Canton of Uri

The canton of Uri has a similar historical, economic and political development to Schwyz from Celtic and Roman times.

Altdorf is the main town of the canton and famous, among others, for William Tell. Important events include Emperor Friedrich II’s (1196-1250) acquisition of the status of free Reich city (village) in 1231 and its relationship and conflicts with the abbeys Frauenmünster in Zurich, Engelberg Abbey and Wettingen Abbey, all three under Habsburg protection.

Habsburg was also the manor lord in Uri at the end of the 13th century. The municipalities in Uri were already effectively independent by the end of the 13th century. The alliances with Unterwalden and Schwyz were not just against Habsburg and certainly did not have an independent state in mind.

These Orte had a common interest in grazing land management, conflict management and peacekeeping. Because of the Gotthard Pass and its lakeside location, Uri was economically and politically attractive. It resulted in conflicts with Habsburg (and its abbeys) and other cantons of the (later) Eidgenossenschaft.

The opening of the Gotthard Pass (1220-1230) meant more than economic growth. From 1403-1515, conquering the Italian territories on the other side of the pass was part of the expansion and rule of the regions (Untertanengebiete).

Uri also participated in other tutelages (Aargau (1415), Thurgau (1460) and the administration of the county of Neuchâtel (1512-1529).

In the 14th century, the Landsgemeinde came into being, which was abolished in 1928. Uri remained Catholic during the years of the Reformation. The Catholic faith led to alliances with other Catholic cantons and European monarchs, tensions and some (civil) wars but not to a break-up of the Confederation.

The canton vehemently opposed the Helvetic Republic (1798-1803) and was a member of the Sarnerbund (1832) and the Sonderbund in 1845 and was a loser in the Sonderbund War (1847).

The flag

Uri’s coat of arms is a black bull’s head with a protruding tongue and a red ring through the nose on a golden-yellow background (the Uristier). The meaning is the taming of the bull (symbol of animal husbandry) and the agricultural use of the land. This heraldry dates back to the 13th century.

(Source: R. Sablonier, Gründungszeit ohne Eidgenossen. Politik und Gesellschaft in der Innerschweiz um 1300, Baden, 2013).