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Chief town of the Canton of Lucerne in Switzerland. The beginnings of the town, as well as the derivation of its name, are obscure; the supposition of Ægidius Tschudi, that Lucerne was once the chief town of the Burgundian kings in Aargau, is legendary. It is safer to assert that, in the eighth century, there stood at the place where the Reuss flows out of the Lake of the Four Cantons a small Benedictine monastery dedicated to St. Leodegar, which, as early as the reign of King Pepin, belonged to the abbey of Murbach in Alsace. It is doubtful whether there was a previous settlement here, or whether the place was only an accretion of the monastery. The earliest mention of Lucerne is in a charter of Emperor Lothair I, 25 July, 840. With the flourishing church community a civil community also developed, and the buildings of the two gradually combined to make a small town, which appears in German documents of the thirteenth century as Lucerren, or Luzzernon. The Abbot of Murbach exercised feudal fiscal rights through a steward or bailiff; twice a year the abbot himself administered justice from the steps in front of the Hofkirche, with twelve free men beside him as aldermen. Each newly elected Abbot of Murbach had to promise fidelity to the law in Lucerne. The paramount jurisdiction over the settlement belonged to the Landgrave of the Aargau (after 1230, the Count of Habsburg), who exercised it through juniores, or bailiffs. The rapid rise of the town in the thirteenth century was chiefly due to the opening of the road over the St. Gothard, and the consequent increase of traffic between Italy and Western Germany. Lucerne thus became an important mart, and the citizens aspired to make themselves entirely independent of any overlord. To this end they exploited the financial embarrassments of the abbots to purchase one privilege after another. In the so-called Geschworenen Brief of 1252, the council and the citizens of the town already appear as quite independent of the abbot, who was theoretically their feudal lord, and as a community possessing a seal and its own tribunals.
As the abbots of Murbach were often at odds with the Counts of Habsburg, who were also Landgraves in Alsace, in regard to their estates in Upper Alsace, Rudolf of Habsburg, after his election as emperor, confirmed all the privileges of the town, and declared that the citizens of Lucerne were received as a fief of the Empire. In order to conciliate the town, he bought, in 1291, from the Abbot of Murbach the estates of the abbey in Lucerne and in the Forest Cantons (Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden) for 2000 silver marks and five villages in Alsace. Although the town looked unfavourably on this change of ownership, it was nevertheless obliged to swear allegiance to Rudolf's son Albrecht for the confirmation of its liberties. But the Habsburg supremacy did not last long. By the renewal of the league of the above three Forest Cantons, which has revolted from Austria, the foundation of a Swiss nationality was laid. In the wars which now broke out, Lucerne had to fight against its own countrymen; still it was faithful to its Austrian suzerain until after the Battle of Morgarten (1315). The victory gained there by the Swiss encouraged the friends of liberty, and two parties were formed in Lucerne, an Austrian and a Swiss. When the town was transferred, in 1228, from the jurisdiction of Rothenburg to that of Baden, twenty-six citizens formed an association for five years to maintain the city's privileges; in 1330 this association was joined by the burgomaster and the council, and on 7 November, 1332, Lucerne entered into a perpetual league with the three Forest Cantons. Although this alliance did not contemplate complete independence, still the struggle with the House of Habsburg could not be long delayed.
After 1336 several campaigns were carried on, and the city's liberties were sometimes increased, sometimes curtailed; but Lucerne was still Austrian. In 1361 it obtained exemption from the St. Gothard toll; in 1379 Wenceslaus granted it the judicial jurisdiction of first instance over property, and in 1381 penal jurisdiction was also granted. While the Austrian supremacy was thus dwindling, the city's territory was augmented by the accession of Krienz, Horw, and other neighboring towns. In consequence of a dispute about tolls, the Lucerners stormed Rothenburg, on 23 Dec., 1385, destroyed the castle, took Entlebuch, and assisted in the destruction of the castle of Wolhusen. The war with Austria ended with the Battle of Sempach (9 July, 1368), in which the burgomaster of Lucerne, Peter von Gunoldigen, met a hero's death, and the city was rid of the Austrian yoke. Lucerne henceforward had free scope for development. In 1394 it acquired the lordships of Wolhusen, Rothenburg, and Sempach; in 1406 of Habsburg, in 1407 the countship of Willisau. The village of Merenschwand voluntarily placed itself under the protection of Lucerne in 1397. About this time, the city was encircled with strong fortifications, of which the "Musegg", to the north, with its nine towers, still exists.
