"Bern-Reich" wall painting
This painting is located above the entrance of the coat-of-arms hall (room n°18). Commissioned by the Bernese bailiff – governor – Hans Wilhelm von Mühlinen, it expresses the privileges received by the citizens of Berne from the Holy Roman Empire, of which their city was still a part in the 19th century.
On the painting, two Bernese escutcheons support the two-headed eagle symbolising the Holy Roman Empire. This very specific iconographic composition is named after Bern Reich, or “Empire of Bern”. The city enjoyed a privilege inherited from the Middle Ages called ”imperial immediacy”. Granted by the emperor, it made it possible to avoid being subjected to other lords and to depend directly on him for taxation and justice.
On each side are two lions, symbols of the Zähringen family, the founders of Bern. The one on the left holds a sword and the one on the right a cruciger orb, two attributes of authority. They lift a crown over the imperial eagle to strongly express the rights of the city.
Under the Bernese escutcheons are the initials and coat of arms of the Bailiff Hans Wilhelm von Mühlinen. As the commissioner of this painting in 1586, he wanted to represent his personal prestige and the legitimacy of Bern in the region.
The independence of the Confederation from the Holy Empire wasn’t recognized until 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years' War. However, Bern continued to paint Bern Reich until the end of the 17th century.
Bern Reich wall painting