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Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland (population: 366,145 in 2004; population of urban area: 1,091,732) and capital of the canton of Zürich. The metropolitan population is around 1.3 million. The city is Switzerland's main commercial and cultural centre (the political capital of Switzerland being Bern), and is widely considered to be one of the world's global cities. According to a survey in 2006, it is the city with the best quality of life in the world.
The origin of the name is probably the Celtic word Turus, a corroborating reference to which was found on a tomb inscription dating from the Roman occupation in the 2nd century; the antique name of the town in its romanized form was Turicum.
In Roman times, Turicum was a tax-collecting point at the border of Gallia Belgica (from AD 90 Germania superior) and Raetia for goods trafficked on the Limmat river. A Carolingian castle, built on the site of the Roman castle by the grandson of Charlemagne, Louis the German, is mentioned in 835 ("in castro Turicino iuxta fluvium Lindemaci"). Louis also founded the Fraumünster abbey in 853 for his daughter Hildegard. He endowed the Benedictine convent with the lands of Zürich, Uri, and the Albis forest, and granted the convent immunity, placing it under his direct authority.
In 1045, King Henry III granted the convent the right to hold markets, collect tolls, and mint coins, and thus effectively made the abbess the ruler of the city.
Zürich became reichsunmittelbar in 1218 with the extinction of the main line of the Zähringer family. A city wall was built during the 1230s, enclosing 38 hectares. Emperor Frederick II promoted the abbess of the Fraumünster to the rank of a duchess in 1234. The abbess assigned the mayor, and she frequently delegated the minting of coins to citizens of the city. However, the political power of the convent slowly waned in the 14th century, beginning with the establishment of the Zunftordnung (guild laws) in 1336 by Rudolf Brun, who also became the first independent mayor, i.e. not assigned by the abbess.
Zürich joined the Swiss confederation (which at that time was a loose confederation of de facto independent states) as the fifth member in 1351. Zürich was expelled from the confederation in 1440 due to a war with the other member states over the territory of Toggenburg (the Old Zürich War). Zürich was defeated in 1446, and re-admitted to the confederation in 1450.
Zwingli started the Swiss reformation at the time when he was the main preacher in Zürich. He lived there from 1484 until his death in 1531.
In 1839, the city had to yield to the demands of its rural subjects, following the Züriputsch of 6 September. Most of the ramparts built in the 17th century were torn down, without ever having been sieged, to allay rural concerns over the city's hegemony. The Treaty of Zurich between Austria, France, and Sardinia was signed in 1859.
From 1847, the Spanisch-Brötli-Bahn, the first railway on Swiss territory, connected Zürich with Baden, putting the Zürich Main Station at the origin of the Swiss rail network. The present building of the Hauptbahnhof (chief railway station) dates to 1871.
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