Samnaun and its relationship with the Lower Engadin

For many centuries, the history of Samnaun has been identical with the history of its heartland in the Lower Engadine region. The people in both valleys were subjects of the same ruling families. The year 1529, the beginning of the Reformation in the Engadine region, also saw the start of many a strife between Samnaun and Ramosch. While in Samnaun the majority of the population remained Catholic, the entire congregation of Ramosch converted to the reformed faith. These denominational differences were the supposed cause of dispute for over a century.

However, the real cause of the disagreements was the political dependence of Samnaun on Ramosch. Ramosch was the main village and Samnaun was tethered by them, in governmental and religious terms, by unjust treaties and decrees. For example, the Catholics of Samnaun, who at the end of the 16th century made up about two thirds of the population, are said to have been bound by dictatorial decrees even in the employment of their clergy.

From the beginning, the Protestant church in Samnaun had it tough. The first Protestant congregation is said to have come into existence in Samnaun in 1577 . The first years were apparently rather favourable for the new faith.

With the Austrian invasion in 1620, the Protestants hit hard times. They advanced as far as Compatsch, killed whoever fell into their hands, looted everything, took away their cattle and burnt down their dwellings. Then, under the protection of the Austrian military, the Capuchins settled here and did whatever they wanted in the valley, as if the church (which had served both confessions until then) now, after the expulsion of the Protestant pastor, belonged to them alone. The Capuchins received financial support from Austria. They were given a monthly subsidy from the treasury of the Finstermünz customs office. In 1638, for example, they had a bell made in Innsbruck and gave it the triumphant inscription that it was the fruit of the faith restored by Capuchins. Soon another bell was added, so that in Compatsch the congregation was called to service by a three-voice peal of bells, which continued until 1922. The Capuchins also tried exert their influence in Samnaun politically. And so in 1647 the valley's Father Samnaun had to leave Samnaun because he called on the people of Samnaun to place themselves under the protection of Austria and to renounce the Three Federations ("Drei Bünde").

However, the political dependence on Samnaun continued to be directed by the Ramosch municipality. Although the Samnauner were allowed to choose their own leader, he had to be endorsed by Ramosch and sworn in there. The leader or his deputy had to be reformed and the office of leader had to change annually between citizens of both denominations. This would have all been fine and proper. However, it caused the remaining reformed families to either convert to Catholicism or to leave for the reformed Engadin region. This meant that soon it was no longer possible to comply with the above confessional requirements for the appointment of political offices. Between 1753 and 1777, Samnaun was not able to appoint a single reformed leader. The people of Engadin were displeased with this and simply decided by court order that reformed Engadiners should occupy these offices now, who in turn soon demanded to have all the rights. They thus became de facto citizens of Samnaun. This set off a long-standing dispute in in 1779, in which Ramosch was primarily concerned with its political privileges in the valley. But Samnaun was anxious to gain its freedom and independence. The people of Samnaun firmly and faithfully stood up for their old faith and cleansed their home valley from the new reformed faith as from a disease. Samnaun finally emerged from this dispute as a municipality in its own right, and in 1806 the first municipal laws were put down in writing.