History of Bern

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The city of Bern, founded in 1191 and first mentioned in a document in 1208, grew to become the biggest aristocratic city-state north of the Alps and a major power in the Old Swiss Confederacy. Her reach extended over what are today the cantons of Bern, Vaud and large parts of Aargau.

Since 1848, Berne has been the Federal City (capital) of Switzerland.


The etymology of the name Bern is uncertain. Local legend has it that Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, the founder of the city of Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt; as this turned out to be a bear, the city had both its name and its heraldic beast. However, the connection between Bern and Bär (bear) is a folk etymology. It has long been considered likely that the city was named after the Italian city of Verona, which at the time was known as Bern in Middle High German. The Berne zinc tablet, which was found in the 1980s, indicates that the former oppidum′s possible celtic name Brenodor was still known in Roman times. A derivation from Brenodor to Bern is linguistically not considered possible, but it is assumed that the city′s name is of celtic origin, possibly *berna “cleft”, a toponym which, still in use, would have been adopted by the German speaking founders of the city.

Early history

The earliest evidence of human settlements...
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