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Older than the discovery of America: the Basel Autumn Fair

Published on 8/12/2016 by

The right connections can simplify everyday life in the business world – and this is something that held true more than 500 years ago already. Because the privilege of holding fairs that Basel was awarded in 1471 was also due to a Pope who was very kindly disposed towards the city.

Basel's mayor, Hans von Flachslanden, had three wishes when he travelled to Rome to congratulate the freshly elected Pope Pius II in 1458: the granting of an "annual fair", permission to found a university and the renewed choice of Basel as a meeting place for a possible further reform council. The council had already met in Basel from 1431 to 1449. One of the participants was church secretary Enea Silvio de Piccolomini. Piccolomini loved the city and was very kindly disposed towards it. And it was precisely this Piccolomini who ascended the Chair of Peter as Pope Pius II.

At the request of the City of Basel and mayor Hans von Flachslanden, the Pope signed a letter of recommendation to Emperor Frederick III. The letter recommended the foundation of a university and the granting of the right to hold a fair. While the university was founded as early as 1460, Basel only received the privilege to hold a fair on 11 July 1471 from Emperor Frederick III.

From then onwards, the city was entitled to hold two 14-day fairs; one prior to St. Martin's Day, known as the "Martini Fair" and one at Whitsun. The Autumn Fair has been held ever since then, without interruption, and is supplemented by the Autumn Trade Fair in the Basel exhibition halls. The Whitsun fair was discontinued as of 1494 already.

Picture: MCH Group

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