|Berne's famous ancient fountains|
Eglise française [French church], 13th century
[seat of Swiss government and parliament]
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|Bern Museums (portal site)|
Founded in 1191 by duke Berchtold V of Zähringen, Bern is one of the younger cities in Switzerland.
In 1218 the last duke of Zähringen dies, Bern becomes a free city.
The counts of Habsburg and Kyburg controlling northern Switzerland, try to extend their influence southwards and westwards. Bern seeks an alliance with the dukes of Savoy in 1255.
In the 1339 battle of Laupen, Bern expands at the cost of its sister city Fribourg (founded by the dukes of Zähringen as well) and the Burgundian nobility.
1353: Bern joins the old Swiss confederacy.
German emperor Sigismund bans the counts of Habsburg in 1415 because they back the "wrong" pope in the schisma. Together with the other members of the confederacy, Bern profits of the occasion to conquer Habsburg's native territories in northern Switzerland (Aare river valley). The western part comes under Bern's rule, the southern part under Lucerne's and the central part comes under joint administration of all confederates. This is a major extension of Bern's influence.
In the battles of Grandson, Murten and Nancy (Burgundy, France) Bern defeats duke Charles of Burgundy. But the Swiss allies fear that Bern will become too mighty, so Burgundy is sold to the counts of Habsburg.
The counts of Gruyère spend too much money, so they get indebted to the cities of Bern and Fribourg. Finally they have to cede their posessions, Fribourg gets the French speaking part around the little town of Gruyère and Bern the region around Saanen / Gstaad (Bernese Oberland).
The Swiss reformation starts in Zurich, lead by Huldrych Zwingli in 1523. From 1526 Guillaume Farel, a French reformer supporting Zwingli's theology, preaches in some French speaking regions under Bernese control or associated to Bern. After a public disputation in Bern the council of Bern decides to reform the church according to Zwingli's principles in 1528. Farel reaches Geneva in 1532, but with limited success.
In 1536 Bern conquers the large area between Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Geneva today known as canton Vaud from the dukes of Savoy. A Bernese bailiff resides in Chillon castle (Montreux, Lake Geneva), a fortress once built by the dukes of Savoy to control the Grand St. Bernard pass route from Lake Geneva to Italy.
The ancien regime of the Bernese aristocracy is far from democratic and the population in the conquered regions tries to get more rights in several armed insurrections (1523, 1653, 1723, 1749).
From 1795 to 1798 most other Swiss cities are willing to grant more rights to their back country population - but Bern doesn't. So the population of Vaud seeks and gets support from Napoleon, and the ancient Bernese regime is defeated by French troops.
In 1803 the failure of the revolutionary, centralist Swiss government (Helvetic Republic) becomes evident and Napoleon decides to reestablish a Swiss confederation. Vaud and some other regions become independent members of the confederation.
The 1815 Vienna conference tries to restore Europe in its political structures before the French revolution. The cantons of Geneva, Valais, Neuchâtel, annexed by the French, join the Swiss confederation as independent members. But canton Jura, formely under the rule of the prince bishop of Basel and then also annexed by Napoleon, is given to Bern as a compensation for the lost territory of Vaud.
The restauration of undemocratic rule does not last for long, however. In the 1830's the population of back country regions all over Switzerland calls for reforms. This time the Bernese patricians resign before it's too late in 1831, while canton Baselland separates from Basel-Stadt in 1833.
As a centralist government would evidently not be accepted, some people call for a modern constitution according to the federalist model of the U.S.A., but they have to wait. When the idea is finally accepted in 1848, Bern becomes the federal capital. The choice is due to Bern's geographical situation near the border between German and French speaking regions and to its stable support for a balanced liberal policy during the 1840's.
Though they have full civil and political rights in the modern canton of Bern, a majority of the three catholic Jura districts wants full autonomy. In 1947 a separatist movement is founded. Finally the Swiss population decides in a 1978 national referendum to accept the canton of Jura as an independent member of the confederation from January, 1st 1979. Three reformed French speaking districts remain with Bern, however.
Zibelemärit [onion market] (4th Monday in November). This very special market day beginns very early in the morning. It is not only popular among the folks of the region, there are early extra trains from Basel, Lucerne and Zurich bringing thousands of visitors. The Bernese say: "S' isch zum Gränne schöön." [It's so nice that you could start weeping.] Of course, you have to eat a real Bernese quiche made from onions on this occasion.
|Bern Tourist Office|
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