Lucerne (; , ; , ; , ; ; Lucerne Swiss-German: Lozärn) is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and a nexus of transportation, telecommunications, and government of this region. The city's urban area consists of 17 cities and towns located in three different cantons with an overall population of about 250,000 people.
Due to its location on the shore of Lake Lucerne (der Vierwaldstättersee), within sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne has long been a destination for tourists. One of the city's famous landmarks is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden bridge first erected in the 14th century.
Early history and founding (750–1386)
After the fall of the Roman Empire beginning in the 6th century, Germanic Alemannic peoples increased their influence on this area of present day Switzerland. Around 750 the Benedictine Monastery of St. Leodegar was founded, which was later acquired by Murbach Abbey in Alsace in the middle of the 9th century, and by this time the area had become known as Luciaria. In 1178 Lucerne acquired its independence from the jurisdiction of Murbach Abbey, and the founding of the city proper probably occurred that same year. The city gained importance as a strategically located gateway for the growing commerce from the Gotthard trade route.
By 1290 Lucerne had become a self-sufficient city of reasonable size with about 3000 inhabitants. About this time King Rudolph I von Habsburg gained authority over the Monastery of St. Leodegar and its lands, including Lucerne. The populace was not content with the increasing Habsburg influence, and Lucerne allied with neighboring towns to seek independence from their rule. Along with Lucerne, the three other forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden formed the "eternal" Swiss Confederacy, known as the Eidgenossenschaft, on November 7, 1332. Later the cities of Zürich, Zug and Bern joined the alliance. With the help of these additions, the rule of Austria over the area came to an end. The issue was settled by Lucerne’s victory over the Habsburgs in the Battle of Sempach in 1386. For Lucerne this victory ignited an era of expansion. The city shortly granted many rights to itself, rights which had been withheld by the Habsburgs until then. By this time the borders of Lucerne were approximately those of today.
From city to city-state (1386–1520)
In 1415 Lucerne gained Reichsfreiheit from Emperor Sigismund and became a strong member of the Swiss confederacy. The city developed its infrastructure, raised taxes, and appointed its own local officials. The city’s population of 3000 dropped about 40% due to the Black Plague and several wars around 1350.
In 1419 town records show the first witch trial against a male person.
Swiss-Catholic town (1520–1798)
Among the growing towns of the confederacy, Lucerne was especially popular in attracting new residents. As the confederacy broke up during Reformation after 1520, most cities became Protestant, but Lucerne remained Catholic. After the victory of the Catholics over the Protestants in the Battle at Kappel in 1531, the Catholic towns dominated the confederacy. The future, however, belonged to the Protestant cities like Zürich, Bern and Basel, which defeated the Catholics in the second Villmerg War in 1712. The former prominent position of Lucerne in the confederacy was lost forever. In the 16th and 17th centuries, wars and epidemics became steadily less frequent and as a result the population of the country increased strongly.
Lucerne was also involved in the Swiss peasant war of 1653.
Century of revolutions (1798–1914)
In 1798, nine years after the beginning of the French Revolution, the French army marched into Switzerland. The old confederacy collapsed and the government became democratic. The industrial revolution hit Lucerne rather late, and by 1860 only 1.7% of the population worked in industry, which was about a quarter of the national average at that time. Agriculture, which employed about 40% of the workers, was the main form of economic output in the canton. Nevertheless, industry was attracted to the city from areas around Lucerne. From 1850 to 1913, the population quadrupled and the flow of settlers increased. In 1856 trains first linked the city to Olten and Basel, then Zug and Zürich in 1864 and finally to the south in 1897.
Recent events in Lucerne
On June 17, 2007, voters of the city of Lucerne and the adjacent town of Littau agreed to a merger in a simultaneous referendum. This took effect on January 1, 2010. The new city, still called "Lucerne", has a population of around 76,000 people, making it the seventh-largest city in Switzerland. The results of this referendum are expected to pave the way for negotiations with other nearby cities and towns in an effort to create a unified city-region, based on the results of a study.