Prisoner William Tell was forced to split an apple off the head of his son with a crossbow today in 1307. Now WE know em

A mosaic of William Tell at the Swiss National Museum

A mosaic of William Tell at the Swiss National Museum

According to Aegidius Tschudi in his Chronicon Helveticum (a history of the early Swiss Confederation) Swiss legend Wilhelm “William” Tell was an expert with the crossbow.

Tell was originally from Bürglen, a municipality of Uri in Switzerland.

The Habsburg emperors of Austria were seeking to dominate all of Uri.

Hermann Albrecht Gessler, the newly appointed tyrannical Austrian reeve or Vogt of Altdorf, Uri, Switzerland.

Gessler raised a pole in the Altdorf’s village square, hung his hat on top of it, and demanded that all the townsfolk bow before the hat.

On November 18, 1307, William Tell visited Altdorf with his young son Walter, and passed the hat on the pole, refusing to bow to it.

William Tell was then arrested by Gessler’s men.

Gessler had heard of William Tell and his famed marksmanship, so he devised a cruel punishment for Tell’s public defiance.

William Tell and his son Walter would be executed, but William could redeem his life by shooting an apple off the head of his son in a single attempt.

The legend then has William Tell splitting the apple with an arrow from his crossbow.

Gessler had noticed that William had removed tow crossbow arrows from his quiver, not one.

So before releasing William, Gessler asked why the second arrow?

William Tell replied that if he had accidentally killed his son, he would have used the second one on Gessler himself.

Gessler became furious, and had William Tell bound and taken to his castle at Küssnacht to live out the rest of his life in the dungeon.

On the way to the castle, while crossing Lake Lucerne in a boat, a storm broke out. The soldiers were afraid that their boat would founder and unbound William Tell to help steer with all his famed strength.

Instead, William Tell leaped from the boat at the rocky site now known as the Tellsplatte (Tell’s slab) and escaped.

Tell's leap (Tellensprung) from the boat of his captors at the Axen cliffs by Ernst Stückelberg (1879) for his fresco at the Tellskapelle.

Tell’s leap (Tellensprung) from the boat of his captors at the Axen cliffs by Ernst Stückelberg (1879) for his fresco at the Tellskapelle.

William Tell returned to Uri, assassinated the tyrant Gessler and initiated the rebellion that led to the foundation of the Old Swiss Confederacy.

Today, the “Leap of Tell” is memorialized by Tellskapelle chapel on the shore of Lake Lucerne at the foot of the Axenberg cliffs.

William Tell then fought against Austria in the 1315 Battle of Morgarten.

Tschudi also has an account of William Tell’s death in 1354, according to which he was killed trying to save a child from drowning in the Schächenbach river in Uri.

Now WE know em

 

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