A Walser family

Gressoney-La-Trinité

Gressoney-La-Trinité (Trinity) in front of the Monte Rosa massif
Gressoney-La-Trinité (Trinity) in front of the Monte Rosa massif
The Curta House in the hamlet of Orsia (1588/1789)
The Curta House in the hamlet of Orsia (1588/1789)

The family, whose name is written in German and Italian "Curta" (pronounced "kuʁta") and Savoyard patois "Curtaz" (pronounced "kyʁta", the "z" is not spoken and shows the emphasis on the second to last syllable) , is located in the Valais and Vaud (Pays de Vaud) above Lake Geneva and since 1445 also in Gressoney (in Walserditsch: Greschonei), a Walser village on the south side of Monte Rosa. First there is the notary Johann Jacob Curtaz (1436-1510), who lived in Orsio, a hamlet in the "Oberteil", in the now independent municipality of Gressoney-La-Trinité.

 

The family's origins are said to lead to the Valais via the Curta / Curtaz in Aigle and Yvorne (Vaud / Pays de Vaud). There is "Willelmus de Arvilar", "dite Curta", in Bramois (today a district of Sion) in 1278 the first mentioned Curta. He was married to Bruna, apparently a daughter of Girold I. de Turre, Major of Sitten and reeve of Ollon. It is believed that the Curta from the Valais goes back to the Curti, a family of notaries and merchants, who had resided in the Lombard city of Gravedona on Lake Como since the 11th century and then also in Cantù. This is borne out by the family relationships in Lombardy around Como, Cantù and Gravedona that have been maintained until the middle of the 14th century and personal attributions such as "Lumbardi" that we still find in the following three generations.


Gressoney-Saint-Jean

Postcard view (late 19th century)
Postcard view (late 19th century)
The cath. Church in Gressoney-Saint Jean
The cath. Church in Gressoney-Saint Jean
The old Curta house in Ober-Chaschtel from 1580 with the chapel built by the notary Johann Angelin Curta in 1670
The old Curta house in Ober-Chaschtel from 1580 with the chapel built by the notary Johann Angelin Curta in 1670

In Gressoney's main part "Mittelteil", named after the patron of the parish church, John the Baptist, two branches of the family have developed over time, the "Curta Branche Castel and Chemonal" and the "Curtaz Branche Capaluogo and Prédilys". In Castel (Chaschtel) the notary Cristofel built the still existing "old Curta house" in 1580. The family painters (z'Moalersch), who were at home in Chemonal, also descended from him. There were over a dozen pastors in the family. Above all, however, the Curta practiced notaries or were merchants. The merchant, painter, photographer and philanthropist Valentin Curta (1861-1929) achieved great fame through the first travel guide for Gressoney and his chronicle "Gressoney then and now".

 

Since agriculture in the so-called "little ice age" from the 15th to the 19th century was no longer sufficient for food, many men of Gressoney earned money as merchants in Switzerland and on the Upper Rhine. It is not for nothing that Gressoney is listed in "Krämertal" in contemporary maps. As part of the Duchy of Savoy, it was also part of the Roman-German Empire at that time. But mainly thanks to their Alemannic mother tongue, the Gressoney people easily found access to the people of the Bernese Land, on Lake Zurich or Lake Constance, as well as in the Black Forest and on the Baden or Alsatian side of the Rhine Valley.

 

Today, several families from the "Capaluogo / Predilys branch" still live in Gressoney with descendants in Indonesia and England. Likewise, from a secondary branch of the family established in the neighboring upper Ayastal (Canton des Allemands) in the 17th century, there are several descendants in Extrepiraz (patois: Ehtrepira), Brusson (patois: Breutson / Brétson, Walserditsch: Britse), in Verrès and in Ivrea. The "Castel / Chemonal" branch has continued on the Upper Rhine as the "Castel / Upper Rhin" branch.


On the Upper Rhine

Freiburg im Breisgau with its cathedral
Freiburg im Breisgau with its cathedral
The Litschgy house in Bad Krozingen
The Litschgy house in Bad Krozingen
The church of Oberweier
The church of Oberweier
The center of Kappel / Rhine
The center of Kappel / Rhine

Among the Gressoney merchants, the Curta have the earliest and closest relationships to the region on the Upper Rhine, in addition to the Litschgi. A Hans Curta was a member of the merchant guild "Zum Falkenberg" in Freiburg im Breisgau before 1501. Between 1556 and 1658 at least 89 entries in the stand money books of the Freiburg fairs refer to Curta from Gressoney.

 

Some also established trading branches here. Johann Angelin's son Peter Curta from the "Castel / Chemonal" branch had been a member of the Freiburg merchants' guild "Zum Falkenberg" since 1684 and opened a cloth shop here in 1698. His sister Johanna was the wife of the businessman and large entrepreneur Johannes Litschgi from Gressoney in neighboring Krozingen, where he became known as the "Fugger" of Breisgau.

 

Peter's grandson, Johann Joseph Curtaz (1733-1796), son of the notary of the same name, Johann Joseph Curta (1698-1779), was sent to relatives in Switzerland or South Baden at the age of twelve to learn the trade of the cloth merchant. He probably came to his uncle Johannes Michael Curta, son of Peter Curta, who died in 1737 in Freiburg. He then settled as a merchant around 1764 north of Freiburg in Oberweier at the up-and-coming trade and industrial city of Lahr on the western edge of the central Black Forest. There he was married twice. However, only seven of the twelve children reached adulthood. Descendants of Johann Joseph Curtaz can still be found in three families in Oberweier and the neighboring town of Friesenheim as well as in Offenburg, Ladenburg and near Hamburg.

 

The oldest son of Johann Joseph Curtaz from Oberweier, Johann Valentin (1780-1840), was also traditionally sent into business administration. There were close ties to the merchant Johann Franz Valentin Curta (1748-1805) from z'Moalersch in Chemonal (Gressoney), who probably knew Johann Joseph Curtaz through his training in Switzerland and southern Baden, and then settled in Hüfingen on the eastern edge of the southern Black Forest in 1788 and opened an office. He was probably not only the namesake, but as the closest relative in the German lands probably also the godfather of Johann Valentin and after his father's early death in 1796 also the guardian of the then 16-year-old. Because under his presence as a best man, Johann Valentin married in 1803 not far from Oberweier in Kappel on the Rhine, and settled there as a merchant and later a master tailor. The spelling of the name of the family changed in Kappel in contrast to the Oberweirer relatives via Curta and Kurta to Korta. Today, eight families from this branch still live in and around Kappel, as well as three more in Speyer and near Karlsruhe. Some are today even in the USA.

 

(November 2, 2017 - June 17, 2020)


Coat of arms and seals

From left to right: Coat of arms of Curti (Gravedona), coat of arms of Courten (Valais), seal and merchant mark of Peter Curta (1698, 1734), coat of arms of the Curta branch Castel and Chemonal, coat of arms of the Curtaz branch Capaluogo and Prédilys