Stans was the home of the Winkelried family (q.v.) and has a modern monument to the memory of Arnold von Winkelried, the legendary hero of the battle of Sempach (1386).
Attacked by the Habsburgs they defeated and killed Duke Leopold of Austria at Sempach in July 1386 and gained another victory at Ngfels two years later; but their allies, the Swabian cities, ~~eF In were not equally prompt or equally fortunate.
Leopold was killed in 1386 at the battle of Sempach, and Albert became guardian for his four nephews, who subsequently ruled their lands in common.
We are told how, at a critical moment in the great battle of Sempach, when the Swiss had failed to break the serried ranks of the Austrian knights, a man of Unterwalden, Arnold von Winkelried by name, came to the rescue.
Finally, we read the full story in the original draft of Giles Tschudi's chronicle, where the hero is described as "a man of Unterwalden, of the Winkelried family," this being expanded in the final recension of the chronicle (1564) into "a man of Unterwalden, Arnold von Winckelried by name, a brave knight," while he is entered (in the same book, on the authority of the "Anniversary Book" of Stans, now lost) on the list of those who fell at Sempach at the head of the Nidwalden (or Stans) men as "Herr Arnold von Winckelriet, Ritter," this being in the first draft "Arnold Winckelriet."
- There are several war songs on the battle of Sempach which have come down to us, but in one only is there mention of Winkelried and his deed.
Many authorities regard it as made up of three distinct songs (one of which refers to the battle and Winkelried), possibly put together by the younger Halbsuter (citizen of Lucerne in 1435, died between 1470 and 1480), though others contend that the Sempach-Winkelried section bears clear traces of having been composed after the Reformation began, that is, about 1520 or 1530.
In the MS. of the chronicle of Diebold Schilling of Bern (c. 1480) there is in the picture of the battle of Sempach a warrior pierced with spears falling to the ground, which may possibly be meant for Winkelried; while in that of Diebold Schilling of Lucerne (1511), though in the text no allusion is made to any such incident, there is a similar picture of a man who has accomplished Winkelried's feat, but he is dressed in the colours of Lucerne.
This began the lively paper war humorously called "the second war of Sempach," in which the Swiss (with but rare exceptions) maintained the historical character of the feat against various foreigners - Austrians and others.
Assuming this, and rejecting the evidence of the 1476 chronicle as an interpolation and full of mistakes, and that of the song as not proved to have been in existence before 1531, Herr Burkli comes to the startling conclusion that the phalanx formation of the Austrians, as well as the name and act of Winkelried, have been transferred to Sempach from the fight of Bicocca, near Milan (April 27, 1522), where a real leader of the Swiss mercenaries in the pay of France, Arnold Winkelried, reall y met his death in very much the way that his namesake perished according to the story.
Whatever may be thought of this daring theory, it seems clear that, while there is some doubt as to whether such an act as Winkelried's was possible at Sempach, taking into account the known details of the battle, there can be none as to the utter lack of any early and trustworthy evidence in support of his having performed that act in that battle.
- See in particular Theodor von Liebenau's Die Schlacht bei Sempach - Gedenkbuch zur fiinften Sacularfeser (1886), published at the expense of the government of Lucerne.
Bernoulli, Winkelrieds That bei Sempach (Basel, 1886); W.
Secretan, Sempach et Winkelried (Lausanne, 1886); and the summary in K.
Hartmann, Die Schlacht bei Sempach (Frauenfeld, 1886); and the concise summary of the evidence given by M.