Berne, the fourth city of Switzerland in population, capital of a canton of the same name which is the second of the Swiss cantons in size and first in population, and since 1848, capital of the Swiss Confederation, is situated at a point 1,788 feet above the sea level, in Lat. 40° 57′ N., and Long. 7° 26′ E. The larger part of the city is built on a peninsula that projects into the Aar from its left bank. In the Middle Ages Berne contained over 5,000 inhabitants; in 1764, 13,681; in 1850, 27,558; in 1900, 64,064. This last number includes 60,622 Germans, 3,087 French, 902 Italians, 762 of mixed Romance blood; divided as to religion, there are 57,946 Protestants, 5,278 Catholics, 668 Jews, and 481 persons belonging to other creeds. As capital of the Swiss Confederation, Berne is the seat of the national, as well as of the cantonal, government, and the official residence of all representatives of foreign Powers. Being the point of junction of seven different lines of railroad, Berne is visited annually by some 200,000 tourists and is the headquarters of a number of international unions and associations, such as the International Postal Union; the International Telegraph Union; the International Patent Office; the International Express Union; the International Publishers’ Congress; the International Peace Society; the Blue Cross Society. It is the residence of a “Christian–Catholic” (Old-Catholic) bishop, and a Catholic parish priest, the center of a large trade in agricultural produce and of considerable manufactures (chiefly spun silk, machinery, and scientific and musical instruments). It is one of the best built cities in Switzerland, having broad streets and large squares, while it has preserved, more than most of the larger Swiss cities, the old national characteristics in its domestic and municipal architecture. There are six bridges across the Aar, of which the two most important are the iron Kirchenfeldbriicke, 217 yards long, built in 1882-83, and the Kornhausbrticke, 388 yards long, and 157 feet above the River Aar, built in 1896-98. The city contains 7 churches and several chapels. The Catholic church of the Holy Trinity, built in 1896-1900, with a tower 147 feet high, is in the style of an early Christian basilica. The church of Sts. Peter and Paul, originally Catholic, was turned over to the Old Catholics in 1874. The most important of the secular buildings are: the Rathaus of the Canton, built 1406-16; the old and new Federal Buildings; the Parliament Building (Parlamentsgebaude), erected 1895-1902; and the new University Buildings (1900-03).
The University of the Canton of Berne was founded in 1834 by the reorganization of the academy already in existence; it has a Protestant theological faculty, an Old Catholic theological faculty, and faculties of philosophy, law, medicine, and veterinary medicine; Its yearly expenses are 880,000 francs ($176,000), and the endowment amounts to over a million francs ($200,000). Connected with the university are an observatory, a botanical garden, and numerous institutes and clinics; the University Library was, in 1905, united with the City Library, the joint collection amounting to some 200,000 volumes, including many valuable manuscripts. Besides these there are a public and a private gymnasium, a secondary school for boys, a public and a private secondary school for girls, a normal school (at Muristalden), an industrial art school, which is combined with the cantonal industrial art museum, students’ work-shops, and schools for mechanics, art, and music. Among the numerous learned societies established at Berne are the Swiss Society for the Natural Sciences, founded in 1815, and the Historical Research Society of Switzerland, founded in 1840; the Cantonal Hospital contains 360 beds and has an endowment of over eight million francs ($1,600,000); it was founded in 1354, and since 1884 has been situated on the Kreuzmatte in Holligen. Other hospitals are: a hospital for infectious diseases, founded in 1284, and containing 128 beds; a hospital for women, with maternity department, 1781; the city Burgerspital, founded in 1742, and having an endowment of some 7 million francs ($1,400,000); the city Zieglerspital, founded in 1867, and having an endowment of some 3 million francs ($600,000); the Jennerspital for Children; the Cantonal Insane Asylum; a town orphan asylum for boys and girls, Magdalen asylum, and numerous private institutions. Among the Catholic societies and associations are: the Catholic Journeymen’s Union (Gesellenverein), founded in 1868; the Association of St. Vincent de Paul for aiding the poor, 1868; Women’s Society for the Encouragement of Religious Life and Aid of the Poor, 1875; Congregation of the Children of Mary, for young girls,:1881; the parish Cecilia Association (since 1878) a church-choir society; Men’s Society, founded in 1872, reorganized in 1899 as the Catholic Association of the City of Berne, for the protection of Catholic interests, and united with the social union. Bernia, founded in 1887.
