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Starving children.

The troops of Grisons were standing in front of a special building. It was for one thing the only inn in the whole village. At the same time its style reminded the mats, coming as they did from the Engadine, that, in crossing the Pass Fuorn (German: Ofenpass), they had entered a different valley. According to its geographical location and alignment, this valley belonged broadly to the Austrian Tirol, but it was tied politically and linguistically to Grisons. At least until frontiers were later re-drawn, the Val Müstair was therefore shaped by two cultures. Accordingly, two distinct styles were apparent in the way the houses were built: whilst the walls and windows resembled those in their own houses in the Engadine, to the mats the design of the Chasa Chalavaina's gable seemed strange. The open space under the roof, with its exposed beams, was typical of the Tirol. It was used for drying meat, fruit and herbs.

Benedikt Fontana gave his last speech from the terrace of what is today the Hotel Chasa Chalavaina. The next day, at the Calven, a defile between the two Austrian villages of Taufers and Laatsch, the Grisons encountered an enemy army twice their own strength. 12,000 Hapsburg troops were dug in there behind a rampart. The mats were able nevertheless to outdo the superior opposing force. A detachment made a strenuous night march in order to outflank the entrenchment and attack the Austrians from the rear. After a bitter struggle, during which a great deal of blood was spilt, the Bündner succeeded in beating Maximilian's army. The Engadine force is said to have lost 2,000 men—among them, Benedikt Fontana.


For days after the Bündner's victory, they put the upper Etsch Valley (German: Etschtal) to fire and the sword. The villages of Mals, Glurns and Laatsch went up in flames. Paul Foffa, the Bündner historian, tells how, when the battle and the raids were over, almost the only survivors were a "herd of emaciated children, seen in a field grazing the grass like cattle".
The Battle of the Calven went down in history as one of Switzerland's great military achievements.


Only a few weeks after the mats' victory, Maximilian retaliated with a new campaign. His soldiers created the same kind of picture in the Val Müstair as had been left behind in the Etschtal by the Engadine troops; villages were completely destroyed. The Chasa Chalavaina, however survived the troubles unscathed.


The Battle of the Calven demonstrates the strategic importance of the Val Müstair. For Maximilian, the Valley was the eastern gateway to the centre of the Confederation; it gives access to passes which were crucial positions for anyone wishing to reach the heart of the country. Secondly, goods from the fertile South Tirol were carried to market via routes through the Valley. What is more, it lies on the north/south link between the Reschen Pass and the Umbrail Pass—for Maximilian an enormously important axis in keeping together his great empire. These routes have several times thrown the Val Müstair into the chaos of armed conflict.


The Battle of the Calven gave the Chasa Chalavaina its name; the Rumantsch words "Chasa Chalavaina" mean "Calven House". The two crossed swords of the inn-sign commemorate the battle.

 

 
 

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