is said that Pilate committed suicide in his dungeon. His corpse was thrown into the Tiber, but then, terrible thunderstorms and floods devastated the land. The dead body was retrieved from the river and thrown into the Rhone, which then also burst its banks under ghastly tempest.
The dead was not supposed to find peace in Lausanne either. Thus it was decided to take the body into the wilderness surrounding the Fräkmündt at Kriens and plunge it into the stark waters of the small lake near the Oberalp. Yet again, storms and floods followed, and hail destroyed the crop. From then on, Pilate is said to have roamed the heights as an abominable spirit. Eventually, a travelling scholar from Salamanca in Spain could banish the ghost into the lake, but under the condition that he might hold court upon his praetor’s chair in the middle of the lake every Good Friday.
Then silence fell upon the Fräkmündt. However, as soon as anybody dared to speak loudly around the lake, let alone call his name or throw stones into the water, Pilate became angry. Then the mountain was cast into blackness, and harsh storms ravaged the land.
Alpine herdsmen were bound under oath by the city of Lucerne prevent anybody from climbing up to the lake. The council of Lucerne imposed strict bans that have remained in effect to this day. Rumour has it that a man who approached the lake notwithstanding these bands was even executed for his breach.
As years went by, fear dissipated, and the priest of Lucerne climbed the mountain with a handful of brave men to challenge the spirit. They threw stones into the lake and even walked through it. The ghost though did not show itself, nor were there any storms afterwards. To be absolutely sure the lake was drained in 1594. In the dry bed, no trace of Pontius Pilate’s dead body was found.
Nevertheless the mountain is called Pilatus to this day, and whoever has witnessed a thunderstorm on the Oberalp has surely wondered if, after all, somewhere among the clouds Pontius’ soul keeps roaming …
Mount Pilatus seen from the village Weggis
In the summer of 1421, a huge dragon flew to Mount Pilatus and alighted so closely to the place of a peasant called Stempflin that the man fainted. When he came to he found a clot of blood and therein a strange, round stone with mysterious patterns on it. It was henceforth called the Dragonstone.
A descendant of Stempflin sold it to a surgeon by the name of Martin Schriber in 1509. To him, the wondrous power of the Dragonstone was certificated by the sheriff and council of Lucerne in 1523. In 1929, the canton Lucerne bought the stone from family Meyer of Schauensee. Since then, it remains in public ownership and on display in the Lucerne Museum of Nature.
Old Illustration of what happened to farmer Stempflin
The Dragonstone as displayed in Lucerne today
The Türst and His Wild Retinue
For ages, people have feared those seasons which are accompanied by storms and heavy weather, which holds true especially for the Ember Days in December. When on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night after St. Lucy, the winds whistles around the corners of the houses and rattle on the shutters the Türst and his wild retinue are on their way. Riding on a flaming horse with eight legs, this dreadful figure leads the wild hunt, followed by howling hounds and sinister horn blowers. Amongst his companionship is the Sträggele, an old, ugly witch and allegedly his wife. Also on the occasion, the Pfaffenkellnerin comes along, a ghost with glowing eyes, used to be priest’s mistress in olden times. The Türst prowls villages, woods and ravine. Though he is never seen by humans, one can hear the barking, neighing, panting, stomping, wailing and shouting of his wild bunch. His call is piercing marrow and bone: “Three steps out of the way!”Woe to him who does not meet his command, for he will inevitably be taken high up into the air.
The invisible hunting party’s noise frightens the cattle so much that it scatters in panic. Often times, the cows grow sick and stop yielding milk.
Between St. Thomas and Epiphany, peasants must open the doors of their barns so the Türst may ride through easily. Should they forget, bad luck and disease will befall stable and house.
In former days, the Türst used to hunt in close vicinity of Lucerne, too, in the depths of the Würzenbachtobel and among the trees of the Megger Wald, on the Hundsrücken and Emmer Schachen, in Kriens and in Horw.
On the Allmend (common land) of Lucerne the wild hunt once raged a whole night long. The day after, thousands of paw prints were discovered, all left by the Türst’s dogs and easily recognised, because they only have three legs. The leading animal has another strange attribute, for it is one-eyed. If one happens upon one of the Türst’s dogs that has fallen behind, one should on no account take it along. An old verger from Kriens had to pay dearly for it.
He once found a lifeless animal in front of his door. Compassionately, he took it inside to take care of it. As soon as night fell, the Türst and his wild troupe appeared. His savage hounds circled the house, barking and howling, until the verger put the puppy again in front of the door.