The history of the city of Bulle and la Gruyère

From the origins to the modern times

The origins

Bulle is first mentioned in the 9th century as Butulum. In 1200 it was mentioned as Bollo.

The Medieval Times

During the Early Middle Ages it was the home of a parish church that covered a large parish. This Church of St. Eusebius was probably built in the 6th or 7th century by the Bishop of Lausanne.

The Counts of Gruyère

The First Crusade marked the beginning of the legend of the 20 counts who will reigned over the castle of Gruyère.

Guillaume of Gruyère

Tassot, the poet of the Crusade tales the valor of Guillaume:

“Over the moat, on a sudden filled to the brim

With a thousand thrown faggots, and with rolled trees stout and slim,

Before all he ventured.

On helmet and buckler poured floods of sulphurous fire.

Yet scatheless he passed through the furnace of flame,

And with powerful hand throwing the ladder high over the wall, mounted with pride.”

The Burgundian wars

A turning point in the Bulle’s history was during the Burgundian Wars. On 16 January 1476 it entered into an alliance with the city of Fribourg. Due to the treaty, it was not plundered by the victorious Swiss after the Battle of Morat (22 June 1476).

The Last Count of Gruyère

The counts of Gruyère had to sell seigneuries because of financial difficulties. Michel, the last one to bear the title of Count of Gruyère, was desperate to improve the financial situation, he finally had to leave his castle to his creditors of Fribourg and Berne. 

The revolt of Pierre-Nicolas Chenaux

On April 29, 1781, Pierre-Nicolas Chenaux led a small group of men supervised by officers. Reunited in Bulle at the Crowned Sword Inn (now the Hôtel du Cheval Blanc), Chenaux planned a revolt, hoping to take Fribourg by surprise.

1536 to 1798

The period from 1536 to 1798 was reasonably quiet. The town expanded slightly beyond the city walls near the upper gate. While it was politically powerless, it became an economic center for cheese production and trade. It was the hub for most of the cheeses that were exported to France.

The French invasion of 1798

During the  French invasion many of the residents of Bulle joined the revolutionary cause. By 26 January, a liberty tree was planted in front of the castle and the citizens had selected an oversight committee and had driven the governor out of the city.

1805 - Fire !

On 2nd of April 1805 an enormous fire destroyed almost the entire city. It was quickly rebuilt, and most of the medieval street plan were retained. However, one of the four rows of houses was not rebuilt to make room for a large marketplace. The town granary was quickly rebuilt, followed by the town hall in 1808, and the church was rebuilt in 1816.

1847-1848 - Tensions

In January 1847, civil unrest was at its height: the prefect was locked up in the castle (January 6), an armed column moved towards Fribourg but gave up halfway (January 9). In 1848, after the Sonderbund war, the new cantonal constitution made Bulle the capital of the district of Gruyère.

Saint-Denis, the cattle market

New neighborhoods were built along the main roads to give the city a star shape. In the middle of the century, the considerable expansion of the cattle markets (there were 3,000 to 4,000 head of cattle at the October fairs in the 1880s), cheese, timber and woven straw businesses encouraged the Bullois to get involved in the struggle for the route of the railway between Lausanne and Bern.

Two political visions

Violent clashes in Bulle between radicals and conservatives lasted the entire 19th century. At the same time both parties were trying to distinguish themselves with ambitious projects. The radicals built a rail line between Bulle and Romont, established the Banque Populaire de la Gruyère in 1853, opened the radical “La Gruyère” newspaper in 1882, and in 1893 constructed their own electric company. The Conservatives opened the “Le Fribourgeois” paper in 1867, established the Crédit Gruyérien bank in 1867, and built the Chemins de fer de la Gruyère électriques in 1903–1912.

Timber trade

At the start of the 20th century, commerce, crafts and industry were still closely linked to agriculture and forestry. The timber sector is developed sustainably: sawmills, planers, box makers, furniture factories and shops.

1st World War - the French and Belgian internees

At the end of 1917, there were 213 French and Belgian internees divided between the localities of Bulle, Charmey, Grandvillard, Gruyères, Montbovon, Neirivue, Riaz and La Tour-de-Trême.

1960s-1970s: the motorway

In the 1960s, Bulle and the district made a strong and successful commitment to the construction of the A12 motorway through Gruyère. Completed in 1981, the A12 gave rise to a new economic start, particularly affecting industry, commerce and tourism.

1989 - Glion in Gruyère

In 1989, after 18 months of construction work, a new building on 3 floors with 50 student bedrooms with 2 beds, 10 classrooms, a 50 seat auditorium and a teaching and learning kitchen, was finally ready to welcome students.