When the Austrian Frederick "Empty-purse" was put under the ban of the Empire at the Council of Constance (1415), by the Emperor Sigismund, on account of his relations with Pope John XXIII, and the Swiss, allied with the emperor, prepared to conquer the Aargau, Lucerne conquered Sursee and occupied the Cistercian monastery of St. Urban at Bonnwalde, the monastery at Beromünster, and other places. The whole territory was now divided into thirteen bailiwicks. Lucerne took a considerable part in the numerous Italian campaigns of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially in the victorious campaigns of the Swiss against Charles the Bold of Burgundy, which brought rich spoils to the city. By the war of the Swiss against Maximilian in 1499, known as the Swabian War, the bond between Lucerne and the German Empire was entirely severed in fact, though this fact was finally recognized only in 1648, by the Peace of Westphalia.
The fifteenth century brought important internal changes: the Council, which had governed somewhat arbitrarily, was forced to stipulate that, without the consent of the entire community, it would begin no war, enter into no alliance, purchase no lordships, and impose no new taxes. As in politics, so also in learning, Lucerne took a leading part in Switzerland; in the Hofschule, dating from 1290, it possessed the oldest teaching institution of Switzerland; in addition, there was a school at the Minorite convent. The latter was famous for the production of religious dramas, which reached their zenith in the second half of the fifteenth century and attracted audiences numbering as many as 30,000. The Benedictine foundation, which had fallen into decay, was in 1456 changed into a foundation of canons, which exists to this day. In the course of the sixteenth century an aristocratic constitution was formed, which survived every political storm and lasted till the dissolution of the canton.
The Reformation divided Switzerland into two camps. Besides the four Forest Cantons (Schwyz, Uri, Unterwalden, and Lucerne), Fribourg and Soleure formed the Catholic part. The new teaching did not find great following in the city, although a few scholars like Myconius and Textorius, tried at first to obtain admission. A zealous defender of the Faith arose in the Franciscan Thomas Murner, who came to Lucerne in 1524. The authorities also actively interposed against the followers of the new teaching. As the most important of the Catholic cities, Lucerne took the leading part in the conflict, notably at the Battle of Kappel, which strengthened the position of the Catholic Church in Switzerland, under her burgomasters, Hug and Golder. Also it was at the head of all the alliances which the Catholic cantons made with France or with the pope. St. Charles Borromeo, who visited Lucerne in 1570, rendered great services to the Catholic Church in Switzerland. At his suggestion on 7 Aug., 1574, the first Jesuits entered Lucerne, two fathers and a lay brother; in 1577 they received the Rittersche palace for a college. Their special protector was the burgomaster, the famous Swiss soldier, Ludwig Pfyffer, who had fought at Jarnac and Montcontour against the Huguenots, and who, from 1571 to his death in 1594, as "King of the Swiss", was the principal leader of Catholic opinion in Switzerland. His assistant for many years was the learned town clerk Renward Cysat, who collected valuable materials for the history of his native city.
In 1538 the Capuchins obtained an establishment in the city, and a permanent papal nunciature was erected there, Giovanni Francesco Bonhomini, Archbishop of Vercelli, being the first nuncio. The alliances of the Swiss with warlike popes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had resulted in active intercourse with Rome. At the instance, and in the presence, of the third nuncio, Battista Santorio, there was concluded (15 Oct., 1586), in the Hofkirche of Lucerne, the so-called Borromean, or Golden, Alliance, in which the four Forest Cantons, together with Zug, Fribourg, and Soleure, swore to be faithful to the Catholic Church, to strive for the conversion of any of their number who might fall away, and to protect the Faith to the best of their ability. As the capital of Catholic Switzerland, Lucerne made many sacrifices, and rendered great services, at the beginning of the seventeenth century to maintain the Faith in the Canton of Valais. At the same time the Council strongly insisted upon its ancient spiritual rights, in opposition to the nuncio, and this led to the sharp disputes which eventually, in 1725, caused the nuncio, Passionei, to abandon Lucerne for many years. In domestic affairs the ascendancy of the patricians increased; eligibility to office was limited to a few families, and the hereditary principle even invaded the Council. Trials for witchcraft cast a deep shadow on this period, and corruption was rife among public officials and members of the Government.
