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History of Switzerland During the Early Middle Ages

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In 496, the Alemanni were conquered by Clovis, in 534 the Burgundians were his sons; after that, Retia was ceded by the Ostgoths to the Franks (536), and thus the whole of Switzerland became part of the Frankish kingdom, with the exception of the extreme south ( Ticino ); this latter was conquered by the Lombards in 569, and it was only with the fall of their kingdom in 774 that it passed into the power of the Franks. Already with the Alemanni and Burgundians (V century), Christianity began to spread again in Switzerland; with the Franks in the 6th — 7th centuries, it finally triumphed. A significant number of monasteries arose in the country, which, under the Frankish kings, received into their possession large land properties. With Alemanni and Burgundians, a relatively small number of significant urban settlements began to be replaced by many small farms; the conquered elements were part of the serf population, the winners formed the classes of free and noble. During the domination of the Franks, who subdued yesterday’s gentlemen, feudalism made further progress.

Under Charles the Great, Switzerland, in the interests of administration, was divided into ten counties. Under the Treaty of Verdun in 843, Switzerland was divided: western, together with Burgundy, and southern, together with Italy, went to Emperor Lothar, eastern, along with all Alemannia – King Louis the German. In this latter part of Switzerland, the city of Zurich began to play a prominent role. In 854, Louis the German expanded the tenure and rights of the previously existing monastery of St. Gallen, which in the following centuries was an important center of education in Switzerland. After the death of Louis the Child in 911, the duchy of Alemania was formed, and eastern Switzerland became part of it.

In 888, Duke Rudolf from the House of Welf founded the Upper Kingdom of Burgundy, which included western Switzerland with Wallis. The collapse of the monarchy of Charlemagne weakened it; Kings could not always defend their possessions from the raids of the semi-savage barbarians.

In the 10th century Switzerland, Hungarians began to threaten from the east, and Saracens from the south. In 917, they first looted Basel, in 926 – St. Gallen ; in 936–940, the Saracens laid waste to Hurretia (Graubünden), and burned down the monastery of St. Mauritius.

When the offspring of Rudolph faded away in 1032, the supreme power over Burgundy passed to Emperor Conrad II ; since then for three centuries, until the strengthening of the Swiss Union, the fate of the whole of Switzerland depended on the German emperors ; only Ticino and a small part of Graubünden, closely connected with Milan, depended on the emperors as they were Italian kings.


Encyclopedic Dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron

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