Located in north-west Switzerland on the river Rhine, Basel functions as a major industrial centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The city borders both Germany and France. The Basel region, culturally extending into German Baden-Württemberg and French Alsace, reflects the heritage of its three states in the modern Latin name: "Regio TriRhena". It has the oldest university of the Swiss Confederation (1460).
During the days of the Roman Empire, the settlement of Augusta Raurica was founded 10 or 20 kilometres upstream of present Basel, and a castle was built on the hill overlooking the river where the Basel Münster now stands. But even older Celtic settlements (including a vitrified fort) have been discovered recently in the area predating the Roman castle. The city's position on the Rhine long emphasised its importance: Basel for many centuries possessed the only bridge over the river "between Lake Constance and the sea".
The town of Basel was called "Basilia" in Latin, and this name is documented from the year 374 AD. Since the donation of the Abbey Moutier-Grandvalto and all its possessions to Bishop Adalbero II in 999 till the Reformation, Basel was ruled by prince-bishops (see Bishop of Basel, whose memory is preserved in the crosier shown on the Basel coat-of-arms - see above). In 1019 the construction of the cathedral of Basel (known locally as the Münster) began under German Emperor Heinrich II. In 1225–1226 the Bridge over the Rhine was constructed by Bishop Heinrich von Thun and lesser Basel (Kleinbasel) founded as a beachhead to protect the bridge.
In 1356 the Basel earthquake destroyed much of the city along with a number of castles in the vicinity. The city offered courts to nobles as an alternative to rebuilding their castles, in exchange for the nobles' military protection of the city.
In 1412 (or earlier) the well-known guesthouse Zum Goldenen Sternen was established. Basel became the focal point of western Christendom during the 15th century Council of Basel (1431 –1449), including the 1439 AD election of antipope Felix V. In 1459 Pope Pius II endowed the University of Basel where such notables as Erasmus of Rotterdam, Paracelsus and Hans Holbein the Younger taught. At the same time the new craft of printing was introduced to Basel by apprentices of Johann Gutenberg.
The Schwabe publishing house was founded 1488 by Johannes Petri and is the oldest publishing house still in business. Johann Froben also operated his printing house in Basel and was notable for publishing works by Erasmus. In 1495, Basel was incorporated in the Upper Rhenish Imperial Circle, the bishop sitting on the Bench of the Ecclesiastical Princes. In 1500 the construction of the Basel Münster was finished. In 1501 Basel de facto separated from the Holy Roman Empire and joined the Swiss Confederation as 11th canton, and began the construction of the city council building. The bishop continued to reside in Basel until the reformation of Oecolampadius in 1529. The bishop's crook was however retained as the city's coat of arms. In March 1536 the first edition of Christianae religionis institutio (Institutes of the Christian Religion) was published in Latin by John Calvin at Basel. There are indications Joachim Meyer, an influential 16th century author of a book on fighting (kunst des Fechten) came from Basel.
Intended as a defence of Huguenots then persecuted in France, Calvin's Institutes was an exposition of Protestant Christian doctrine which later became known as Calvinism. In 1543 De humani corporis fabrica, the first anatomy book was published and printed in Basel by Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564). In 1662 the Amerbaschsches Kabinett formed the basis of a collection and exposition, forming the core of the Basel Museum of Art.
In 1792 the Republic of Rauracia, a revolutionary French client republic, was created. It lasted until 1793. After three years of political agitation for equal rights and a short civil war in 1833 the disadvantaged countryside seceded from the Canton of Basel, forming the halfcanton of Basel-Landschaft. In 1912, the extraordinary congress of the Second International was held in Basel, due to the outbreak of the Balkan Wars
EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is operated jointly by two countries, France and Switzerland. Contrary to popular belief, the airport is located completely on French soil. The airport itself is split into two architecturally independent sectors, one half serving the French side and the other half serving the Swiss side; there is a customs point at the middle of the airport so that people can "emigrate" to the other side of the airport.
Basel has long held an important place as a rail hub. Three railway stations — those of the German, French and Swiss networks — lie within the city (although the Swiss (Basel SBB) and French (Basel SNCF) stations are actually in the same complex, separated by Customs and Immigration facilities). The largest goods railway complex of the country is located just outside the city, spanning the municipalities of Muttenz and Pratteln. The new highspeed ICE railway line from Karlsruhe to Basel will be completed in 2008 while phase I of the TGV-Est line, opened in June 2007, has reduced travel time from Basel to Paris to 3 1/2 hours.
