City History: Bern
You may have enjoyed our city review of Bern, the capital of Switzerland. As I mentioned there, Bern is World Heritage Site.
Being part of UNESCO heritage means that there’s a story behind which might be pretty interesting. So, I’ll give you an overview of the history of Bern.
First, one might wonder where the name Bern comes from. Let me tell you that this is uncertain, one can only speculate. Although there are many different attemps to explain the origin of the name Bern, I decided to tell you the legend.
Bern as a result of “Bear”
Bern was founded in 1191. The background of this was a task by Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen. He commanded a nobleman called Cuno von Bubenberg to use a peninsula to build a city which would be covered by an oak forest.
During his works, Cuno von Bubenberg has killed a bear while he was hunting. Due to that, the coat of arms of Bern covers a bear. But don’t forget, that’s just the legend, there are many more conjectures.
The expansion of Bern
Bern went through three expansion phases. In the first, Bern underwent an expansion towards the west. As a result of the second, the main gate was formed by the Prison Tower. Those two phases were in the 13th century. The final one started in the 14th century and took up to the present railway station.
Increasing meaning of the city of Bern
If you have a closer look at the image below, you will recognize a certain date.
This is a photo from a part of the Bundeshaus. The reason for the significance of the year 1291 is Bern’s gain of freedom: In the battle of Dornbühl against Fribourg and their rulers, the Habsburger, Bern was able to win and thus gain their final indepenence.
In the late middle ages, Bern was seen as one of the most powerful as well as biggest city-states north of the Alps after Bern became the 8th member of the Confederation in 1353.
Bern suffering from a heavy loss
After the city of Bern was burned down to the ground in 1405, reconstruction works began immediately. Thanks to that, most of the houses were already rebuilt in the material of sandstone in the 16th and 17th century.
As a result, most of the original medieval cityscape remained up to today.
A few more milestones of Bern
1528: Reformation in Bern was introduced by followers of Zwingli
1798: French troops walked in, triggering the decline of the old city of Bern
1834: Bern became a university city
1848: Federal Capital of Switzerland
Nowadays, Bern is the capital of Switzerland and the seat of the Swiss government.