The word Walser is a variation of Walliser i.e., inhabitant of Wallis, a German term for the upper part of the Rhone valley, a valley par excellence in Alpine culture.
From the eighth century, the Alemanni, who occupied the lower valleys of the Rhine and the Swiss pre-Alps, ascended the Bernese Oberland and overlooked the Goms Plateau. Thus began the German colonization of Upper Valais, which was also the highest of the Alpine colonizations. From 1000 to 1200, there was a slow migratory flow from the Valais region that settled in the valleys at the foot of Mount Rosa. Through the Monte Moro pass and the Teodulo pass, the Walser reached all the heads of the Rosa.
The Walser language is a nonhomogeneous Alemannic idiom that also possesses a number of its own specialties that distinguish it from other spoken languages in Alpine areas. Particularly in Alagna it is called titsch. Sharing German, Italian and French is a language called quadrilinguism. In some localities including Gressoney, this language has been particularly well preserved.
The Walser people were a very religious people, so much so that they often blossomed into superstition and led to putting the devil behind anything bad that happened. Many legends have been passed down from century to century, and in many of them the departed and the afterlife are mentioned. In one wall of one’s home there was always a small window that was opened only when there was a dead person in the house, to allow the soul to leave, and immediately closed again so that the soul would be unable to re-enter.
The perfect geometry of the houses establishes a classical order that confronts nature. Humility and equality of each in the order and respect of the whole community. Thus testimony to an extremely and happily ordered people.
The Walser farmhouse encloses the dwelling, stable and barn under one roof. As a rule, the house is three stories. The lower basement, made of stone masonry, was generally used as a stable and room for “wongade” dwelling; the upper part was made of wood, precisely of squared and skillfully crossed larch logs, and featured bedrooms on the second floor; on the top floor the barn and the small room for storing provisions.
The barn is contained in the masonry basement and is therefore perfectly sheltered from winds and frost. It is the warmest place in the house so much so that, in one corner, space is carved out for the family’s living room. The heat from the barn, rising above, transmits warmth to the bedrooms above; above these the barn creates a total thermal barrage. Generally, the barn was paved with large stone slabs and crossed by the manure gutter. The short space reserved for the living room was ventilated, furnished with wooden benches and a folding table and with a stone stove. Between the stable and the living room there were no walls but only a wooden parapet about a meter high, the wongade was a place of daily life: it was in this room that the family spent their time.
The Walser People