City Domat/Ems



Show all 4 images

Domat/Ems mit Rhein
With some 8,000 inhabitants, Domat/Ems is the fourth largest municipality in Graubünden, and it keeps growing. The village is an interesting linguistic subject as it is the northernmost location where Romansh is spoken officially.


Domat/Ems lies at the beginning of the wide Rhine valley, framed by wooded hills and high mountain ranges. It is a landscape of unmistakable grandeur. Characteristic for Domat/Ems is its location amidst small, round hills call "Tumas" by locals. The village is bustling with life. Cultural, sports and leisure events and facilities like a very attractive golf course, Switzerland's longest pump track, the beautiful landscape, practical shopping opportunities and the modern infrastructure linking the village to Chur, the Surselva valley and southern Graubünden.


Excavated settlements date the first humans living in the area to the late bronze age,  around the 11th century BCE. Throughout the Middle Ages, the monasteries of Pfäfers and Disentis as well as several noble families owned land in and around Domat/Ems. The castle that was built on the "Tuma" or hill fittingly called "Casté" became derelict in the second half of the 15th century. Its mighty tower collapsed in 1700. Together with the neighbouring villages of Rhäzüns, Bonaduz and Felsberg, Domat/Ems was part of the Rhäzüns dominion. In 1497, it came into possession of King Maximilian I of the Habsburg dynasty.

The Carolingian church S. Pieter (St. Peter) was built around 800 on the eastern side of the same hill as the castle. On the "Tuma" Turera stands the parish church S. Gion Baptista (St. John the Baptist) from the 12th century. Its great defensive tower was probably part of the original design. The late Gothic winged altar with its precious wood carvings dates back to the early 16th century. The more recent parish church Nossa Dunna d'Avuost (Our Lady of the Assumption) was consecrated in 1739. Its main altar was gifted by Emperor Charles VI. Unlike its neighbour parishes of Chur and Felsberg, Domat/Ems remained Catholic during the Reformation and has retained a rich religious tradition.

On 3 May 1799, local militia troops were dealt a bloody defeat at the hand of French troops. Between 1815 and 1819, the Rhäzüns dominion and with it Domat/Ems became part of the canton Graubünden. Until late in the 20th century the village was heavily reliant on agriculture. The alpine pastures Alp Urtgicla on the mountain Dreibündenstein and Alp Ranasca in the Surselva valley have been linked to Domat/Ems since 1469. But many villagers were forced to leave. First many became mercenaries, more recently they found work in the hospitality industry. Many children and young adults left for southern Germany.

In 1936, Werner Oswald founded the company Holzverzuckerungs-AG, which would later become the Ems Group and spearhead Ems' transition from a farming village to an industrial area. The large population influx caused by this development led to significant changes in the cultural and linguistic makeup of Domat/Ems. While in 1920 83% of villagers spoke Romansh, by 2000 that figure had dwindled to a mere 12%. In the same period, the proportion of Catholics dropped from 96% to just under two-thirds.

Bilingual community

Despite the significant decline of the Romansh language, Domat/Ems has remained officially bilingual to this day (both its names, "Domat" and "Ems" go back to Romansh "Amedes"). But Romansh leads an insular existence here, since it has almost entirely disappeared from neighbouring communities. All the more reason for Domat/Ems to conserve its second language. The dialect of Romansh that is spoken in Domat/Ems is unique, as it is unlike the dialects spoken in other Romansh communities. In the German-speaking population of Graubünden, the village is sometimes called "Welschen-Ems" because of its bilingualism - "Welsch" is a German term for a Romance language speaker.


Domat/Ems lies at the beginning of the Rhine valley, framed by wooded hills and high mountain ranges - a landscape of unmistakable grandeur. Characteristic for Domat/Ems is its location amidst small, round hills call "Tumas" by locals. "Tumas" are relicts of past landslides which now dominate the landscape around Domat/Ems. They are made up of hard debris that wasn't washed away by erosion over time. The prominent cones of detritus lie at the southern foot of the mountains and fan out into the valley floor, where they gently ebb away into the plain. The "Tumas" are under natural conservation.



7013 Domat/Ems

Responsible for this content Chur Tourism.