Baden/Aquae Helveticae (Switzerland) Research Project and lecture on Roman, medieval and modern spas: A diachronic and interdisciplinary view of a cultural phenomenon

Baden, postcard. Private coll. Andrea Schaer. Some images of Baden archaeological excavations. Photos: Kantonsarchaeologie Aargau/Samuel Muehleisen

The healing spa of Baden in Switzerland (Canton Aargau), the Roman Aquae Helveticae, looks back to over 2000 years of history. No doubt the sulphurous springs that surge at a temperature of 47°C were already visited and worshipped well before antiquity. The beginning of Baden as a healing spa is strongly linked to the nearby roman legionary camp of Vindonissa (todays Windisch AG). The Roman healing spa comprised at least five, probably even more large pools, that were located around the main spring sanctuary. In the Middle Ages and Early Modern times Baden was the most fashionable and famous spa in central Europe and welcomed visitors from near and far.

The comprehensive redevelopment of the historic spa precinct including the construction of a large new spa by Swiss architect Mario Botta, led from 2006 to 2021 to extensive archaeological excavations and investigations in historic buildings by the Archaeological Service of Canton Aargau.

The research in and on Baden follows an interdisciplinary approach with the inclusion of historical, art historical, architectural historical, medical historical and hydrogeological foundations. A special feature of the work is the diachronic examination of the functional and structural development of the Baden baths from Antiquity to the Modern age.

The results of the extensive research are about to be published in the near future.


The institute of Archaeological Sciences of Berne University is supporting the research in Baden (Link).

In the autumn semester 2021 a lecture on healing spas will be given. The lecture will on the one hand focus on roman healing spas as a special form of bathing facilities and settlements. On the other hand, the archaeology of the epoch-spanning cultural phenomenon of spas and the associated material traces as well as cultural and social practices will be discussed.

The research project is present with papers and presentations at national and international conferences.

The Institute of Archaeological Sciences of Berne University will furthermore host an international online-conference on baths and healing baths in January 2022. Information to come!


(Author: Andrea Schaer. Archaeologist. Research responsible. Associated researcher Berne University)




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