The eighteenth century wore on in a general peaceful course, after its stormy beginning in the unfortunate participation (1712) of Lucerne in the quarrel of the Abbot of St. Gall with the rebellious Toggenburg. Signs of decay showed themselves little by little in the body politic. The embezzlement of state funds and the wrangles of certain families, who dragged the state into their private feuds, added to the unpopularity of the twenty-nine "ruling families". The ideas of "enlightenment", emanating from France in the eighteenth century, found in Lucerne zealous literary champions in Councillor Felix Balthassar, whose work "De Helvetiorum juribus circa sacra", appeared in 1768, and in councillor Valentin Meyer. Thus the Revolution found a well-prepared soil at Lucerne. After the entry of the French into the Waadtland (Vaud), and the Revolution at Basle in 1798, Lucerne could no longer remain unaffected: without any popular upheaval, the high Council, quite unexpectedly, on 31 Jan., 1798, promulgated the abolition of aristocratic government, and ordered the convocation of delegates from the country, to consider a new constitution founded upon the principle of legal equality. Before this project could be realized, the entry of the French into Bern, in March 1798, ended the old confederation. Under orders from France the "Helvetian Republic" was formed, and territory of the confederation was divided into uniformly administered subordinate provinces. The Act of Mediation of Napoleon (19 Feb., 1803), which restored the old federal constitution of the republic, also brought to the people of Lucerne a larger share of self-government. With the fall of Napoleon and the entry of the allies into Lucerne, the old constitution was reestablished there (Feb., 1814), with the patrician regime. At the same time Lucerne became, alternately with Berne and Zurich, the seat of the National Diet.
In the following twenty years much feeling was aroused by the question arising out of the secularization of the Bishopric of Constance. A vicar-generalship, under the Provost Göldlin von Beromünster, was created for the part of Switzerland that had belonged to Constance. In 1821 the Bishopric of Constance was entirely abolished, and it being left to Lucerne to decide what should take its place, the city wished itself to be the new see. After years of negotiation, however, the Diocese of Basle was erected (1828), with the see at Soleure. The Liberal Democratic movement, which began in that year, destroyed the Conservative Government. The Revolution of July in France helped on the radical victory, and at the end of March, 1831, a Liberal Government came into power, whose leaders were the Burgomaster Amrhyn and the brothers Pfyffer. Josephinism thereupon became dominant in the relations of Church and State. On the advice of the burgomaster, Edward Pfyffer, the Government called a conference, on 2 0 Jan., 1834, at Baden, which agreed upon a number of articles defining the State's rights over the Church, and to inaugurate certain ecclesiastical reforms. After the High Council had adopted these Baden articles (which the pope condemned by the Bull of 18 May, 1835) the Government began to carry them out; the schools were laicized; the Franciscan monastery at Lucerne and others were abolished; property of foundations considered superfluous was inventoried; obnoxious clergy were called to account. The Government even considered the idea of expelling the nuncio, but he forestalled them, and transferred his residence to Schwyz. Those of the people who remained faithful to the Church organized themselves under the leadership of the worthy peasant Joseph Leu of Ebersoll. Their first steps, such as the proposal to recall the Jesuits, were indeed without result. But when the High Council of the Canton of Aargau, on 20 Jan., 1841, on the proposal of Augustin Keller, director of seminaries, had suppressed all the monasteries of the canton, and the Liberal party at Lucerne had openly expressed their sympathy with these hostile measures, the Liberal regime was overturned by the Conservatives in the elections of 1 May, 1841, and a new constitution was formed, which safeguarded the Church's rights. Under Joseph Leu, Siegwart Müller, and Bernard Meyer, Lucerne was again at the head of the Catholic cantons, the Baden Articles were declared null and void, and the nuncio reinstated at Lucerne.
In 1844 the recall of the Jesuits was decided upon by 70 votes to 24, an act which caused much bitterness of feeling and loud protests among the Liberals. The more thoughtless of them even had some idea of obtaining their ends by force; guerilla warfare was organized in the Cantons of Basle, Soleure, and Aargau, which in 1844 and 1845, united with their Lucerne sympathizers, to the number of 3600, and marched against the city of Lucerne, but were easily vanquished by the city's forces. The victories of the Radicals in several cantons and the murder of Leu (20 July, 1845) caused Lucerne to conclude a separate alliance (Sonderbund, 11 Dec., 1845) with Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Fribourg, Zug, and Valais, in opposition to the alliance of the Liberal cantons of 1832. Civil war was now almost inevitable. On 20 July the Swiss Diet decided on the dissolution of the Sonderbund, and on 16 Aug. accepted a revision of the alliance; on 2 Sept., the expulsion of the Jesuits was decided on. When, on 29 Sept., a proposal of the seven cantons for an arrangement was refused by the Liberal majority, who wished to ensure an extension of the federal power and a curtailment of the sovereignty of the individual cantons, the delegates of the Sonderbund left the Diet, and the war desired by the Liberal majority broke out. With the superiority of the alliance, the result could scarcely be in doubt. On 13 Nov., Fribourg was conquered; on 23 Nov., the Sonderbund troops were beaten in the Battle of Gislikon; on 24 Nov., Lucerne was forced to surrender, whereupon the other Sonderbund cantons also surrendered one by one. The campaign was decided in twenty days. Under the protection of the troops of the Confederation, a Liberal Government was elected at Lucerne, the Jesuits expelled, a few monasteries suppressed, notably the rich foundation of St. Urban, and the remaining ones burdened with levies. The new constitution (1848) of the Confederation substantially curtailed the rights of the cantons, as also did the Revision of 1874.
