Aviva Directory » Local & Global » Europe » Switzerland » Cities & Towns » Zurich

The city of Zürich, which is situated in the alps at the northwestern end of Lake Zürich, is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the the canton of Zürich. The Limmat and Sihl Rivers run through the city, and it is the financial, industrial, and cultural hub of the country. The official language of Zürich is German, but the language actually spoken is a dialect which mixes Swiss German and Alemannic known as Zürich German.

The Celtic people called Hevletii, pressed by the Germanic tribes, migrated from southern Germany to what would become Switzerland in the 2nd century BC. They left their home in southern Germany to what is now northern Switzerland, settlinng on the right ban of the Limmat River. The Romans conquered their community in about 58 BC, and the Helvetii migrated to Gaul. The Romans made a customs post of the settlement, which they named Turicum.

Zürich thrived under Roman rule, and soon became a small army stronghold with an adjacent Roman village. But after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476, the small village was conquered by the Alemanni who were a Germanic people, and then to the Franks who used Zürich as its royal residence.

Traders relocated to the community, taking advantage of its placement, which straddled European trade routes, causing the village to develop quickly. In 1218, Zürich became an imperial free city. It joined the Swiss Confederation, which banded together to oppose the Habsburgs from Austria in 1351. They accepted a constitution in 1336, based on the guild system; a guild system which balanced the power of all the local trades, crafts, and the nobility. The guilds became stronger, and in 1400, the city purchased its freedom from the emperor, a move which caused the oppressive taxes to be lifted.

In 1519, a priest at the Grossmünster named Huldrych Zwingli started a sermon series which would lead to the Swiss Protestant Reformation and which would change the face of Zürich. He spoke out against the Catholic Church's custom of fasting for Lent as well as the use of statues and religious icons in houses of worship. He participated in disputations in the town hall. The question of removing images from churches was the main topic. Zwingli and fellow reformer Leo Jud were, from all reports, the stars of that debate.

In small steps over the next two years, images and icons were removed from Zurich churches, the reorganization of the ministry, reforms regarding baptism, the long and tedious mass was replaced by a shorter and simpler communion service, and the suppression of organs. During the Counter-Reformation, which began in 1545 with the opening of the Council of Trent to 1648 with the end of the Thirty Years' War, the city of Zurich gave asylum to refugees from northern Italy and France. The presence of the new residents stimulated already robust cultural and economic growth.

When Napoleon occupied Switzerland in 1798, Zurich, like other cities and cantons, was reorganized under the Helvetic Republic. In 1830, the canton of Zürich, which was dominated by the city, became a sovereign member of the Swiss Confederation.

Paris's July Revolution in 1830 ignited similar revolutions in the cantons which ended up fostering liberal reform. During this period, Zürich changed its constitution numerous times.

Switzerland was neutral during World War I and again offered asylum to refugees. One of those refugees was writer James Joyce who remained in Zürich until his death in 1941.

Since the late 20th century, Zürich has been governed by a center-left coalition which has as their agenda sustainable development. The city also pursues aggressive environmental, energy, and spatial development policies.

 

 

Recommended Resources


Search for Zurich on Google, Bing, or Yahoo!