ZURICH (Braun & Hogenberg, 1581)


This is a picture created by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg in 1581 representing the old city of Zürich. It is found in the book «Civitates Orbis Terrarum» which traslation into English is «World Cities». In the past Zurich was called Taricum. From the 16th century a lot of religious controversies took place and in 1523 and Zurich was separated from Catholicism. It was the first city that adopted the Protestant Reformation in 1519. Right now Zürich is the biggest city of Switzerland with a population estimated at 390,000 inhabitants. But in the era of this picture the population felt down because of the witch hunt.

Zurich is located at the two sides of the Limmat River. The Alps are situated at 30 km of the city. Zurich is sourrounded by two leafy hills. In the picture we can find two types of morphology. On the left side of the picture the town layout is irregular, whereas on the right side the town planning is more regular. A fortified city wall surrounds the whole city. Concerning urban structure the old quarter of the city is placed in the Kreise district that is ordered in the direction of clockwise. The most important districts are the number 1, also known as Altstadt, which is situated next to the Zurich Lake. It is part of the old-quarter. Another important district is the number 4, where nowadays is situated the rail station.

In the old-quarter we can find the most specific buildings of the city such as churches, public buildings and bourgeois houses. The biggest church is the chatedral Groosmüster, built in Romanesque style. It is located on the right side of the river. It was founded by Charlemagne, dates between the 9th and 13th centuries. The church of Fraumünster, also built in Romanesque style, was founded by the grandson of Charlemagne. San Peter’s of Zurich is oldest church of the city, we can find it at the bottom of the picture. On their bell tower is found the biggest clock of Europe. Other important tourist attractions are the City Hall of Zurich, built in Baroque style, and the square and the avenue of Paraplatz, located at the bottom of the image; that is fixed to the old Wall. On the left of the picture we can see the current National Museum, which looks like a castle. Inside it is founded the greatest historical and cultural collection of the region. Culturally, Zürich is a city that have a lot of museums, galleries, theatres, also a symphonic orchestra and numerous festivals.

If we focus on the outskirts of the picture we can see that in this area one of the most important economic activity in those days was agriculture. But also if we observe the river the picture shows that there are a lot of movement. What we can deduce that another important activity was the carriaged of hoods. In relation of this topic we can say that during the Roman times the city was an important commercial port. Looking at the picture in detail we can appreciate that in the wall surrounding the city there is a lot of towers. In some of that towers we can distinguish a gate. The most important gates are situated in the background, in the foreground and on the right hand side of the picture. Also we can appreciate that the street that beging on the gate located at the right is the main street of the city. That road crosses all the quarter of the city located at the right side of the river.

An interesting historical fact is that Napoleon entered without opposition into Switzerland in 1798 and created a new Constitution for the Swiss Republic. But the Austrian Army under the authority of the archduke Charles, defeated the Napoleonic forces in the Zurich battle. In 1811 the historic walls fell down and in 1815 it was declared a neutral city. Since the end of the 20th century, Zurich has been the financial centre and motor of Switzerland. In addition there are the headquarters of a lot of Banks and insurance companies. Moreover Zurich is a city that have a lot of museums, galleries, theatres, also a symphonic orchestra and numerous festivals.

Claudia Navarrete Adán

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