Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft in German, Confédération suisse in French, Confederazione Svizzera in Italian, Confederaziun svizra in Romansh, and Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin), is a federal republic in Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. Extending across the north and south side of the Alps in west-central Europe, Switzerland encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and climates in a limited area of 15,940 square miles (41,285 square kilometers). It is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately eight million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centers Zürich and Geneva.
The establishment of the Old Swiss Confederacy dates to the late medieval period, resulting from a series of military successes against Austria and Burgundy. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The country has a history of armed neutrality going back to the Reformation; it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organizations, including the second largest U.N. office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association, but notably not part of the European Union or the European Economic Area. However, it participates in the Schengen Area and the European Single Market through bilateral treaties.
Switzerland is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product according to the IMF. Switzerland ranks at or near the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and human development. Zürich and Geneva have each been ranked among the top cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the former ranked second globally, according to Mercer.
Spanning the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Although the majority of the population are German speaking, Swiss national identity is rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism. Due to its linguistic diversity, Switzerland is known by a variety of native names: Schweiz (German), Suisse (French), Svizzera (Italian), and Svizra (Romansh). When it is inappropriate or inconvenient to use any or all of its four official languages, such as on coins and stamps, the Latin Confœderatio Helvetica (frequently shortened to Helvetia) is used instead. This is abbreviated to CH for the vehicle registration code and the website domain of .ch.
Notably, translations of the term Helvetia still serve as the name for Switzerland in languages such as Irish, in which the country is known as An Eilvéis, Greek, in which it is known as Ελβετία (Elvetia) and Romanian, Elveţia. In French, Swiss people may be referred to as Helvètes. The German word Helvetien is used as well as the synonym of Schweiz and has a higher poetic value. Helvetien is also more common in Germany; the German-speaking Swiss use simply Helvetia or Helvecia as poetic synonym of their country.
The English name Switzerland is a compound containing Switzer, an obsolete term for the Swiss, which was in use during the 16th to 19th centuries. The English adjective Swiss is a loan from French Suisse, also in use since the 16th century. The name Switzer is from the Alemannic Schwiizer, in origin an inhabitant of Schwyz and its associated territory, one of the Waldstätten cantons which formed the nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy. The Swiss began to adopt the name for themselves after the Swabian War of 1499, used alongside the term for Confederates, Eidgenossen (literally, “comrades by oath”), used since the 14th century.
The toponym Schwyz itself was first attested in 972, as Old High German Suittes, ultimately perhaps related to swedan ‘to burn’ (cf. Old Norse svíða “to singe, burn”), referring to the area of forest that was burned and cleared to build. The name was extended to the area dominated by the canton, and after the Swabian War of 1499 gradually came to be used for the entire Confederation. The Swiss German name of the country, Schwiiz, is homophonous to that of the canton and the settlement, but distinguished by the use of the definite article (d’Schwiiz for the Confederation, but simply Schwyz for the canton and the town).
The Latin name Confoederatio Helvetica was neologized and introduced gradually after the formation of the federal state in 1848, harking back to the Napoleonic Helvetic Republic, appearing on coins from 1879, inscribed on the Federal Palace in 1902 and after 1948 used in the official seal. The banking code CHF for the Swiss franc, is taken from the state’s Latin name as well. Helvetica is derived from the Helvetii, a Gaulish tribe living on the Swiss plateau before the Roman era.
Helvetia appears as a national personification of the Swiss confederacy in the 17th century with a 1672 play by Johann Caspar Weissenbach.
Switzerland has existed as a state in its present form since the adoption of the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1848. The precursors of Switzerland established a protective alliance at the end of the 13th century (1291), forming a loose confederation of states which persisted for centuries.
Traces of hominid existence in Switzerland date back about 150,000 years. The oldest known farming settlements in Switzerland, which were found at Gächlingen, have been dated to around 5300 BC.
The earliest known cultural tribes of the area were members of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel. La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age from around 450 BC, possibly under some influence from the Greek and Etruscan civilizations.
