The air is crisp and the sky deep blue on this Sunday morning in April, when eligible citizens in the spectacular Canton Appenzell Inner-Rhodes come together to embody one of the oldest forms of living democracy. With a population of under 16,000 spread across 174 gorgeous square kilometers, this small Canton upholds a political practice that dates back to the Middle Ages. (To provide a comparison, Canton Appenzell Inner-Rhodes would fit over one hundred times into Lake Ontario).
Appenzell Landsgemeinde Service
The ceremonial part starts with the Landsgemeinde service at the parish church. The word Rhodes in German refers to wood cutting, which began in the Appenzell region in the 11th century. St. Mauritius church was built around the same time and became one of the most richly decorated in Switzerland.
On the main street coming into town earlier I had passed the President of the Government on his bicycle pedalling at good speed, his black ceremonial gown flapping in the wind, complemented by a black top hat and sword dangling by his side. Now in town, the church bells are calling people and they stream in from every direction in their Sunday best. Everyone knows everyone; greetings and smiles are abundant. Young and old, men and women, families, locals and tourists, with a noticeable amount of young men, smartly dressed in suit and tie, holding their ceremonial sword. All are mounting the stairs that lead up to the parish church.