The Kindlifresserbrunnen (Swiss German for Child Eater Fountain) is a fountain at the Kornhausplatz (Granary Place) in Bern, Switzerland. It is one of the Old City of Bern's fountains from the 16th century.
It was created in 1545/46 by Hans Gieng in place of a wooden fountain from the 15th century. The new fountain's original name was Platzbrunnen (Plaza Fountain); the current name was used first in 1666. Kindli is a Swiss German diminutive for the German word Kind, meaning child. A literal translation of the name Kindlifresserbrunnen therefore would be "Fountain of the Eater of Little Children".
The fountain sculpture is a sitting ogre devouring a naked child. Placed at his side is a bag containing more children. Because the ogre is wearing a pointed hat resembling a Jewish hat, it has been speculated about the possibility of the ogre being the depiction of a Jew as an expression of blood libel against Jews. Another theory is that the statue is the likeness of Krampus, the beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved. According to other theories it is a depiction of the Greek god Cronus eating his children or the Roman Saturn eating the months, though Cronus should have six and Saturn twelve rather than the sculpture's eight. It may also represent a warning to children to avoid falling into the, at that time, nearby Bear Pits. Another theory is that it represented Cardinal Schiner who led the Swiss Confederation into several bloody defeats in northern Italy. An alternative theory is that it is a depiction of the older brother of Duke Berchtold (founder of Bern) who it is claimed, was so incensed by his younger brother's overshadowing of him that he collected and ate the town's children but such an incident is not recorded in Bern's history books. A final theory is that it is just a carnival character intended to frighten disobedient children.
- Switzerland is yours.com travel guide accessed April 25, 2008
- See the City Council of Bern minutes of the May 14, 1998 5:00PM session accessed November 23, 2008(in German) for one discussion of an anti-Semitic meaning in the statue
- Hofer, Paul (1952). Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kantons Bern, Band 1: Die Stadt Bern. Basel: Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte. p. 281.(in German)
- Hofer, pg. 274, note 4
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