One of the most important tribal groups in the Swiss region was the Helvetii. Steadily harassed by the Germanic tribes, in 58 BC the Helvetii decided to abandon the Swiss plateau and migrate to western Gallia, but Julius Caesar’s armies pursued and defeated them at the Battle of Bibracte, in today’s eastern France, forcing the tribe to move back to its original homeland. In 15 BC, Tiberius, who was destined to be the second Roman emperor and his brother, Drusus, conquered the Alps, integrating them into the Roman Empire. The area occupied by the Helvetii — the namesakes of the later Confoederatio Helvetica — first became part of Rome’s Gallia Belgica province and then of its Germania Superior province, while the eastern portion of modern Switzerland was integrated into the Roman province of Raetia. Sometime around the start of the Common Era, the Romans maintained a large legionary camp called Vindonissa, now a ruin at the confluence of the Aare and Reuss rivers, near the town of Windisch, an outskirt of Brugg.
The first and second century AD were an age of prosperity for the population living on the Swiss plateau. Several towns, like Aventicum, Iulia Equestris and Augusta Raurica, reached a remarkable size, while hundreds of agricultural estates (Villae rusticae) were founded in the countryside.
Around 260 AD, the fall of the Agri Decumates territory north of the Rhine transformed today’s Switzerland into a frontier land of the Empire. Repeated raids by the Alamanni tribes provoked the ruin of the Roman towns and economy, forcing the population to find shelter near Roman fortresses, like the Castrum Rauracense near Augusta Raurica. The Empire built another line of defense at the north border (the so-called Donau-Iller-Rhine-Limes), but at the end of the fourth century the increased Germanic pressure forced the Romans to abandon the linear defense concept, and the Swiss plateau was finally open to the settlement of Germanic tribes.
In the Early Middle Ages, from the end of the 4th century, the western extent of modern-day Switzerland was part of the territory of the Kings of the Burgundians. The Alemanni settled the Swiss plateau in the 5th century and the valleys of the Alps in the 8th century, forming Alemannia. Modern-day Switzerland was therefore then divided between the kingdoms of Alemannia and Burgundy. The entire region became part of the expanding Frankish Empire in the 6th century, following Clovis I’s victory over the Alemanni at Tolbiac in 504 AD, and later Frankish domination of the Burgundians.
Throughout the rest of the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries the Swiss regions continued under Frankish hegemony (Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties). After its extension under Charlemagne, the Frankish Empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun in 843. The territories of present-day Switzerland became divided into Middle Francia and East Francia until they were reunified under the Holy Roman Empire around 1000 AD.
By 1200, the Swiss plateau comprised the dominions of the houses of Savoy, Zähringer, Habsburg, and Kyburg. Some regions (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, later known as Waldstätten) were accorded the Imperial immediacy to grant the empire direct control over the mountain passes. With the extinction of its male line in 1263 the Kyburg dynasty fell in AD 1264; then the Habsburgs under King Rudolph I (Holy Roman Emperor in 1273) laid claim to the Kyburg lands and annexed them extending their territory to the eastern Swiss plateau.
The Old Swiss Confederacy was an alliance among the valley communities of the central Alps. The Confederacy facilitated management of common interests and ensured peace on the important mountain trade routes. The Federal Charter of 1291 agreed between the rural communes of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden is considered the confederacy’s founding document, even though similar alliances are likely to have existed decades earlier.
By 1353, the three original cantons had joined with the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the Lucerne, Zürich and Bern city states to form the “Old Confederacy” of eight states that existed until the end of the 15th century. The expansion led to increased power and wealth for the confederation. By 1460, the confederates controlled most of the territory south and west of the Rhine to the Alps and the Jura mountains, particularly after victories against the Habsburgs (Battle of Sempach, Battle of Näfels), over Charles the Bold of Burgundy during the 1470s, and the success of the Swiss mercenaries. The Swiss victory in the Swabian War against the Swabian League of Emperor Maximilian I in 1499 amounted to de facto independence within the Holy Roman Empire.
