Zurich, the capital of the Swiss canton of the same name which is the second largest and richest of the twenty-five Swiss cantons. The city is the largest in Switzerland, and has 200,000 inhabitants. It has a commanding position on the beautiful outlet of Lake Zurich; to the west and east are the wooded heights of the Uetliberg and Zurichberg, and there is a fine view of the thickly settled and fruitful banks of the lake with handsome villages along the shore; in the background towards the south and southeast is an imposing circle of lofty mountains in Glarus, Schwyz, Noi, etc. The climate is mild and healthful. The prehistoric history of the city and its vicinity extends back to the Stone Age, the first and second Bronze Age, and the Iron Age, as is proved by the discovery of numerous lake-dwellings and remains of graves. Probably even as far back as the time of the ancient Helvetii a town existed on the site of Zurich.
Historically the city first appears under the name of Turicum, during the period of the Roman supremacy in Switzerland at the beginning of the Christian era. Christianity was probably also introduced during this period. According to legend the Faith was brought to Zurich by members of the Theban Legion. Felix, Regula, and Exuperantius are the patron saints of the city. After the Allamani had conquered the northern part of Switzerland during the era of the migration (fourth and fifth centuries), Zurich became the capital of the districts or hundreds of Zurich. In the early medieval period Zurich was ruled by the abbesses of Fraumunster, the abbess being called “the great lady of Zurich”. At a later date it was a free city of the empire, and in 1351 it joined the Swiss Confederation, then the “Union of the eight old towns”. Like Berne and Schwyz, Zurich has an important place both in the early history of Switzerland and in its modern history. At the beginning of the sixteenth century it became the cradle and leading power of the Reformation in German Switzerland under the guidance of its pastor Huldreich Zwingli, who joined the Reformers; the city was also the main supporter of Zwinglianism (as opposed to Lutheranism and Calvinism).
The city is built on the banks at the end of the lake and along the River Limmat, its outlet, and climbs the lower heights on both sides of the river. It is divided into the Old Town and the New Town: the latter is mainly composed of suburbs and surrounding townships which were formerly independent but which now are united with the Old Town. In the Old Town many houses still exist that are historically and architecturally interesting. The New Town has some very fine streets, notably the street leading to the railway station, which is considered one of the finest in Europe. There are large and small parks, finely situated. The city is governed by an executive council of seven members, the head of which is the chief official of the city; the executive council is aided by the “great council”, a form of town parliament. Both official boards are elected by the citizens for three years; all citizens twenty years of age who are capable of bearing arms have the right to vote. In religious belief the inhabitants are: 130,000 Protestants, 50,000 Catholics, 3000 Old Catholics, 5000 Jews, and 10,000 belong to no denomination. The most active religious body is the Catholic. The Protestants possess eight large churches, of which the Grossmunster and the Fraumunster are of much historical interest. The Catholics have three churches and various chapels, and two new churches are in course of construction; they are cared for by twenty-four priests.
Zurich is celebrated for its schools. The sum assigned by the budget to the primary and middle schools of the city for 1913 was five million francs ($1,000,000). Among the schools are a large cantonal gymnasium, a commercial high-school, the cantonal university, the Federal polytechnic school, and the conservatory for music. In addition there are a large number of private schools and educational institutions, mainly attended by foreigners. The city possesses large scientific, technical, and art collections, and important libraries. The famous Swiss national museum is also situated at Zurich. As the banking center of Switzerland, Zurich contains the main Office of the Swiss National Bank, of the Swiss Loan and Mortgage Company, of the Swiss Banking Association, etc. It also contains an important stock-exchange, and silk, cotton, and grain exchanges. Zurich is a great center of continental traffic and a railway junction for traffic between the east and west and north and south of Europe. There are large numbers of religious and charitable societies and associations for the benefit of the public, besides learned, professional, and athletic organizations. The city contains large numbers of benevolent institutions, administered by the canton, city or private organizations; there are excellent hospitals and sanatoriums. There is a fine hall for music with an excellent orchestra; Zurich has also places for athletic contests and exhibitions of aviation.