City and Republic of Bern

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) .svg
Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
City and Republic of Bern
coat of arms
Berne Imperial City Coat of Arms, 1620.jpg
City-state map of Bern simplified.png
Territory of the city-state of Bern in the 17th / 18th centuries century

Form of rule republic
Ruler / government Schultheiss
Today's region / s CH-AG, CH-BE, CH-VD
Reich register 250 riders, together with the other federal Locations (1422)
Reichskreis circular
Capitals / residences Bern
Denomination / Religions Evangelical Reformed (from 1528)
Language / n German French
surface 9,542 km²
currency Pounds, crowns, thalers
Incorporated into Reichsexemption 1648, after 1798: Canton Bern , Canton Aargau and Canton Vaud

The city ​​and republic of Bern ( Respublica Bernensis ) developed through territorial expansion of the later imperial city of Bern, founded in 1191, between Geneva and Brugg as well as the southern foot of the Jura and the Bernese Alps . Until its dissolution in 1798, Bern was considered the most powerful and largest city-state north of the Alps.

Foundation and advancement

Settlement and foundation of Bern

During the Roman rule in Helvetia , most of what is now the canton of Bern belonged to the territory of the Civitas Helvetorum , of which Aventicum was the capital . During the migration of peoples , the Alemanni and Burgundians met in the Bern area, and with their submission the country came under Frankish rule. In 888 the area became part of the New Burgundian Empire and with this in 1032 it fell to the Holy Roman Empire . The Zähringer , who had received the rectorate of Burgundy on this side of the Jura from Friedrich Barbarossa in 1127 , tried to keep the local nobility under control by securing strategic points. They fortified existing settlements and turned castles into cities. According to tradition, Bern is said to have been founded in 1191 by Duke Berchtold V von Zähringen .

From the royal to the imperial city

As Bern was on imperial property , the king became lord of the city after the founder's death. The Golden Handfeste of Emperor Friedrich II. On May 17, 1218 was probably written around 1250. As protection against the Counts of Kyburg , who had inherited the Swiss allodies of the Zähringer, the city of Bern entered into an umbrella relationship with Savoy in 1255 , which involved it in the dispute between this house and Rudolf von Habsburg and repeatedly exposed to sieges on the part of the latter was. With the amendment of the constitution in 1292 a Grand Council was created. King Adolf confirmed the Golden Handfeste in Zurich in 1293, also granted Bern the right to choose a mayor himself during an imperial vacancy and looked in a second document for everything that they had during the last imperial vacancy (July 1291 to May 1293) in terms of privileges had appropriated. The choice of mayor was up to the city council. Around 1300 the Bernese were so self-confident that they no longer saw themselves as a royal city but as an imperial city, clearly distinguishing between the empire and the person of the respective ruler (king, emperor).

Alliance with the Waldstätten and expansion of power

Map of the growth of the territory of the Bern city-state until 1798

On March 6, 1353, Bern transformed its relationship with the Waldstätten into a perpetual union. As an imperial city, Bern acquired fiefs through purchase, exchange and conquest at the expense of the regional nobility . In 1365 Bern was given the right to acquire imperial fiefs and in 1379 also to lend imperial fiefs. Areas also became Bernese when the corresponding fiefdoms ( Twing lords ) acquired the Bernese civil rights and thus committed themselves to Bern. These areas were only indirectly subject to Bern (mediat). Each newly acquired area (county, valley, rulership) that Bern directly (immediately) administered, retained its feudal status and its ancestral statutes, but Bern set up its own bailiff instead of a count , twin lord or imperial bailiff. In 1415 the city of Bern succeeded in wresting deputy functions from Emperor Sigismund . From now on, Bern acted instead of the emperor in matters of feudal law.

Burgundy Wars and consolidation of the constitution

Bern in a capital ("I") of the Spiezer Chronicle (1485)

During the Burgundian Wars , Bern took over the leadership of the Confederation under the mayor Adrian von Bubenberg and gained 1475 foothold in Vaud through the conquest of Murten , Grandson , Orbe and Echallens, which was undertaken together with Freiburg . In the 15th century the Council of Two Hundred was elected by the Small Council and the Sixteen, the latter in turn, four from each quarter, were appointed by the heads of the four quarters, the Venners ; these had to be accepted by the four companies of the Pfister (baker) , tanner , butcher and blacksmith , but their choice was made by the Council of Two Hundred. The citizenship had lost its direct influence on the elections. The various electoral bodies appointed or confirmed each other, the offices were in fact awarded for life.