The Old Swiss Confederacy had acquired a reputation of invincibility during these earlier wars, but expansion of the confederation suffered a setback in 1515 with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano. This ended the so-called “heroic” epoch of Swiss history. The success of Zwingli’s Reformation in some cantons led to inter-cantonal religious conflicts in 1529 and 1531 (Wars of Kappel). It was not until more than one hundred years after these internal wars that, in 1648, under the Peace of Westphalia, European countries recognized Switzerland’s independence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality.
During the Early Modern period of Swiss history, the growing authoritarianism of the patriciate families combined with a financial crisis in the wake of the Thirty Years’ War led to the Swiss peasant war of 1653. In the background to this struggle, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the First War of Villmergen, in 1656, and the Toggenburg War (or Second War of Villmergen), in 1712.
Beat Fischer von Reichenbach had been granted permission to operate a private postal service in Bern in 1675. The building next to the Berne Minster Gothic Chapel in Berne was used as a post office from 1675 to 1883. The service was named for him — Fischerpost. The service operated until 1832. Beat Fischer von Reichenbach was knighted by Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor for establishing postal services between Germany and Spain. In 1975, a postage stamp dedicated to Beat Fischer von Reichenbach was issued in Switzerland.
In 1798, the revolutionary French government conquered Switzerland and imposed a new unified constitution. This centralized the government of the country, effectively abolishing the cantons: moreover, Mülhausen joined France and Valtellina valley, the Cisalpine Republic, separating from Switzerland. The new regime, known as the Helvetic Republic, came into being on March 19, 1798, but it was not until that September that the entire country was conquered. According to Napoleon, the country was “liberated” to form itself into a new State, which assumed the title of Republique Helvetique Une et Indivisible. The Republic was administratively reorganized into twenty-two cantons. Later, that number was reduced to nineteen due to mergers and to some changes at the frontiers.
In September 1798, all postal mail was ordered to be “a natural and necessary property of the state” or, in modern parlance, nationalization was ordered. The cantonal and private mail services were taken over. The country was then divided into five postal districts: Berne, where Fischer Posts were entrusted with the administration of the mails; Basel; Zurich; St. Gallen; and Schaffhausen, where the administration was left in the hands of three mail farmers because of their close association with the Thurn and Taxis mails.
The first Republican Decree of the Helvetic State relating to postal matters was one of suppressing the old and colorful cantonal uniforms worn by the letter carriers. As a symbol of national service, a new uniform was issued in the Republican colors of green, red and yellow.
The regime was highly unpopular. It had been imposed by a foreign invading army and destroyed centuries of tradition, making Switzerland nothing more than a French satellite state. The fierce French suppression of the Nidwalden Revolt in September 1798 was an example of the oppressive presence of the French Army and the local population’s resistance to the occupation.
When war broke out between France and its rivals, Russian and Austrian forces invaded Switzerland. The Swiss refused to fight alongside the French in the name of the Helvetic Republic. In 1803, Napoleon organized a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides in Paris. The result was the Act of Mediation which largely restored Swiss autonomy and introduced a Confederation of 19 cantons. Henceforth, much of Swiss politics would concern balancing the cantons’ tradition of self-rule with the need for a central government.
In 1815, the Congress of Vienna fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognize Swiss neutrality. Swiss troops still served foreign governments until 1860 when they fought in the Siege of Gaeta. The treaty also allowed Switzerland to increase its territory, with the admission of the cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva. Switzerland’s borders have not changed since, except for some minor adjustments.
The restoration of power to the patriciate was only temporary. After a period of unrest with repeated violent clashes such as the Züriputsch of 1839, civil war (the Sonderbundskrieg) broke out in 1847 when some Catholic cantons tried to set up a separate alliance (the Sonderbund). The war lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties, most of which were through friendly fire. Yet however minor the Sonderbundskrieg appears compared with other European riots and wars in the 19th century, it nevertheless had a major impact on both the psychology and the society of the Swiss and of Switzerland.