HISTORY.—The many remains discovered show that the territory surrounding Berne was occupied in prehistoric times. After the Romans had been driven out, the region was occupied by the Alemanni and Burgundians; in A.D. 534 it belonged to the Franks, in 888 it formed part of the second Burgundian empire, together with which it was absorbed into the Holy Roman Empire in 1032. The Dukes of Zahringen received the territory as a fief from the empire, and the last duke of this line, Berthold V, founded the city of Berne in 1191. At his death (1218) it was made a free city of the empire. With but few interruptions the city was able to preserve its independence during its long and frequent wars with the Counts of Kyburg, the Emperor Rudolph of Hapsburg, the Burgundian ruler, Charles the Bold, and so on. It was also able by a clever and consistent policy to increase the size of its territoryi in 1415 it conquered Aargau, and Vaud was annexes in 1536. The Disputation of Berne, held in January, 1528, through the efforts of Berthold Haller, Valerius Anshelm, Franz Kolb, and other friends of Zwingli, resulted in the adoption of the Reformation by the city and the increase of the possessions of the State by the confiscation of church property; the land thus acquired amounted to 186 square miles. During the many religious wars which followed (1529, 1531, 1656, 1712) Berne suppressed all forms of Catholic life; in this it followed the example of, and acted in concert. with, Zurich, which, with Berne, occupied the most prominent position in the Confederation. The extreme oligarchical rule of the few patrician families caused a rebellion of the peasants in 1653, and the conspiracy of Samuel Henzi in 1749, both of which uprisings were suppressed with much bloodshed, and the power of the Government became more absolute. It was not until the French Revolution that the oligarchy was swept away. After a brave struggle, Berne was taken and plundered by the French (March 5, 1798); it lost the Aargau and Vaud and became the capital of the newly founded Helvetian Republic. As compensation for the loss of the Aargau and Vaud, the Congress of Vienna (1815) gave Berne the greater part of the suppressed Bishopric of Basle and the cities of Biel and Neuenstadt. The oligarchical government, which was reestablished, was obliged to abdicate at the outbreak of the Revolution of July, and a new Constitution was adopted (July 21, 1831) which granted democratic representation. This Constitution was amended in a radical direction in 1848 by the adoption of direct voting without property qualification; in 1896 a new Constitution was accepted which granted initiative by the people.
It was not until 1798 that the Catholics, in virtue of section 6 of the Constitution of the Helvetian Republic, were able to reestablish their church organization. In 1799 the Franciscan Father Girard became the first parish priest, being at the same time vicar-general to the Bishop of Lausanne; in 1804 he retired from Berne to become a teacher at Freiburg and Lucerne. Relations with the cantonal government were fairly good during the pastorates of his numerous successors, yet the Catholic community remained a private association and was not recognized by the authorities, although the Constitution of 1848 guaranteed freedom of public worship. The Catholic community made use of the French Protestant church until Father Baud (1832-67) built a Catholic church (1858-64); in 1864 the parish, together with the old part of the canton, was included in the Diocese of Basle. The Catholics refused to recognize the deposition of Bishop Lachat of Basle and rejected the laws of 1873-74, which were unfavorable to the Church; these included the laws concerning parish elections, the cantonal synod as the highest church authority, and civil marriage. In the consequent religious struggle (Kulturkampf) they were obliged to give up their church and all church-endowments to the Old Catholics, who were favored in every way by the authorities, as was shown by the erection of an Old Catholic theological faculty in 1874, etc. It was not until the decade beginning with 1880 that, during the pastorate of Father Jacob Stammler, a truce was established between Church and State. Father Stammler built a new church, 1896-1900, and was raised to the See of Basle-Lugano in 1906.