Berner Jura

No inventory list as pdf for download

Psychiatric Services Biel-Seeland-Bernese Jura (PDBBJ/SPJBB),
Bellelay Clinic

Contrary to Germany, it was uncommon in Switzerland to separate sanatoriums from psychiatric nursing homes. Thus, only few psychiatric hospitals existed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Rheinau (Canton of Zurich), Perreux (Canton of Neuchâtel), St Katharinental (Canton of Thurgau), and Bellelay (Canton of Bern). Bellelay asylum was opened in 1899 in a former monastery situated in a remote valley in the Jura hills. It was the third psychiatric hospital to be established in the Canton of Bern. Actually reserved for the so-called incurable insane, Bellelay also housed disturbed, elderly, and mentally disabled men, women, and children. Winters in Bellelay were hard. The asylum, originally conceived for 260 patients, in 1920 housed over 340 patients. In addition to overcrowding, water supply was inadequate. Typhoid fever was rampant, and the ayslum had no separate wards and common rooms. Complaints became more frequent when funding virtually dried up during the First World War. The first director was Ulrich Brauchli (1899–1905), who later became director of Münsingen asylum and sanatorium. The situation at Bellelay improved in the second half of the 1920s. An extension was built, and the corridors, which until then had served as common rooms, were now fitted with so-called Simon workbenches (named after Herrmann Simon von Gütersloh, the founder of a new form of work therapy). More livestock was purchased, more greenhouses built, and horsebreeding established. In 1930, the newly appointed director Hans Knoll (1888–1961) succeeded in renaming Bellelay a “Maison de Santé” (a health care centre) and thus fewer terminally ill patients were admitted. Because many patients remained at Bellelay until their death, it is conceivable that patient works, drawings, constructions, and handicraft survived the passage of time, like at Rheinau hospital. According to the clinic director, however, no works were found in the clinic or its archives. No on-site inspection was conducted.


Fussinger, Catherine, Tevaearai, Deodaat, Lieux de folie. Monuments de raison, Architecture et psychiatrie en Suisse romande 1830–1930. Lausanne 1998, pp. 90 ff; pp. 157ff

Germann, Urs, “Arbeit, Ruhe und Ordnung: die Inszenierung der psychiatrischen Moderne – Bildmediale Legitimationsstrategien der Schweizerischen Anstaltspsychiatrie im Kontext der Arbeits- und Beschäftigungstherapie in der Zwischenkriegszeit“, in: Fangerau, Heiner, Nolte, Karen (eds.), “Moderne” Anstaltspsychiatrie im 19. Und 20. Jahrhundert – Legitimation und Kritik, pp. 290-310

Knoll, H., La maison de santé de Bellay, Canton de Berne, Eckhardt & Pesch, Zürich, o.J. um 1931