The war convinced most Swiss of the need for unity and strength towards its European neighbors. Swiss people from all strata of society, whether Catholic or Protestant, from the liberal or conservative current, realized that the cantons would profit more if their economic and religious interests were merged.
Thus, while the rest of Europe saw revolutionary uprisings, the Swiss drew up a constitution which provided for a federal layout, much of it inspired by the American example. This constitution provided for a central authority while leaving the cantons the right to self-government on local issues. Giving credit to those who favored the power of the cantons (the Sonderbund Kantone), the national assembly was divided between an upper house (the Council of States, two representatives per canton) and a lower house (the National Council, with representatives elected from across the country). Referendums were made mandatory for any amendment of this constitution.
The first postage stamps used in Switzerland were issued by the cantons of Zürich, Geneva and Basel for their own use and were the third (1843), fourth (1843), and fifth (1845) adhesive postage stamp-issuing entities of the world. Unfortunately, the cantonal postage stamp issues are tremendously rare today.
On March 1, 1843, Zürich issued their first stamps, the Zurich 4 and Zurich 6, the second types of stamp in the world after Great Britain’s Penny Black three years earlier. The issue consisted of two imperforate stamps printed separately, each in five types, in sheets of 100, one with a large numeral 4 and the other with a 6, both inscribed Zürich at the top. The 4-rappen stamp was also inscribed LOCAL-TAXE at the bottom, since it was intended to pay for letters mailed within a city, while the 6-rappen, inscribed CANTONAL-TAXE, was for use with letters going anywhere in the canton. The design was lithographed in black by Orell, Fuessli, and Company, with a pattern of fine red lines underneath, to discourage counterfeiting. Initially the red line were vertical, but starting in 1846 they were printed horizontal. These stamps were popular from the start, but were not printed in large numbers and are quite scarce today, with values ranging from US $1,500 to $20,000 depending on type.
Canton Zurich also issued a stamp in 1850, known to collectors as the Winterthur issue, depicting the Swiss federal cross and a posthorn, which served as a transitional issue until the stamps of the Swiss federal government made their appearance later that same year.
On September 30, 1843, Geneva issued their first stamps: the “Double Geneva”. Like the first Zürich issue, it consisted of pairs of stamps, each printed in black on yellow-green paper, depicting the city’s arms, and inscribed Poste de Genéve at the top and Port local at the bottom. An additional inscription, reading 10 PORT CANTONAL Cent ran across the top of each pair. The idea was that the user could cut out a single stamp to pay the intra-commune rate, and a pair to make up the inter-commune rate. Only 6,000 of the doubles were ever printed, and as of 2008, intact used doubles typically go for around US $60,000 at auction. In 1845, Geneva switched to conventional single 5 centime stamps. In 1849, it printed a 4 centime stamp featuring the federal cross in black and red, and similar 5 centime designs in 1850 and 1851.
Basel issued the “Basel Dove” in 1845. This was a 2½-rappen value featuring a white embossed dove carrying a letter in its beak, and inscribed STADT POST BASEL, a design by the architect Melchior Berry. It is printed in black, crimson, and blue, making it the world’s first tri-colored stamp.
The adoption of the federal constitution in 1848 made it practical to issue Confederation-wide stamps, and the first of these came out in 1850 (the exact date is uncertain). All used the same basic design, a Swiss cross surmounted by a posthorn, but there were a number of variations. The local-rate stamps had a value of 2½ rappen, with some inscribed ORTS-POST in German and POSTE LOCALE in French. This was the first of many multi-language issues. For longer-distance mail, the 5-rappen stamp was inscribed RAYON and the 10-rappen, RAYON II. Initially the stamps were issued with a black frame separating the white cross from the red background, but as a technically incorrect rendition of the Swiss arms, these were withdrawn.
