Barbara von Luternau, geborene von Roll (1502–1571): Was ihre Briefe an den reformierten Pfarrer Rebmann über ihr Leben und Wirken im altgläubigen Solothurn verraten


  • Monika Grieder


Barbara of Luternau, Reformation Period in Solothurn, the question of free choice of denomination by women in the 16th Century, level of knowledge and professional activity by educated women, reception history in the 19th century, gender issue in church history


In the context of the Swiss revivalist movement (“Erweckungsbewegung”) and the beginning of the formation of Swiss national identity before 1848, Barbara von Roll, as was her maiden name, was rediscovered the ideal example of a woman who dedicated herself after becoming a widow, to nursing care by means of herbal medicine. The rediscovery of this aristocratic lady, who lived in the city of Solothurn at the time of the Reformation, happened in the context of transcribing her work, in particular seven letters addressed to Valentin Rebmann. The letters show, that the noble Barbara was not only a well-educated woman, but that she also owned medical skills and expertise that surpassed by far what was generally taught in the 19th century. This thesis presents the local-historical and religious context of the city of Solothurn as it was linked to the biography of Barbara von Luternau, her husband Hieronymus and other members of her family. Furthermore, all persons mentioned in Barbara’s letters will be introduced. The main focus is on the evaluation of the seven letters, emphasising the religious thinking as well as the social connections between the Roman-orthodox and the reformed people. Special attention will be drawn th the medical history to illustrate Barbara’s immense knowledge. Consequently, this bachelor thesis asks four research questions: first the biography of a noble woman who lived in a city, which became Roman orthodox after 1533, but had long been indecisive. That puts the biography in the wider context of ‘Women of the Time of the Reformation’. This rises the question of religious of religious freedom for married women in that time. Second, there is the question about the education, knowledge and professional activity of Barbara. Third, the social connections of families, family members and other persons. The fourth question asks, why Barbara von Luternau was rediscovered and presented as an ideal of womanhood not only in the 19th century but also in the Swiss women’s movement in the 20th century. This bachelor thesis is mainly based on historical data. Apart from Barbara’s seven letters, there are records from the city council of Solothurn, historical documents and letters which mention Barbara, medical books from Solothurn dating from the first half of the 16th century and from the Family Archive von Roll. Some of these sources have been transcribed and evaluated for the first time, thus revealing new biographical aspects of her and shedding light on the life in the context of reformation history of the city of Solothurn. By taking into consideration the limits of sources available, in particular with regard even to noble women, this thesis presents all the available data concerning Barbara von Luternau, ne´e von Roll.


Monika Grieder

Universität Zürich





Grieder, M. (2020). Barbara von Luternau, geborene von Roll (1502–1571): Was ihre Briefe an den reformierten Pfarrer Rebmann über ihr Leben und Wirken im altgläubigen Solothurn verraten. Zwingliana, 47, 17–105. Abgerufen von