Detachment from the Curia, Reformation and conquest of Vaud

In the course of the expansion of territorial power, Bern gradually succeeded in installing Bernese monastery bailiffs in the surrounding monasteries, thereby alienating the monasteries from the bishops. Various pens such as Amsoldingen or the German Order in Bern were converted into secular canons and placed under the supervision of the Bernese council. After the Bern disputation of 1528, the Small Council decided to accept the Reformation . The nationwide introduction was not without difficulties and led to the Oberland Reformation unrest . With the conquest of Vaud in 1536, Bern became the largest city-ruled state north of the Alps. The administration of the city-state was based on the Bernese city law and the feudal system .

Political structure, gender rule and balance of power

Administrative division of the city-state in the 18th century
The Grand Council of Bern (1735)

Schultheiss, Räth and Burger

The high medieval city lord of Bern appointed a mayor ( scultetus , causidicus ) as his deputy . The Bernese city ​​law followed that of the city of Freiburg im Breisgau . After the death of Berchtold V von Zähringen (1218), the city of Bern fell to the king because it was built on the land of the king. From now on, the German king appointed the mayor or imperial bailiff, and later possibly also the patron Peter of Savoy . With the Golden Handfeste , which was dated 1218 but was most certainly not issued until later, the Bernese council received the right to elect the mayor from among its members. It can be assumed that Bern had to struggle for this right in the 13th century. Imperial bailiffs and imperial delegates are still mentioned in the sources in 1244 and 1255. An election of the mayor by the council (with confirmation by the king) might not have prevailed until the second half of the 13th century. In 1293, King Adolf confirmed the Golden Handfeste in Zurich, also granted the Bernese the right to choose the mayor themselves during an imperial vacancy, and in a second document looked at everything they saw during the last imperial vacancy (July 1291 to May 1293) Had acquired rights. The choice of mayor was now ultimately in the hands of the city. Around 1300 the Bernese are self-confident enough that they no longer see themselves as a royal city but as an imperial city, clearly distinguishing between the empire and the person of the respective ruler (king, emperor).

With the constitutional amendment of 1294 a Grand Council was created. The so-called offices and services were administrative posts that could only be filled by members of the Grand Council of the City of Bern. The officials were usually elected for six years, from 1710 the offices in the Grand Council were drawn from among the applicants. The offices ( Landvogteien , Klostervogteien , Kastlaneien and Stadtämter etc.) were divided into four classes according to their financial income. In addition to the offices of the Grand Council, there were functions reserved for the members of the Small Council (witness, builder from the council, Kirchmeier, etc.) as well as posts that could also be filled by citizens without a seat in the Grand Council (iron master, cloth master, well master Etc.).

The sexes and the republic

As a result of the elite tendencies towards isolation, an aristocracy developed from the late Middle Ages . Originally, the highest authority was in the municipality, which the council and mayor elected. In 1373 the guilds were banned and instead the trades were forced to organize themselves in officially supervised rooms (societies). By introducing compulsory rooms for all citizens (including aristocrats), the city silenced the otherwise powerful groups of craftsmen. In the 17th century, the (small) council consisted of two mayors who alternated annually, two Seckelmeisters , four Venners , 17 councilors and two secret men. The latter were the special representatives of the two hundred and were annually supplemented and confirmed by them; the two hundred, however, partly completed themselves, partly through the sixteen chosen by them from their midst, partly through the (small) council.

After the acquisition of citizenship had become more and more difficult, a resolution was passed in 1680, according to which only those families were declared eligible who had become citizens before 1643. Their names, 360 in number, were entered in the Red Book . All citizens who were accepted later formed the lower class of permanent residents , who, however, were again preferred to the bare rear-seaters because they were allowed to do trade and handicrafts and to own houses. Of the families capable of regiment, only 80 were really ruling and formed the Bernese patriciate . In 1648 Bern received full state sovereignty in the Peace of Westphalia and thus finally broke away from the Empire, in 1653 the Swiss Peasants' War broke out .

