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Lucerne

[loo-surn]
Lucerne (Italian Lucerna) is a city in Switzerland. It is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and seat of the district with the same name. With a population of 57,890, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland and focal point of the region. The city's agglomeration consists of 17 municipalities in three cantons with an overall population of nearly 200,000.

Due to its location on the shore of Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee) within sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne is traditionally considered first and foremost as a tourist destination. One of the city's famous landmarks is Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden bridge first built in the 14th century.

History

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 Luceria. In 1178 Lucerne acquired its independence from the jurisdiction of Murbach Abbey, and the founding of the city proper probably occurred this same year. The city gained importance as a strategically located gateway for the growing commerce from Gotthard trade route.

By 1290 Lucerne became a good-sized, self-sufficient city 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 did not appreciate the increasing Habsburg influence, and Lucerne allied with neighboring towns to seek independence from Habsburg 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 Zurich, Zug and Berne joined the alliance. With the help of these additions, the rule of Austria over the area was ended. The issue was settled through 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 so far. By this time the borders of Lucerne approximately matched 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 around 1350 and several wars.

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 Zurich, Berne and Basel, who 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 more and more seldom, and so the population in 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 countrywide rate 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 Zurich in 1864 and finally in 1897 to the south.

Lucerne today

On June 17, 2007, voters of Lucerne and the adjacent municipality of Littau agreed on a merger in a simultaneously held referendum, becoming effective on January 1, 2010. The combined municipality will have a population of around 75,000, making it the seventh largest city in Switzerland, and keep the name and coat of arms of the city of Lucerne. The successful referendum is expected to pave the way for negotiations with other neighbouring municipalities in an effort to create a unified city-region, based on the results of a study.

Sights

| |- | |- | |} Since the city straddles the Reuss River where it drains the lake, it has a number of bridges. The most famous is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a 204 m (670 ft) long wooden bridge originally built in 1333, although much of it had to be replaced after a 1993 fire, allegedly caused by a group of smokers. Partway across, the bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), a fortification from the 13th century. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Luzern's history. The Bridge with its Tower is the city's most famous landmark.

Downriver, between the Kasernenplatz and the Mühlenplatz, the Spreuerbrücke or Mill Bridge zigzags across the Reuss. Constructed in 1408, it is the oldest covered bridge in Europe and features a series of medieval-style 17th Century plague paintings by Kaspar Meglinger titled Dance of Death. Meglinger's paintings portray various conditions of men and women, priests and warriors, princes and men of learning, the young bride, the devout nun, the lawmaker, the hunter, the miller, even the artist himself, are all depicted at the mercy of Death, with his mocking smile and his ever-changing garb. These paintings, suitable for a Benedictine abbey, are seen by every inhabitant of beautiful Lucerne who crosses the river via the Spreuerbrücke. It has a small chapel in the middle that was added in 1568.

Old Town Lucerne is located just north of the Reuss River, and still has several fine half-timber structures with painted fronts. Remnants of the old town walls exist on the hill above Lucerne, complete with eight tall watch towers. An additional gated tower sits at the base of the hill on the banks of the Reuss River.

The twin needle towers of the church of St. Leodegar, which was named after the city's patron saint, sit on a small hill just above the lakefront. Originally built in 735, the present structure was erected in 1633 in the late Renaissance style. However, the towers are surviving remnants of an earlier structure. The interior is richly decorated. The church is popularly called the Hofkirche (German) and is known locally as the Hofchile (Swiss-German).

Bertel Thorvaldsen's famous carving of a dying lion (the Lion Monument, or Löwendenkmal) is found in a small park just off Lowenplatz. The carving commemorates the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when the mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

The Swiss Transport Museum is a large and comprehensive museum exhibiting all forms of transport, including locomotives, automobiles, ships, and aircraft.

The Culture and Convention Center beside the lake in the center of the city was designed by Jean Nouvel. The center has one of the world's leading concert halls, with acoustics by Russell Johnson.

