36.5° – our thermal water

Deep in the wild and romantic Tamina gorge beats the heart of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz: the inexhaustible spring that for centuries has given forth the healing thermal water at body temperature.

The Blue Gold connects wellbeing and health in Bad Ragaz in a completely unique way. The four-kilometre water pipeline from Altes Bad Pfäfers to the Hof Ragaz was opened on 31 May 1840, and the 36.5°C water at body temperature has flowed directly to Bad Ragaz ever since. We invite you to find out more about the development of the municipality of Bad Ragaz and experience the anniversary “Bad Ragaz celebrates 175 years of thermal water” with us in 2015.

 

 

    175 years of thermal water in Bad Ragaz

    Tamina gorge – discovery and history

    Around 1240, hunters from the monastery Pfäfers discovered the 36.5°C spring. According to tradition, the monks of the nearby Benedictine monastery soon recognised the healing effects of the water. And so began the long history of Bad Pfäfers and later Bad Ragaz. In 1840, the warm thermal water was first routed in wooden pipelines from the Tamina gorge to Bad Ragaz. This pipeline had a length of 4,202 metres and a drop of 168 metres.

    Chronological sequence of events

    Around 1240Huntsmen discover the spring
    Ab 1350Wooden bath houses rest on beams over the Tamina
    1630Thermal water is funnelled 450 m in wooden channels to the outlet of the gorge – Old Bad Pfäfers is formed
    1704-1718Abbott Bonifaz Tschupp and Abbott Bonifaz of Gilgen establish the bath houses which are still partially preserved today
    1840Thermal water is funnelled in wooden channels to Ragaz
    1858The first railway reaches Ragaz
    1868The „Quellenhof“ hotel in Ragaz is built
    1872Europe’s first thermal water indoor pool was created
    1936Ragaz parish becomes Bad Ragaz spa town
    1969The Last spa guests leave Bad Pfäfers
    1970Eröffnung Rehabilitationsklinik Valens
    1983-1995The Valens rehabilitation clinic is opened
    2015Thermal water is funnelled in a new channel to Ragaz
    Taminaschlucht bei Bad Ragaz (historisch)
    altes Bild der Tamina Schlucht Paracelsus
    Resort Aussenansicht Luftansicht mit Umgebung

    Thermal water and geology

    Thermal water and geology The origin of the thermal water of Pfäfers remains a mystery. Scientists believe that the water seeps into the ground in the Tödi region (canton of Glarus) or in the Sardona region, penetrates about 1,000 metres deep into the earth, where it is warmed, and then after 10½ years returns to the surface in the Tamina gorge through transverse crevasses in the rocks. The temperature at the surface remains constant at 36.5°C. The temperature of the ground water absorbed (average temperature: 10°C) increases as a result of geothermal energy. The temperature increases about 2.5 to 3°C per 100 metres under the earthʼs surface. This mineral water is soft, neutral in taste and free of bacteria. The spring wells up with 5,000 to 8,000 litres of water per minute, which comes to 7 to 10 million litres per day.

    The region around the Tamina gorge provides geologists and attentive observers with fascinating insight into the history of the earth. According to current research, the earth is 4.6 billion years old here.

    Over the last 2 million years, the earth has alternated between several cold and warm periods. The Tamina valley was formed by the Sardona glacier and a branch of the Rhine glacier that moved forward via the Kunkels Pass. Today the thermal water can be enjoyed in the thermal baths in Bad Ragaz and Valens.

    Routing of the thermal water

    Abbot Placidus Pfister (abbot from 1819 to 1838) expanded Bad Pfäfers in the years between 1825 and 1832 so that it could accommodate up to 300 spa guests. State influence, the prohibition against accepting novices and internal disputes led to the disbanding of the monastery. The abbot and convent themselves requested that the monastery be closed. The Grand Council closed the monastery on 20 February 1838. The new owner was the canton of St. Gallen. The canton was primarily interested in the thermal bath and declared that it was not for sale.