After several decades of religious peace, the Old-Catholic movement brought fresh discord into the canton. The reckless proceedings of the Confederation in favour of the Old Catholics, the deposition of Bishop Lachat of Basle by the diocesan conference of 29 Jan., 1873, the bigoted suppression of the nunciature by the national Government, which had the approval of the Lucerne Liberals, goaded the Catholics. Their victory at the election of 1871 led to the establishment of the Conservative Government (then headed by Philipp A. von Segesser) which since then has held its own at every election. Under it Lucerne afforded a refuge to the exiled bishop, Lachat, until the dispute was settled after protracted negotiations in which Lucerne took a considerable part. Since the opening of the St. Gothard railway, the town, owing to its noble situation on the lake, and as the gateway opening into the heart of Switzerland has rapidly developed and has become one of the centres of Swiss travel.
The canton of Lucerne, at the census of 1900, numbered 146,519 inhabitants, 134,020 of whom were Catholics, 12,085 were Protestants, and 414 of other denominations; the city, 29,255 inhabitants (23,955 Catholics, 4933 Protestants, 299 Jews). Of the eight Catholic churches and seven chapels, the most important is the collegiate church called the Hofkirche, which was rebuilt after the fire of 1633; the two towers of the old Gothic building still remain. The former church of the Jesuits was built in 1667-73. The earlier Franciscan church has one of the oldest architectural monuments of the city in its thirteenth-century Gothic choir. Lucerne is the seat of the seminary for the Diocese of Basle, with six professors. Besides the collegiate foundation in the city of Lucerne, with eleven canons and four chaplains, there has existed since the end of the tenth century the foundation of Beromünster, with a provost, eighteen canons, and ten chaplains. Of religious establishments there are at present three Capuchin houses (Lucerne, Sursee, and Schüpfheim), a house of Capuchinesses at Gerlisheim, one of the Cistercianesses at Eschenbach, whose abbess has the right of bearing the crosier; the Sisterhood of St. Martha in the hospital at Lucerne and the society of Baldegger Sisters, with a branch house and a seminary for governesses. The "Vaterland", the most important Catholic newspaper in Switzerland, appears at Lucerne, also the excellent "Schweizerichsche Katholische Kirchenzeitung".
PFYFFER, Geschichte der Stadt und des Kantons Luzern (2 vols., Zurich, 1850-52); IDEM, Historisch-geographisch-statistiches Gemälde des Kantons Luzern (2 vols., Lucerne, 1851-58); VON SEGESSER, Rechtsgeschichte der Stadt und Republik Luzern (4 vols., Lucerne, 1851-58); IDEM, 45 Jahre in luzernischen Staatsdienst (Bern, 1887); MEYER, Erlebnisse (Vienna, 1875); VON LIEBENAU, Das alte Luzern (Lucerne, 1881); FLEISCHLIN, Die Stifts-und Pfarrkirche zu Sankt Leodegarius und Mauritius in Hof zu Luzern (Lucerne, 1908); KESSER, Luzern und der Vierwaldstättersee (Leipzig, 1908); Nuntiatuberichte aus der Schweiz seit dem Konzil von Trient, I (Solothurn, 1906); HENGGELLER, Aus Recht und Geschichte der kath. Kirche in der Innerschweiz, I (Lucerne, 1909); Der Geschichtsfreund. Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der 5 Orte Luzern, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden und Zug (Einsiedeln and Stans, 1843--).
APA citation. (1910). Lucerne. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09406b.htm
MLA citation. "Lucerne." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09406b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Cielito Gonzales.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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