Culture and Entertainment

Culture

Since plans for the new culture and convention center arose in the late 1980s, Lucerne has found a balance between the so-called established culture and alternative culture. A consensus was reached that culminated in a culture compromise (Kulturkompromiss). The established culture comprises KKL with its concert hall, the city theater (Luzerner Theater) and in a broader sense smaller establishments such as Kleintheater founded by Lucerne native and comedian Emil Steinberger or Stadtkeller, a music restaurant in the city's old town and the like.

Alternative culture took place mostly in the premises of a former tube factory, which became known as Boa. Other localities for alternative culture have emerged since in the very same quarter as Boa. At the beginning, Boa staged various plays, but concerts became more and more common. That new use was disparate with the development of apartment buildings on the nearby lots of land. Due to possible noise pollution, Boa was closed and a replacement in a less heavily inhabited area is currently under construction. Critics claimed though, that the new establishment wouldn't meet the requirements for alternative culture. Lucerne's Modern Museum (Kuntsmuseum) is also placed on the KKL.

Events

Every year, towards the end of winter, Carnival breaks out in the streets, alleyways and squares of the old town. This is a glittering outdoor party, where chaos and merriness reign and nothing is as it normally is. Strange characters in fantastic masks and costumes make their way through the alleyways, while carnival bands (Guggenmusigen) blow their instruments in joyful cacophony and thousands of bizarrely clad people sing and dance away the winter. Lucerne Carnival starts every year on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday with a big bang. There are big parades on Dirty Thursday and the following Monday, called Fat Monday, which attracts tens of thousands of people. Lucerne's Carnival ends with a crowning finish on Fat Tuesday evening with a tremendous parade of big bands, lights and lanterns. After the parade all the bands wander through the city playing their hearts out and shaking the old buildings down to their foundations.

The city hosts various renowned festivals throughout the year. The Lucerne Festival for classical music takes place in summer and around Easter. Its orchestra, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra is hand-picked from some of the finest instrumentalists in the world. In July, Blue Balls Festival brings jazz, blues and funk music to the lake promenade and halls of the Culture and Convention Center. The Lucerne Blues Festival is another musical festival which usually takes place in November. Since spring 2004, Lucerne hosts the Festival Rose d'Or for television entertainment. And in April, the well-established comics festival Fumetto attracts an international audience.

Being the cultural center of a rather rural region, Lucerne regularly holds different folklore festivals, such as Lucerne Cheese Festival which is held annually. In 2004, Lucerne was the focus of Swiss Wrestling fans when it had hosted the Swiss Wrestling and Alpine festival (Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest), which takes place every three years in a different location. A national music festival (Eidgenössiches Musikfest) attracted marching bands from all parts of Switzerland in 2006. In summer 2008, the jodelling festival (Eidgenössisches Jodlerfest) is expected to have similar impact.

Sports

There are several football (soccer) clubs throughout the city. The most successful one is FC Luzern of the Swiss Super League, coached by former Swiss international footballer Ciriaco Sforza. The club plays its home matches at Allmend stadium, an outdated 13.000-capacity field in the south of the city. There are plans for a modern football arena combined with an indoor swimming pool and public sports facilities. The complex is not expected to be ready before 2009.

In the past, Lucerne also produced national successes in men's handball and women's volleyball.

Having a long tradition of equestrian sports, Lucerne has co-hosted CSIO Switzerland, an international equestrian show jumping event, until it left entirely for St. Gallen in 2006. Since then, the Lucerne Equestrian Masters took its place. There is also an annual horse racing event, usually taking place in August.

Lucerne annually hosts the final leg of the Rowing World Cup on Rotsee Lake, and has hosted numerous World Rowing Championships, among others the first ever in 1962. Lucerne was also bidding for the 2011 issue but failed.

The city also provides facilities for ice-hockey, figure-skating, golf, swimming, basketball, rugby, skateboarding, climbing and more.

Transport

Lucerne boasts a developed and well-run transport network, with the main operator being VBL which runs both buses and trolleybuses in the city. Other operators, such as Auto AG Rothenburg provide bus services to the neighbouring towns and villages. The city enjoys excellent links to the rest of Switzerland, with rail services operated by SBB and Zentralbahn.

Sister cities

Lucerne is twinned with the following towns:

In popular literature

See also

References

External links

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