Franz Sermond, bell-founder from Bormio

On 15 May 1567, the City of Bern accepted the master-gunner Franz Sermond (sometimes also spelled Sermund) as citizen of Bern. Sermond came from Bormio in the Valtellina, and probably belonged to the Sermondi family that was prominent in this place. It could not yet be determined how exactly he was related to this family.

As a master-gunner, Sermond moulded several cannons in Lausanne in 1568; in Bern, he received a salary as a armourer from 1568 to 1588. Better known, however, are his activities as a bell-founder. Already in 1561, he is said to have founded a bell in Annecy, Savoy, for the church of St. Maurice. This bell bears the inscription: FRANCISCUS SERMUNDUS BURMENSIS . VALLIS . STELLINE . ME . FECIT. Another bell was founded in 1562 in Tomils in the Grisons. Since he had been employed by the council of Bern, he founded bells for several churches in the Bernese territory, but - with the council's permit - he also worked in various other Swiss cantons, like in Uri, Lucerne, and the Valais. In 1583, he founded the so-called mid-day bell for the cathedral of Bern. Of the 180 hundredweights necessary for this founding, he paid 50 hundredweights from his own property.

In 1579, he married Ursula Mattstetter in Bern. No children are known from this marriage. In 1586, Franz Sermond intended to visit his home country and for that reason had a last will written down. In this will, he states that he already has lived many years, "fast uff min höchstes altter khommen" (I almost reached the end of my life). If this statement has any real background, he already must have been relatively old when settling down in Bern. For what he did - and where he did it - before this, only the bells of Annecy and Tomils, and perhaps the cannons of Lausanne, can offer a hint.

In this last will, Franz Sermond states that his wife shall receive as her personal property what had been agreed upon in their marriage contract. His servant Abraham Zender - he, too, a bell-founder and also a son of a Bernese council member and from a honourable family - should receive one half of Franz' tools as a present and the other half after paying a reasonable price to the City of Bern. The remaining property, as far as located within the City and Territory of Bern and within the Swiss Confederation, should be used by his wife until her death. In case she should marry anew, her groom should find bail to avoid that the property should go waste. After the widow's death, the City of Bern will own the property within the Swiss Confederation. In this testament, Franz Sermond did not decide what should happen with the part of his property located in his home country, and outside the Swiss Confederation; he wanted to do so later.

Although not specified in the last will, Franz Sermond's property seems to have been considerable; in 1586, he lent a high sum of money to the City of Bern for interest.

The last will was declared to have come into force on 20 June 1588. Franz Sermond probably died shortly before this date. In the same month, the Council of Bern wrote to the Council of Chur that Franz' cousin Simon Sermond was only entitled to the part of the property located in the Grisons. As an allowance, the Council paid to this Simon and to Bartholomäus Venosta (or Venostaz), another relative, a sum of 60 florins and also gave them two golden signet-rings (of which the signs had been removed). In 1603, probably the same Bartholomäus Venosta with the help of the Grisons again addressed the Council of Bern and asked for transfer of a part of Franz Sermond's property. Bern did not accept his claims, but agreed to pay another sum of 50 florins.

Sources about Franz Sermond:

  • Brun, Carl: Schweizerisches Künstler-Lexikon, Bd. 3, Frauenfeld 1913, S. 146f.
  • Staatsarchiv Bern A II 842, fol. 124r-126r (Testamentenbuch 8)
    • A III 43, S. 975 (Deutsch Missivenbuch QQ)
    • A II 242, S. 228 (Ratsmanual 371)
    • A II 286, S. 398 (Ratsmanual 415)
    • B XIII 520, Teil 2, S. 75 (Tauf- und Eherodel der Stadt Bern)