A system of single weights and measures was introduced and in 1850 the Swiss franc became the Swiss single currency. Article 11 of the constitution forbade sending troops to serve abroad, though the Swiss were still obliged to serve Francis II of the Two Sicilies with Swiss Guards present at the Siege of Gaeta in 1860, marking the end of foreign service. An important clause of the constitution was that it could be re-written completely if this was deemed necessary, thus enabling it to evolve as a whole rather than being modified one amendment at a time.
In 1852, a 15-rappen/centime value inscribed RAYON III was issued, using the same design as previously, but printed entirely in vermilion.
All of the preceding issues were declared invalid on October 1, 1854, and replaced with the seated allegorical figure “Helvetia”, the first of several issues known as “seated Helvetias”. The figure was embossed but only the outline was colored, making it rather hard to pick out. In addition to the word FRANCO at the top, the other three sides listed the denomination in rappen, centimes, and (Italian) centesimi. These stamps feature a seated figure of Helvetia wearing a laurel wreath. She holds a spear in her right arm, and her left arm is resting on a shield, emblazoned with the arms of the Helvetic Confederation. The effect given by the shape of the wreath around her embossed head caused many German speaking collectors to jokingly refer to the design as “Strubel“, referring to the visual effect of Helvetia having “unkempt” or “frizzy” hair. The nickname for these issues stuck, and just about every collector of Swiss stamps now refers to them as “The Strubels”.
The issue was also notable for the use of a colored silk thread running horizontally through the paper, as an anti-counterfeiting measure. The stamps have many, different variations including differing inks, paper, and paper thickness. A number of values were printed between 1854 and 1862, ranging from 5 rappen to 1 franc, and philatelists distinguish them further by type of paper and color of thread. The commonest type surviving today is the 5-rappen brown on thick paper with a green thread, costing US $20 used; certain other types are rare, and the pale yellow-green shade of the 40-rappen value will go for $7,000 or more.
A new design with more legible seated Helvetia appeared in 1862, now sporting a “watermark” consisting of a cross inside an ellipse (not a true watermark because it was impressed into the paper after printing), and for the first time, perforations. The units of currency disappeared, with HELVETIA inscribed at the top and FRANCO at the bottom. Initially printed on white wove paper, the stamps switched to granite paper in 1881. The stamps continued in use until 1883; many of them are common and cheaply available today, although legitimate cancellations on the granite paper varieties are uncommon because of the short period of use.
In 1882, the low value stamps (up to 15 centimes) were numerals, while the higher values featured a “Standing Helvetia”. These continued in use, with a number of variations in color, perforation, and paper, until 1907. Switzerland’s first commemorative stamps were released in 1900, a set of three values issued for the 25th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union, with an allegorical design featuring various symbols of communication.
A rise in population and the Industrial Revolution that followed led to calls to modify the constitution accordingly. An early draft was rejected by the population in 1872 but modifications led to its acceptance in 1874. It introduced the facultative referendum for laws at the federal level. It also established federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters.
In 1891, the constitution was revised with unusually strong elements of direct democracy, which remain unique even today.
A new definitive stamp series in 1907 showed William Tell’s son holding a crossbow and an apple pierced by an arrow for values below 10 centimes, a bust of Helvetia for 10 centime to 15 centime values, and another seated Helvetia for higher denominations. The William Tell’s son design went through several redrawings, including a temporary move of the bowstring in front of the crossbow’s stock. From 1914 on, a portrait of William Tell himself was used for values between 10 centimes and 30 centimes.
Also in 1914, the first of many scenic stamps were issued. The 5 franc depicted the Rütli meadow, while the 3 franc and 10 franc stamps showed the Mythen and Jungfrau mountains, respectively. The first semi-postal stamp was issued in 1913, but regular annual issues did not start until 1915. For many years an issue of 3-5 stamps came out on December 1 each year, until 1972.
Switzerland was not invaded during either of the world wars. During World War I, Switzerland was home to Vladimir Illych Ulyanov (Vladimir Lenin) and he remained there until 1917. Swiss neutrality was seriously questioned by the Grimm–Hoffmann Affair in 1917, but it was short-lived. In 1920, Switzerland joined the League of Nations, which was based in Geneva, on condition that it was exempt from any military requirements.
