Leuk (French: ) is a municipality in the district of Leuk in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. On 1 January 2013 the former municipality of Erschmatt merged into the municipality of Leuk.
Since it controls access to the Gemmi Pass, it had some importance from the time of Roman Raetia. The Leukerbad thermal baths are just North of Leuk, towards the pass. It is the capital of the Leuk district of the Valais.
Leuk is home to one of the installations of Onyx, the Swiss interception system for signals intelligence gathering.
Leuk is first mentioned in 515 as villa de Leuca.
Leuk was already inhabited in the pre-Roman era. Scattered La Tene era graves with poppy-head pins, brooches and a belt hook have been found in Leuk. In the 6th century it belonged to the demesne of the King of Burgundy Sigismund, who donated it to the Abbey of Saint-Maurice. The local population of Romanized Celts gradually became Germanized around the turn of the millennium due to invading Alamanni. However, even by the 14th century there was still a strong Roman minority in Leuk.
The towns first church dates from the 6th or 7th century and probably originated from a Roman building. This church was replaced in the 9th century by a larger building. It was replaced again in the 11th and 12th centuries. The romanesque bell tower of the current church is from this third building. The current church was built by Ulrich Ruffiner in the gothic style. It was richly furnished with altars and sculptures and was consecrated in 1494 as St. Stephans Church by Bishop Jost von Silenen. In the charnel house, with its dance of death fresco, 26 statues dating from the 13th to 16th centuries were discovered in 1982 under about a meter (three feet) of bones. The statues including an excellent Pieta from the 14th century. In addition to St. Stephans parish church there were several other churches in town. They include a pilgrimage chapel at Thel and the Ringacker chapel, which was built in 1690-94 above a plague cemetery. A Marian shrine, whose hermitage was inhabited by a hermit around 1720-1885, is one of the most important baroque rooms of the Valais.
In the Early and High Middle Ages Leuk changed owners repeatedly until 1138 when it finally came under the authority of the Bishop of Sion. The new rulers encouraged Leuks development by granting concessions. In 1209 Leuk was given the right to have its own weights and measures. In 1285 they built a hospital and in 1310 they added a warehouse, one on the old trade route between northern Italy and the markets of Champagne. With the warehouse they established a group of teamsters that provided extra draft animals to help wagons make it over the mountains. The episcopal fief?holders Viztum and Meier built the Bishops Castle (the seat of Meier) and the Viztumsturm (Viztums tower). In the 14th century the castle ruled over three surrounding areas; Loye (Lobio), Tschablen (Cabulo) and Galdinen (Caldana). All three of those areas grew into independent municipalities. In 1458, Leuk codified the customary rights of the citizens into law. This "old castle law" was updated in 1563.
With the decline of the feudal system, the weakening of the secular episcopal power and the rise of the democratic self-consciousness of the Valais, the old order was replaced with a new power structure. The former leading families of de Leuca, Perrini, von Raron and Pontemallio were replaced with new families who had made their money in military service including: the Werra, Mageran, Allet, Ambuhl, Albertini, Gasner, Mayenzet, Zen-Ruffinen and Loretan. The village subsequently grew into an independent town with elegant homes and a new church. On the west, a tower and bridge were built in the Dala gorge. The Feschel gorge to the east was spanned with a bridge in 1563.
The two gorges and the river Rhone to the south provided excellent natural fortifications for the growing town. The borders of the town were the site of several bloody clashes. The first was the victory in 1296 of troops loyal to the bishop over the upper Valais nobility (including the vom Turn and von Raron families), who were supported by nobles from the Bernese Oberland. In 1386, Leuk prevented the advance of Count Amadeus VII of Savoy into the Upper Valais with the destruction of Dala bridge. In 1415, during the Rarner war, the Bishops Castle and the Viztumsturm were destroyed by invaders. In 1541, Ulrich Ruffiner built the present Gothic-style town hall on the ruins of the Viztumsturm. During the fighting against the French in 1799, after the Battle of Pfyn Leuk was burned but escaped further damage.
The parish of Leuk is first documented in 1227. Starting in 1500 a number of surrounding villages left the Leuk parish to form their own daughter parishes, including; 1501 Leukerbad, 1660 Gampel, 1663 Turtmann, 1962 Susten. In the second half of the 16th century, the leading Leuker families tended to Protestantism. However, in 1604, when the Valais Grand Council met in Visp and voted to remain with the Catholic faith, these the families (especially the Mageran and Ambuhl) decided to return to the old faith.
In the Middle Ages, the local economy was based on the transport of goods, alpine herding, farming and viticulture. The town produced gravel from the banks of the Rhone in the Pfynwald (Pfyn forest), until this was restricted for environmental reasons in the 1970s. Limestone mining commenced in 1928 on the Rhone in Susten but has now been given up. In 2005 there were ten large farms and seven wineries in the municipality. In 1908 the Alusuisse-Werke (now Alcan Ltd) opened a processing plant in Chippis and Steg which provided jobs for many people from Leuk. The Leuk-Leukerbad-Bahn railway line opened in 1915 and converted to bus operation in 1967. In 2005, the train station in Susten was rebuilt with a new railway bridge over the Rhone and a new rail tunnel towards Salgesch. Traditionally Leuk was the central administrative center of the region. At the beginning of the 21st century, it is also the educational, legal and services center in part due to the satellite earth station of International Teleport Switzerland AG. The large antennas of the earth station have made Leuk into a major intercontinental telecommunications center. Near the earth station are the antennas of the Swiss military Onyx system for electronic intelligence gathering.
In 1999, the Leuk Castle Foundation was established to restore and maintain the Bishops Castle in Leuk. As part of the restoration, one of the medieval towers was topped with a glass cupola by the architect Mario Botta.
Leuk has an area, as of 2011, of 44.1 square kilometers (17.0 sq mi). Of this area, 19.6% is used for agricultural purposes, while 48.9% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 4.8% is settled (buildings or roads) and 26.8% is unproductive land.
The municipality is the capital of the Leuk district. It is located above the right side of the Rhone, between the Dala gorge and the Feschelbach river. The town is surrounded by vineyards. It consists of the village of Leuk-Stadt, the castle, the village of Susten on the left bank of the Rhone and the hamlets of Brianen, Feithieren, Gampinen and Pfyn.
The municipalities of Erschmatt and Leuk are considering a merger on at a date in the future into the new municipality with an, as of 2011, undetermined name.
As of 2010, Leuk had an unemployment rate of 2.2%. As of 2008, there were 148 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 56 businesses involved in this sector. 218 people were employed in the secondary sector and there were 44 businesses in this sector. 850 people were employed in the tertiary sector, with 133 businesses in this sector. There were 1,595 residents of the municipality who were employed in some capacity, of which females made up 41.8% of the workforce.