    As had long been planned, in 1839 the canton made the gorge accessible by building a road (from Ragaz to Bad Pfäfers) and routed the thermal water in wooden pipelines to Ragaz. According to newspaper reports, the townspeople in Ragaz celebrated the water on 31 May 1840 with bells ringing, shouts of joy and commemorative speeches. This was the beginning of the path to becoming the world famous spa resort Ragaz, which Bad Ragaz has been permitted to call itself since 1936.

    The abbotʼs building was established as the hotel Hof Ragaz and expanded with a bathhouse and a beer garden. The historical Bad Pfäfers remained in operation. While spa guests came to Bad Ragaz primarily for wellness and preventative health care, Bad Pfäfers focused primarily on patients with specific health problems.

    Therapeutic effects and spring analysis

    Deep in the wild and romantic Tamina gorge beats the heart of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz: the legendary spring from which thermal water has welled up at body temperature for many centuries. This water has inspired a unique combination of health and wellbeing.

    Chemical properties of the thermal water

    Based on its composition, the local Bad Ragaz spa water belongs to the main group of chloride-hydrogen carbonate-sulphate waters. In addition to these principal components, it also contains trace elements such as iron, fluoride and iodide ions, as well as sulphide sulphur. The spring is classified as an acratotherm or hot spring (< 1000 mg/l mineral content, temperature > 20°C) and has proved its worth in treating complaints of the locomotor system and diseases of the musculoskeletal system.

    Physical properties of the thermal water

    Immersion in water in effect provides a transformed physical environment for the body. The physical properties of the water include the water pressure, buoyancy, water density and thermal conditions.

    These bring about a whole host of positive effects pertaining to the heart, lungs, kidneys, circulation, motor system and even hormones. The most important effects on our body:

     

    • A reduction of vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) in the legs (30%)
    • An increase in circulation (30%)
    • An improved use of the exchange surface of the lungs (pulmonary circulation and ventilation)
    • A reduction of blood pressure
    • An improvement of cardiac function (stroke volume and cardiac output increase by about 25%)

    Time in the water reduces muscle tension and loosens connective tissue. Non-rheumatoid pain is alleviated and mobility in relation to the spine and extremities is improved.

    Effects on our body

    The warmth has positive effects on the locomotor system and our ability to relax. At this “comfort temperature“, the body neither has to produce heat nor release excess heat. Our body temperature therefore remains constant.

    The water helps alleviate

    • Joint and spine conditions
    • Posture and movement disorders
    • Rehabilitation after operations of the locomotor system
    • Disorders of the vegetative-hormonal system

    Spring analysis

    Cationsmg/l
    Ammonium<0.01
    Lithium0.28
    Sodium28.40
    Potassium2.40
    Magnesium17.40
    Calcium55.10
    Strontium0.60
    Manganese<0.005
    Iron<0.005
    Lead<0.005
    Aluminium0.02
    Barium0.17
    Cadmium<0.001
    Chrome (total)<0.005
    Mercury<0.0001
    Total cations104.37
    Anionsmg/l
    Fluoride1.42
    Chloride34.00
    Bromide0.284
    Iodide0.0008
    Iodate0.174
    Nitrate<0.1
    Bicarbonate223.90
    Sulphate27.60
    Hydrogen phosphate <0.0025
    Hydrogen arsenate<0.01
    Total anions287.38

    Bad Ragaz spa resort

    Bad Ragaz stands for a centuries-old bathing tradition, wonderful natural surroundings, fresh mountain air, relaxation and a wide range of sports activities. Guests will find everything here that they need for active and relaxing holidays. The main attraction in Bad Ragaz is the body-temperature Tamina spring water, which bubbles out of a nearby gorge at 36.5°C. Immersing yourself in the comfortingly warm and also invigorating thermal water is true enjoyment.

    Tamina Therme – the first thermal water indoor pool in Europe

    The Tamina spring not only gives its name to the Therme, but also provides the healing thermal water. In the sixteenth century, the physician and alchemist Paracelsus praised the healing effects of the water, which due to its low mineral content and a temperature of 36.5°C, is regarded as a hot spring.

    In the early days, the first spa guests were lowered into the gorge on ropes – since 1840, a pipe four kilometres in length has brought the spring water to Bad Ragaz, where in 1872 Europe’s first thermal water indoor pool was created: the Tamina Therme. This laid the foundation for the area to gain a worldwide reputation as a bathing and spa resort, attracting notable guests such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Thomas Mann and Victor Hugo.