European power and decline

Internal administration and repression

Joseph Werner , Allegory of Bern (1682).

The Bernese government was characterized on the one hand by careful, economical and gentle administration, so that several thinkers such as Albrecht von Haller , Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Napoleon Bonaparte and Johannes von Müller saw Bern as the model of a wisely administered state. The Economic Society , founded in Bern in 1759 by magistrates and enlightened young patricians, was one of the earliest such institutions in Europe.

On the other hand, every request for a change in the existing order, such as was expressed in the Swiss Peasants' War of 1653, was treated as a rebellion by the Bernese authorities and punished with severity, as was the rebellion under Major Davel in Vaud in 1723 and the conspiracy in 1749 by Samuel Henzi in Bern. Religious non-conformism was also not tolerated. Bern acted particularly brutally against the pacifist Anabaptist movement . A specially set up Anabaptist Chamber with its own Anabaptist hunters tracked down Mennonites living in hiding with the help of bounties . As a rule, they were executed, and their yards and property were confiscated. The repressive policy against the Anabaptists was in part continued into the 18th century. In addition to the Anabaptists and the on the turn to was the 18th century, spreading pietism initially suppressed, but was under Samuel Lutz and Samuel King consolidate.

Enlightenment, revolution and surrender

The democratic spirit awakened by the French Revolution was no longer compatible with these conditions. The French Directory offered a hand to the discontented Vaudois and in the spring of 1798 the so-called French invasion took place . Berne was defeated by the overwhelming power of the French troops despite resistance from the Bernese troops under Karl Ludwig von Erlach and Niklaus Friedrich von Steiger near Fraubrunnen and in the Battle of Grauholz and the victory under Johann Rudolf von Graffenried in the Battle of Neuenegg on March 5th. The Bernese government had abdicated on March 4th, and on March 5th, 1798, the city of Bern was occupied by French troops. Due to the Helvetic Constitution , Vaud, Aargau and the Bernese Oberland were separated from Bern as independent cantons.

See also



  • 450 years of the Bern Reformation. Contributions to the history of the Bern Reformation and to Niklaus Manuel Bern 1980/1981, pp. 573–577.
  • Ellen Beer (Ed.): Bern's great time. The 15th century rediscovered Bern in 1999.
  • Barbara Braun-Bucher: The Bernese mayor Samuel Frisching (1605–1683). Literature, education, constitution and politics of the 17th century based on a biography . Bern 1991, ISBN 3-7272-0495-8 .
  • Anne-Marie Dubler : State establishment and administration based on the model of Bern. How the state came into being from the Middle Ages and administered its territory - and how the population lived with it , Baden 2013.
  • François Flouck ea: De l'ours à la cocarde. Régime bernois et révolution en pays de Vaud (1536–1798) , Lausanne 1998.
  • Karl Geiser: The constitution of old Bern , in: Festschrift for the VII. Secular celebration of the foundation of Bern 1191-1891, Bern 1891.
  • Roland Gerber: God is Burger in Bern. A late medieval urban society between rule building and social balance , Weimar 2001.
  • Johann Rudolf Gruner, Deliciae urbis Bernae: Merckworthiness of the hochlöbl. City of Bern. Compiled from mostly unprinted authentic writings , Zurich 1732. online
  • André Holenstein (Ed.): Bern's mighty time. Bern rediscovered the 16th and 17th centuries in 2006.
  • Karl Kasthofer: Remarks about the forests and Alps of the Bernese high mountains. A contribution to the determination of the vegetation boundary of Swiss wood species, the influence of forests on the culture of the high mountains, the relationship between forestry and agriculture and the conditions for improving alpine agriculture , Aarau 1818.
  • Christoph von Steiger: Internal problems of the Bernese patriciate at the turn of the 18th century , Bern 1954.
  • Ludwig S. von Tscharner: Berne et le Pays de Vaud , in: Revue Historique Vaudoise, vol. 27, no. 8, pp. 225–241. doi: 10.5169 / seals-22386

Web links

Commons : Respublica Bernensis  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Notes and individual references