A set of three stamps in 1919 celebrated peace at the end of World War I. Stamp printing experienced some difficulties during this period, and a variety of surcharges were needed in 1915 and 1921. The Universal Postal Union was honored on its 50th anniversary in 1924 with two stamps, one depicting its building in Bern and the other the location of the 1874 Congress.
In about 1930, Switzerland began to use “grilled gum”, a light grill applied along the gum to counteract the tendency for gummed stamps to curl. The grill is most obvious on mint stamps, but is faintly visible on used stamps as well. This was abandoned around 1944.
The next definitive series was a set of scenic views issued in 1934. The designs were typographed, resulting in a vigorous albeit somewhat crude-looking appearance, and they were superseded by engraved versions of the same basic designs, beginning in 1936. Several commemorative issues appeared in the 1930s, then in 1941 came new definitives honoring Swiss military heroes. Another definitive set in 1945 marked the end of the war; the higher values of this were issued in small numbers, and are relatively expensive today.
During World War II, detailed invasion plans were drawn up by the Germans, but Switzerland was never attacked. Switzerland was able to remain independent through a combination of military deterrence, concessions to Germany, and good fortune as larger events during the war delayed an invasion. Under General Henri Guisan’s central command, a general mobilization of the armed forces was ordered. The Swiss military strategy was changed from one of static defense at the borders to protect the economic heartland, to one of organized long-term attrition and withdrawal to strong, well-stockpiled positions high in the Alps known as the Reduit. Switzerland was an important base for espionage by both sides in the conflict and often mediated communications between the Axis and Allied powers.
Switzerland’s trade was blockaded by both the Allies and by the Axis. Economic cooperation and extension of credit to the Third Reich varied according to the perceived likelihood of invasion and the availability of other trading partners. Concessions reached a peak after a crucial rail link through Vichy France was severed in 1942, leaving Switzerland completely surrounded by the Axis. Over the course of the war, Switzerland interned over 300,000 refugees and the International Red Cross, based in Geneva, played an important part during the conflict. Strict immigration and asylum policies as well as the financial relationships with Nazi Germany raised controversy, but not until the end of the 20th century.
During the war, the Swiss Air Force engaged aircraft of both sides, shooting down 11 intruding Luftwaffe planes in May and June 1940, then forcing down other intruders after a change of policy following threats from Germany. Over 100 Allied bombers and their crews were interned during the war. During 1944–45, Allied bombers mistakenly bombed a few places in Switzerland, among which were the cities of Schaffhausen, Basel and Zürich.
After the war, the Swiss government exported credits through the charitable fund known as the Schweizerspende and also donated to the Marshall Plan to help Europe’s recovery, efforts that ultimately benefited the Swiss economy.
The definitive stamp series of 1949 depicted achievements of Swiss technology. Since that time, Swiss stamps have generally followed a regular pattern; an issue of about four commemoratives on a single date in the spring, and a similar group in the fall, as well as a Europa issue, usually in the spring. Starting in the 1980s, there have been additional themed issues; for instance, in 1993 an issue of four stamps featured works of art by Swiss women.
During the Cold War, Swiss authorities considered the construction of a Swiss nuclear bomb. Leading nuclear physicists at the Federal Institute of Technology Zürich such as Paul Scherrer made this a realistic possibility. In 1988, the Paul Scherrer Institute was founded in his name to explore the therapeutic uses of neutron scattering technologies. Financial problems with the defense budget and ethical considerations prevented the substantial funds from being allocated, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 was seen as a valid alternative. All remaining plans for building nuclear weapons were dropped by 1988.
