Zurich City Guide
Grossmünster Abbey (built 1100 - 1225): statue of emperor
Charlemagne (742-814) who is said to have founded an earlier church
at the place
Fraumünster Abbey (13th to 15th century)
with windows painted by Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule ETH
[Federal Institute of Technology],
designed by Gottfried Semper
and Johann Caspar Wolff
Townhall (built 1694-98 in late Renaissance / early Baroque style)
Centre Le Corbusier
Bahnhofstrasse: sculpture by Max Bill
- Turicum (Zurich) is first mentioned as a Roman town at a
strategically important place (end of Lake Zurich, bridge
over River Limmat) some 2000 years ago. At the time, there is
a toll station and a harbour as well as a military camp.
- Like most other old cities in the German empire, Zurich is a
Pfalz during the Middle Ages, i.e. a temporary seat of the
German emperor allowing him to stay for a few days and fulfill his
functions as supreme judge.
- Two important convents are founded around 800 A.D.
(Grossmünster abbey on the right shore of River Limmat) and
in 853 A.D. (Fraumünster abbey on the left shore of River Limmat).
The first abbess of Fraumünster is Hildegard, daughter of
German king Ludwig, she is given the title of princess with
remarkable privileges (under direct jurisdiction by the king)
and rights over vast territories.
The nuns of the abbey, daughters of the high nobility, are obliged
to sleep in the abbey and to take part in common prayers, but unlike
nuns in benedictine monasteries they are allowed to keep private property.
The same rules apply to the male priests residing in Grossmünster
abbey who are responsible for spiritual guidance of the nuns.
The twin abbeys preserve the tradition of Felix and Regula,
the local saints of Zurich. According to the legend Felix and Regula
are martyrs in the times of the Romans. Both first names are relatively
common in Switzerland until the 20th century.
- The town is growing fast in the 9th century due to general progress
in economy in central Europe. In 929 Zurich is mentioned as a city in
the specific sense of the word (with privileges) for the first time.
- In 1218 Zurich is granted the privilege of being put under direct
control by the king (i.e. no duke or count has any rights over the city).
- In 1336 a rebellion led by Rudolf Brun (born 1300, died 1360)
establishes a republican government by a council of noblemen, merchants
and craftsmen organized in guilds.
- Ongoing disputes between Zurich and the counts of Habsburg lead to an
alliance between Zurich and the core members (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden,
Lucerne) of the Swiss confederacy in 1351.
- 1523: Zurich becomes the center of
Switzerland's Reformation led by
Huldrych Zwingli. Monasteries are secularized (i.e. monks and
nuns are forced to return to a secular ("worldly")
lifestyle and church property is being confiscated by the state, which
adds to the wealth and powers of the city. Zwingli dies in 1531 in a
civil war between reformed Swiss cities and conservative rural republics
of central Switzerland staying with the traditional Roman Catholic
beliefs over matters of religious (and political) dominance in
the Swiss confederacy.
- 18th century: Zurich is a cultural center of liberal philosophers
and scholars (Johann Jakob Bodmer, Johann Jakob Breitinger, Johann
Caspar Lavater, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi)
- The city of Zurich plays a major role in 19th century liberal efforts
to establish civil liberties, modern democracy and national standards
(federal laws, weight, measures, currency, abolition of toll stations
within the country) against conservative federalists. Zurich, Winterthur
and numerous smaller towns in canton Zurich are pioneers of early
industrialization. Winterthur's back country (and the Bernese
Oberland region) are Switzerland's "Bible Belt" regions,
however, and therefore Zurich has seen frequent changes of cantonal
government between liberals and conservatives in the 19th century.
- The political difference between city and back country continues
to date: the mayor of the city of Zurich is a member of the
Social Democratic Party while the cantonal section of the right wing
Swiss People's Party acts as the think tank of new conservatism.
As a consequence, Zurich is often to be found among the moderately
conservative group of cantons if referendum results are displayed
in tables or coloured maps on a cantonal base.
- In two steps, 1893 and 1934, more than a dozen villages are
incorporated into the city.
- See also: general
History of Switzerland
is a traditional end of winter festival
with a parade of guilds, some of them in historical uniforms on
horseback. The highlight is burning the Böögg,
a symbolic snowman made from cotton wool, at 6 p.m. The faster the
Böögg explodes, the the hotter the summer will be
(according to the traditional weather rules ...). Originally
Sechseläuten [literally: ringing of the six o'clock bells]
was held to mark March 21st, the day when daylight lasts until
6 p.m. Because the weather is often not so nice in March, the
event has been postponed and is now held on the 3rd Monday of April.
A costume parade for children precedes the event on Sunday.
- Knabenschiessen [rifle shooting competition for boys].
The traditional event is open to girls today.
- Zurich has no traditional carnival. Its attitude towards rival Basel's
carnival has been formulated by Cabaret Rotstift in the 1970's:
"Mir Zürcher chönd halt eifach nöd begriife,
wie me so Froid cha ha am Trommle und am Pfiife."
[We, the folks from Zurich, just can't imagine how they may be so
delighted playing drums and flutes.]
There is only one thing to add: Zurich has found its own form of
popular mass amusement in the
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