Local History

Schwyz, Bundesbriefmuseum. Photo/Foto: TES.

Schwyz and Switzerland

The name for Switzerland, die Schweiz in German, la Suisse in French, Svizzera in Italian and Svizra in Romansh, is derived from the canton and the town Schwyz. This name is derived from the Germanic word Sueit, sengen or to scorch or to burn off grass. Schwyz is not a city in the medieval sense of the word, but it does play an important role in the creation of Switzerland as a sovereign country in a process of centuries. Schwyz, together with the towns and later cantons of Uri and Unterwalden, was one of the first Eidgenossen and tormentors of the Habsburgs and the Einsiedeln monastery (1314 looting monastery, 1315 Battle of Sempach). In 1501, the Swiss Confederation or Eidgenossenschaft consisted of 13 independent German-speaking cantons. In 1648, the Eidgenossenschaft was (in fact) recognized as a sovereign German-speaking state (in diversity). The Napoleonic era (1798-1813) and the Congress of Vienna and the Constitution of 1848 laid the foundation of present-day Switzerland and the recognition of four languages (Romansh in 1938). The remarkable Swiss flag also finds its origin in the Middle Ages and Schwyz. The Eidgenossen distinguished themselves in the battle with a white cross on a red background. In Schwyz, this history is presented in two institutes, Forum Schwyz (www.nationalmuseum.ch), one of the three national museums (the others are located in Zurich and Prangins) and the Bundesbriefmuseum (www.bundesbrief.ch).