1902 Encyclopedia > Basel (city)

Basel (city)

BASEL, or BALE, the capital of the above canton [BASEL (canton), Switzerland], and, next to Geneva, the largest city in Switzerland, is situated on both sides of the Rhine, 43 miles N. of Beme, in lat. 47° 33' N., and long. 7° 35' E. Great Basel, or the city proper, lies on the south side of the river, and is connected with Little Basel on the north side by a handsome bridge 800 feet long, which was originally erected in 1229. The city is generally well-built, but there are fewer remarkable edifices than in many other Continental cities of similar size. The fine old Gothic cathedral, founded 1010, still stands, and contains a number of interesting monuments, besides the tombs of Erasmus, CEcolampadius, and other eminent persons. A re-decoration was skilfully effected in 1852-1856. Among other ecclesiastical buildings of interest may be mentioned St Martin's, restored in 1851 ; St Alban's, formerly a monastery ; the church of the Bare-footed Friars, which now serves as a store-house; Elizabeth's Church, of modern erection ; and St Clara's in Little Basel. The town-hall was built in 1508 and restored in 1826. A post-office, a new bank, and an hospital are of recent erection. Besides the university,

Plan of Basel.
A. Peter's Platz I E, Botanical Gardens.
B, Market. F, University.
C. Barfnsser Plötz. | G, Town-Hall.
D, Zoological Gardens. H, Armoury.

which was founded by Pope Pius II. in 1459, and reorganized in 1817, Basel possesses a public library of 95,000 vols., with a valuable collection of MSS., a picture-gallery, a museum, a theological seminary for missionaries (established in 1816), a gymnasium, an industrial school, a botanical garden, an orphan-asylum, an institution for deaf-mutes, and various learned societies. Of these may be mentioned the Society for the Propagation of Useful Knowledge, founded in 1777 by Iselin, the Society of Natural History, the Society of National Antiquities, and the Bible Society, which dates from 1804 and was the first of the kind on the Continent. Basel is the seat of an active transit-trade between France, Germany, and Switzer-land, and possesses important manufactures of silk, linen, and cotton, as well as dyeworks, bleachfields, and iron-works, the most valuable of all being the ribbon-trade. It has railway communication with both south and north. The Baden line has a station in Little Basel; and the central station for the Swiss and Alsace railways lies to the south-east of the city proper. Basel was the birthplace of Euler, Bernouilli, Iselin, and perhaps of Holbein; and the names of Erasmus, CEcolampadius, Grynaeus, Merian, De Wette, Hagenbach, and Wecknernagel, are associated with the university. Population in 1870, 44,834.

Basel (Basilia) first appears in the 4th century as a Roman military post. On the decay of the neighbouring city of Augusta Rauracorum, the site of which is still marked by the village of Augst, it began to rise into im-portance, and, after numerous vicissitudes, became a free city of the empire about the middle of the 10th century, and obtained a variety of privileges and rights. In 1356 the most of its buildings were destroyed by an earthquake.

In 1392 the town of Little Basel was acquired from the bishop by purchase. From 1431 to 1443 the meetings of a General Council were held in the city (see next article). After the battle of St Jacob in 1444, in the immediate neighbourhood, Basel was visited by the plague, and its population considerably diminished. In 1501 it became a member of the Swiss Confederacy; and it was one of the chief seats of the Reformation movement. The position of the city exposed it to many dangers during the Thirty Years' War and the subsequent disturbances of the neigh-bouring states; but in spite of all it continued to flourish. A peril of a more critical kind arose from within. The quasi-aristocratic Government of the city appropriated all political rights, and left the inhabitants of the rural dis-tricts unrepresented,—which gradually led to much discon-tent on the part of the latter, and ultimately to actual rebellion. It was not till 1833 that peace was firmly restored by the complete separation of the canton into the two divisions of Basd-stadt and Basel-landschaft, the former being allowed to include not only the city proper, but also the communes of Reihen, Bettingen, and Klein-Hiiningen. The capital of the rural division is Liesthal, with (in 1870) a population of 3873.

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