Basel has an extensive public transportation network serving the city and connecting to surrounding suburbs. The green-colored local trams and buses are operated by the BVB (Basler Verkehrs-Betriebe). The yellow-colored buses and trams are operated by the BLT Baselland Transport, and connect areas in the nearby half-canton of Baselland to central Basel. The trams are powered by overhead lines, and the bus fleet is mix of electric and conventional fuel-powered vehicles. The BVB also shares commuter bus lines in cooperation with transit authorities in the neighboring Alsace region in France and Baden region in Germany. The Regio-S-Bahn Basel, the commuter rail network connecting to suburbs surrounding the city, is jointly operated by SBB, SNCF and DB.
Within city limits, five bridges connect greater and lesser Basel, from upstream to downstream:
A somewhat anachronistic yet still widely used system of ferry boats links the two shores. There are four ferries, each situated approximately midway between two bridges. Each is attached by a cable to a block that rides along another cable spanning the river at a height of 20 or 30 yards. To cross the river, the ferryman orients the boat around 45° from the current so that the current pushes the boat across the river. This form of transportation is therefore completely hydraulically driven, requiring no outside energy source.
An annual Federal Swiss trade fair (Mustermesse) takes place in Kleinbasel on the right bank of the Rhine. Other important trade shows include "BaselWorld" (watches and jewelry), Art Basel, Orbit and Cultura.
The Swiss chemical industry operates largely from Basel, with Novartis, Syngenta, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Clariant, and Hoffmann-La Roche headquartered there. Pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals have become the modern focus of the city's industrial production. Some of the chemical industry's most notable creations include DDT, Araldite, Valium, Rohypnol and LSD.
UBS AG maintains central offices in Basel, giving finance a pivotal role in the local economy. The importance of banking began when the Bank for International Settlements located within the city in 1930. Basel's innovative financial industry includes institutions like the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Responsible for the Basel Accords (Basel I and Basel II) , this organization fundamentally changed Risk Management within its industry.
Basel has Switzerland's tallest building, Basler Messeturm.
|Altstadt Grossbasel (central Grossbasel)||37.63||Altstadt Kleinbasel (central Kleinbasel)||24.21|
|Gotthelf||46.62||City of Basel||2275.05|
|Canton of Basel-City||3583.84|
The red sandstone Münster, one of the foremost late-Romanesque/early Gothic buildings in the Upper Rhine, was badly damaged in the great earthquake of 1356, rebuilt in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, extensively reconstructed in the mid-nineteenth century and further restored in the late twentieth century. A memorial to Erasmus lies inside the Münster.
Basel is also host to an array of buildings by internationally renowned architects, such as the Beyeler Foundation by Renzo Piano, or the Vitra complex in nearby Weil am Rhein, composed of buildings by architects such as Zaha Hadid (fire station), Frank Gehry (design museum), Alvaro Siza Vieira (factory building) and Tadao Ando (conference centre). Basel also features buildings by Mario Botta (Jean Tinguely Museum and Bank of International settlements) and Herzog & de Meuron (whose architectural practice is in Basel, and who are best known as the architects of Tate Modern in London). The city received the Wakker Prize in 1996.
Basel is renowned for various scientific societies, as the Entomological Society of Basel (Entomologische Gesellschaft Basel, EGB), which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005.
Basel counts several International Schools, including the International School of Basel, the Minerva School and the Rhine Academy. Many expatriate workers and their children come to Basel due to the large presence of pharmaceutical companies, and the majority of those children come to study at the international schools of Basel.
Basel has a reputation as one of the most important cultural cities in Europe. In 1997, it contended to become the "European Capital of Culture". In May 2004, the fifth EJCF choir festival opened: this Basel tradition started in 1992. Host of this festival is the local Basel Boys Choir.
The carnival of the city of Basel (Basler Fasnacht) is a major cultural event in the year. The carnival is the biggest in Switzerland and attracts large crowds every year, despite the fact that it starts at four in the morning (Morgestraich) and lasts for exactly 72 hours, taking in various parades.
Basler Zeitung ("Baz") is the local newspaper.
The Basel museums cover a broad and diverse spectrum of collections with a marked concentration in the fine arts. They house numerous holdings of international significance. The over three dozen institutions yield an extraordinarily high density of museums compared to other cities of similar size and draw over one million visitors annually.
Constituting an essential component of Basel culture and cultural policy, the museums are the result of closely interwoven private and public collecting activities and promotion of arts and culture going back to the 16th century. The public museum collection was first created back in 1661 and represents the oldest public collection in continuous existence. Since the late 1980s, various private collections have been made accessible to the public in new purpose-built structures that have been recognized as acclaimed examples of avant-garde museum architecture.