Switzerland was the last Western republic to grant women the right to vote. Some Swiss cantons approved this in 1959, while at the federal level it was achieved in 1971 and, after resistance, in the last canton Appenzell Innerrhoden (one of only two remaining Landsgemeinde) in 1990. After obtaining suffrage at the federal level, women quickly rose in political significance, with the first woman on the seven member Federal Council executive being Elisabeth Kopp, who served from 1984–1989, and the first female president being Ruth Dreifuss in 1999.
Switzerland joined the Council of Europe in 1963. In 1979, areas from the canton of Bern attained independence from the Bernese, forming the new canton of Jura. On April 18, 1999, the Swiss population and the cantons voted in favor of a completely revised federal constitution.
In 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican City as the last widely recognized state without full U.N. membership. Switzerland is a founding member of the EFTA, but is not a member of the European Economic Area. An application for membership in the European Union was sent in May 1992, but not advanced since the EEA was rejected in December 1992 when Switzerland was the only country to launch a referendum on the EEA. There have since been several referendums on the EU issue; due to a mixed reaction from the population the membership application has been frozen. Nonetheless, Swiss law is gradually being adjusted to conform with that of the EU, and the government has signed a number of bilateral agreements with the European Union. Switzerland, together with Liechtenstein, has been completely surrounded by the EU since Austria’s entry in 1995.
On June 5, 2005, Swiss voters agreed by a 55% majority to join the Schengen treaty, a result that was regarded by EU commentators as a sign of support by Switzerland, a country that is traditionally perceived as independent and reluctant to enter supranational bodies.
Scott #569 is a 1 franc purple stamp engraved on fluorescent paper with violet fibers and perforated 11½. It features the south rose window of Lausanne Cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral began as early as 1170 by an original unknown master mason. Twenty years later, another master mason restarted construction until 1215. Finally a third engineer, Jean Cotereel, completed the majority of the existing cathedral including a porch, and two towers, one of which is the current day belfry. The other tower was never completed. The cathedral was consecrated and dedicated to Our Lady in 1275 by Pope Gregory X, Rudolph of Habsburg, and the bishop of Lausanne at the time, Guillaume of Champvent.
The Protestant Reformation, a movement which came from Zürich, significantly affected the cathedral. In 1536, a new liturgical area was added to the nave and the colorful decorations inside the cathedral were covered over. Other major restorations occurred later in the 18th and 19th centuries which were directed by the great French architect, Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. During the 20th century, major restorations occurred to restore the painted interior decorations as well as to restore a painted portal on the south side of the cathedral. New organs were installed in 2003.
The spectacular stained glass window on the south facade of Lausanne Catherdral was created by a traveling artist from Picardy. Pierre d’Arras handcrafted the gothic rose-shaped window of concentric circles with layers of complex imagery and meaning from 1231-1235. The medieval architect Villard de Honnecourt drew the rose window of the south transept in his sketchbook in 1270. Round like the universe was thought to be, this exquisite gothic representation of the earth and the heavens measures twenty six feet in diameter. All of it is original with the exception of the center pieces which were replaced in 1909.
Starting with the outside, are depictions of the eight winds: Auster, the south wind; Euroauster, the south-east wind; Subsolanus, the eastern wind of the Levant; Vulturnus, the south-east wind; Septentrion, the north wind; Corus, the north-west summer wind; Zephyr, the west wind; and Austerozephyr, the south-west wind.
The next layer, at the points that make an “x” are the illustrations of the four rivers of paradise: the Nile; the Tigris; the Ganges; and the Euphrates.
Inside, at the compass points, are four circles with the four elements and the twelve signs of the zodiac. Within are depictions of the four seasons and in the middle are the four allegories of creation: light and dark; land and sea; the Creator; fish and birds; animals and men.
Each stained glass panel features intricate imagery representing the commonly held beliefs at the time. Ironically, it is not a religious themed window. Hailed as one of medieval Europe’s most historical sites, Lausanne Cathedral is undergoing an extensive renovation. In fact, it was never fully completed and was stripped bare during the Reformation Period. Fortunately, the rose window remained behind, a symbol of the gothic era and man’s intimate knowledge of the earth and skies.