    Immerse yourself, recharge your batteries and take a break in Bad Ragaz

    The wonderful natural surroundings begin right outside the door and offer the best opportunity to relax and recharge your batteries. No matter whether you decide to take a walk in the Giessenpark with its majestic old trees, enjoy the pleasantly cool Tamina gorge or take advantage of the expansive parks with the many fountains, holidays in Bad Ragaz and in the Heidiland are a treat for all of your senses. “Hiersein ist herrlich”, roughly translated as “It is marvellous to be here.” The lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote these words during a stay in Bad Ragaz, where he, along with many other famous figures, was a regular guest at this health, holiday and adventure destination.

    Bad Pfäfers

    Bad Pfäfers was first documented in 1382. At first, patients bathed directly at the spring in rock pits and wooden tubs. For up to 10 days, they stayed in the water almost continuously, leaving it when only absolutely necessary. It was thought that the water would soften their skin so that the toxic substances could be excreted from the body. However, it was difficult to access the terrifying gorge – those who could climbed down ladders; others were lowered down in baskets on ropes.

    Starting in 1350, wooden bathhouses were built across the raging Tamina. In 1630, the spring water was first routed away from the gorge in wooden channels. The first bathhouse outside the gorge was then built. Thanks to better access from Valens, Bad Pfäfers attracted an increasing number of spa guests. Between 1704 and 1718, abbots Bonifaz Tschupp and Bonifaz zur Gilgen oversaw the construction of the bathhouses, most of which still stand today. In their heyday, they could accommodate up to 300 guests. After the Benedictine monastery was closed, the spring and bathhouses became the property of the canton of St. Gallen in 1838. The canton made Bad Pfäfers accessible via a road from Ragaz in 1839. Bad Pfäfers continued to be operated as a rehabilitation clinic and was open until 1969. The Valens Clinic took over operations in 1970. The 700-year tradition of bathing in the Tamina gorge had come to an end.

    As the owner, the canton of St. Gallen did not see any purpose for the abandoned buildings. They were therefore to be demolished and a kiosk would provide visitors with the most essential food items. When as a first step the bathhouse in the rear was demolished in 1974, the action group Haus Bad Pfäfers came together in strong opposition. The primary school teacher from Bad Ragaz Josef Bärtsch was the first to protest. Politicians from all levels and culturally interested individuals were able to halt the further demolition and initiate the process to designate Bad Pfäfers as a historical site. Their initiative to restore the buildings has been promoted since 1975 by the association Freunde von Bad Pfäfers (Friends of Bad Pfäfers). Together with the Confederation, the canton of St. Gallen and the municipalities of Pfäfers and Bad Ragaz, a viable restoration and utilisation plan was developed and the necessary funding for the project was found.

    Between 1983 and 1985, the remaining building in the front and the chapel were completely restored. Two additional construction phases followed that lasted until 1995.

    The total costs amounted to some 10 million Swiss francs.

     

    Altes Bad Pfäfers

    THE OLDEST RESTORED BAROQUE BATHHOUSE IN SWITZERLAND

    Today, Altes Bad Pfäfers serves as a museum, restaurant and location for cultural events. Each year, around 50,000 people visit the Tamina gorge and Altes Bad Pfäfers. The Altes Bad Pfäfers Foundation with its Board of Trustees and operating commission ensures the maintenance and operation of the organisation, which is divided into a number of specific areas.

    The association Freunde von Bad Pfäfers takes care, for example, that Altes Bad Pfäfers is made a focus in the municipality and organises a cultural programme together with the cultural commission. The entire building, including the utility rooms and chapel, is open to visitors. Altes Bad Pfäfers houses three museums: the bathhouse museum, monastery museum and Paracelsus historical site. A media room and a 45-minute audio walk have made a visit to the museum into a digital experience. The restored Alte Küche (old kitchen), which once was able to serve up to 300 guests, can also be toured. The museums are open daily during the season from around the end of April to mid-October. Qualified staff lead guided tours on the origins of the thermal spring, the fascinating history of the centuries-old bathing culture and the construction of baroque bathhouses.