/berrn/; Ger. /berddn/, n.1. a city in and the capital of Switzerland, in the W part: capital of Bern canton. 149,800.2. a canton in W Switzerland. 992,000; 2658 sq. mi. (6885 sq. km). Cap.: Bern.Also, Berne.
* * *Lying along a loop of the Aare River, it was founded as a military post in 1191 by Berthold V, duke of Zähringen. It became a free imperial city in 1218. Gradually extending its power, it became an independent state, and in 1353 it entered the Swiss Confederation. It was a scene of disputation in 1528 between Roman Catholics and reformers, which led to its subsequent championing of Protestant doctrines. It became a member of the Helvetic Republic and in 1848 was made the capital of Switzerland. It is headquarters of the international postal, railway, and copyright unions.
* * *also spelled Berne,city, capital of Switzerland and of Bern canton, in the west-central part of the nation. It lies along a narrow loop of the Aare River. The existence of the ancient castle of Nydegg, guarding a crossing over the Aare, probably led Berthold V, duke of Zähringen, to found Bern in 1191 as a military post on the frontier between the German-speaking Alemanni and the French-speaking inhabitants of Burgundy. After the extinction of the Zähringen dynasty (1218), Bern became a free imperial city (imperial city). Gradually it extended its power by acquiring surrounding territory, becoming an independent state that in 1353 entered the Swiss Confederation, which it soon began to lead. After a devastating fire ravaged the predominantly wood-built town in 1405, Bern was rebuilt with sandstone. Although much of the surrounding metropolis has since been modernized, the centre (Old Bern) still remains intact from that period.Bern was the scene of a disputation in 1528 between Roman Catholics (Roman Catholicism) and Reformers that led to its acceptance and subsequent championship of Protestant (Protestant Heritage) doctrines. In the 18th century Bern governed 52 territories, and its patricians exercised considerable power. The whole system of Bernese patrician government was swept away by the French in 1798; it was partially revived in 1815 but ended in 1831. Bern became the political capital of the Swiss Confederation in 1848.Old Bern, connected by several bridges to newer parts of the city on the right bank, preserves more of its medieval appearance than any other Swiss city. It is characterized by 2.3 square miles (6 square km) of covered arcades, towers, and 16th-century fountains. The Gothic cathedral (1421–1598), with its 328-foot (100-metre) spire—the highest in Switzerland—is the dominant landmark. Also notable are the City Hall (Rathaus; 1406–16, restored 1942) and the Nydegg Church (1494). The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus; 1851–1902) houses the Swiss federal parliament, as well as the administrative and executive offices of the federal government. The famous Clock Tower (Zeitglockenturm), with a 16th-century clock and mechanical puppets that perform four minutes before every hour, and the Cage Tower (Käfigturm) are the two remaining towers of the old walls that once protected the city. A favourite decorative motif is the bear (Old High German: bero), commemorating the legend of the first animal killed by Berthold V in the year the city was founded; this legend is said to be the source of the city's name. Perhaps the most famous Bern landmark is the bear pit, where bears have been kept on display at the city's expense since 1480. Old Bern was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.The University of Bern was founded in 1834 and incorporates the Theological School (founded 1528). The City and University Library (1528) contains many manuscripts and rare books. The Swiss National Library (1895) is also in Bern, as is the headquarters of the Swiss National Bank. The Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum), opened in 1879, houses the world's largest collection of works by the Swiss painter Paul Klee (Klee, Paul)—a total of more than 2,000 items.In addition to being the Swiss federal capital, Bern is the headquarters of the international postal, telegraph, railway, and copyright unions. Its industries include the manufacture of printing products, chocolate, machinery, electrical equipment, and chemical and pharmaceutical products. It is also a market for agricultural produce and a busy rail junction. The airport at Belpmoos, 6 miles (10 km) southeast, has a regular summer service linking Bern with Zürich's international airport. The population is mainly German speaking and Protestant. Pop. (2007 est.) 122,422.canton, west-central Switzerland. It is the second most populous and second largest of the Swiss cantons; about 100 square miles (260 square km) are occupied by glaciers. Bordering Jura canton (until 1979 part of Bern canton) and Solothurn canton to the north, it is bounded on the west by the cantons of Neuchâtel, Fribourg, and Vaud; south by Valais; and east by Uri, Unterwalden, Lucerne, and Aargau. It is drained mainly by the Aare River and its affluents. Three physical divisions may be distinguished. The Bernese (Bernese Alps) Highlands in the south includes the Alps, culminating in the Finsteraarhorn (14,022 feet [4,274 m]) and the Jungfrau (13,642 feet [4,158 m]), and the famous resorts of Interlaken, Thun, Meiringen, Grindelwald, Mürren, and Kandersteg. This region is extremely mountainous and is noted for its great scenic beauty. The Midlands (Mittelland) consists of the Aare valley below Thun, the Emme River valley, the foothills of the high Alps, and the plain around the city of Bern. In the north of the canton lies the Lake Region around Lake Biel.The canton comprises the districts acquired by the city of Bern (q.v.), the cantonal capital, between the 14th and the 16th century. From 1803 to 1814 the canton of Bern was one of the six directorial cantons of the Swiss Confederation. The existing constitution dates from 1893, but the direct popular election of the executive council (Regierungsrat) was introduced in 1906.In the Highlands the principal economic factors are the year-round tourist trade, agriculture, cattle breeding, cheese making (at the Emmental), and hydroelectric power generation. There is also wood carving at Brienz and pottery making near Thun. The Midlands is a fertile agricultural region and is also the most industrialized part of the canton. Machinery, metal products, and precision instruments are produced in the canton. Because the city of Bern is the national capital, Bern canton is home to a large number of employees of the federal government. A nuclear power station is located at Mühleberg. There is vine culture around Lake Biel. The population of the canton is mainly German speaking and Protestant. Area 2,300 square miles (5,959 square km). Pop. (2007 est.) 958,987.
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