Some brief historical notes
Crossing the Alps in 15 BC, it was the Romans who first created a permanent settlement here, around 15 BC, naming it Turicum. Even in those early years Zurich had an important economic influence since it was used by the Romans as a tax collection area on the border with Celtic Belgium.
In the 9th century AD, Louis the German, grandson of Charlemagne, played a significant part in Zurich’s history, building a castle where the Romans once had a fort. Around his time he founded the Fraumünster abbey, endowing them with special privileges.
In 1045, Holy Roman Emperor Henry III further increased the convent’s power by awarding it the right to sell goods, collect taxes, and mint coins, making the incumbent abbess the effective ruler of the city.
In 1218, when the last of the Zähringen family of dukes died, Zurich was awarded the then highly privileged position of a ‘reichsfrei city’, falling under the direct authority of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. Zurich did not join this loose alliance until 1351 but in 1440 a war (known as the Old Zurich War) broke out with the other member states, and Zurich was ejected from the group. Its expulsion lasted only six years when peace returned to the region.
In 1336 Rudolf Brun became the first mayor not assigned by the abbess and so the abbey’s influence declined. It was Brun who created the guild laws, changing the political climate of the state forever.
In the early 14th century the Manesse family of Zürich commissioned the illuminated manuscript Codex Manesse, now in Heidelberg. The cost of creating this is testament to just how rich Zurich was at the time.
The Swiss Reformation was begun by Zwingli, a preacher who lived in Zurich from 1484 until his death in 1531.
In 1839, the city was stormed by conservative rural citizens unhappy with the way the liberals in the city were running things. The ensuing street fighting was known as the Züriputsch. The conservatives won the day.
In 1847, Zürich’s main railway station, the Hauptbahnhof, whose present building was built in 1871, began connecting the city with Aargau in the north.
Switzerland remained neutral during both the great of the wars of the 19th century but Zürich was accidentally bombed during World War II.
These days Zurich is primarily known as one of the world’s largest financial centres and one of Europe’s wealthiest cities. It also has a dynamic cultural life and was recently voted the city with the best quality of life in the world.