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In photos: Schaffhausen The woman who guards a Swiss town

The small town of Schaffhausen, on the border with Germany, is being guarded by a woman for the first time in the centuries-old history of the Munot fortress.

Karola Lüthi has been the guardian of the Munot fortress for two years. She is an active woman in her fifties.

"I already wanted to do this job 20 years ago. But at the time, I couldn't make my wish come true. A female guard? Never in a million years," she says, sitting in her apartment located inside the tower. 

Three years ago, she saw an ad for the much-coveted position. She had to first discuss it with her husband, because it was advertised as a job for a couple.

"I wrote the application letter of the century because I absolutely wanted to have this position," she says. Her application managed to stand out from around 80 others and she was selected for the job.

Call of duty

The circular fortress of "Munot" was built in the 16th century and became the emblem of Schaffhausen. The building was mainly used to keep an eye on the town to prevent attacks and fires. The role of the town’s guardian is even older than the building and dates back to 1377.

The "Guardian of Munot", who lived with his family in the tower's apartment, had a 360-degree view and had to sound the alarm in case of danger. Every evening, at 9pm, he also had to ring the bell for a quarter of an hour, after which the city gates were closed. The taverns and shops had to close and people had to go home.

Lüthi still rings the bell at 9pm today, but only for five minutes. This ritual is has become a part of the daily rhythm for the people of Schaffhausen.

"After the Munot bell tolls, it's time to go to bed," parents tell their children. The Lüthis are responsible for this task 365 days a year. They must therefore plan vacations or movie outings well in advance.

No longer aloof

The tasks of the "Guardian of Munot" involve much more than bell ringing. These include maintenance of the building, feeding of the fallow deer, guided tours for the many visitors and preparations for the cultural events organised by the Munot association.

 "We're very isolated here at the top, and you have to get used to it," says Lüthi. In the past, the guard was not allowed in town, because he was supposed be on surveillance duty in the tower. But this is no longer the case. Lüthi considers herself welcome in town and says that the people of Schaffhausen are delighted to have a woman serving in this position.

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