History

The well-preserved Old Town, with its numerous and sometimes spectacular buildings, is witness to over two thousand years of Basel's history.

Back before our calendar began, Basel had already been occupied by the Celts. In 30 B.C. the city's strategically favourable position led the Romans to station its military forces on the hill now occupied by the cathedral.

One key event in the development of the city was the founding of the University in the year 1460. Many of Europe's greatest minds came to Basel, which became a veritable centre of humanism and book printing.

The Reformation witnessed the growth of the silk weaving and dyeing industries which in turn gave rise to today's pharmaceutical and chemical companies. The once fortified settlement is today a financial and commercial hub and a celebrated city of culture.

Dates from the history of Basel

TimelineEvent
Around 120 B.C.Celtic settlement on the banks of the Rhein at Voltaplatz.
Around 50 B.C.Raurica settlement on the hill where the cathedral now stands.
44 or 43 B.C.Foundation of the Roman settlement Augusta Raurica (Augst) by the Roman General Lucius Munatius Plancus.
374 A.D.The name of Basel (Basilia) is first mentioned by a Roman historian, Ammanius Marcellinus, on the occasion of a visit of the Emperor Valentinian I to the city.
7th centuryFinal transfer of Bishop's seat from Augst to Basel.
917The settlement and the Carolingian Minster were destroyed by the Hungarians. Death of Bishop Rudolph (sarcophagus in the Cathedral)
1006The civil power of the Bishop was established in Basel by decree of the Emperor Henry II
1019Consecration of the cathedral in the presence of Henry ll.
1061Reichstag samt Synode. Wahl des (Gegen-)Papstes Honorius II.
Around 1080First town­wall erected under Bishop Burchard von Fenis.
1225 / 26The first wooden bridge was spanned across the Rhine under Bishop Henry of Thoune. It is the nowadays Mittlere Rheinbrücke and had been made of stone between 1903­ and 1906. The same bishop also issued the first guild charter and elected a council.
1348 / 49The so-called "Black Death" plague was raging in Basel, Pogrom
1356On the 18th October a part of the city and the Minster was destroyed by the great earthquake
1362 - 1398Construction of outer town walls.
1392Reunion of Greater and Lesser Basel
1431 - 1448The 17th General Council meets in Basel. 1439 Election and 1440 coronation of (anti)pope Felix V. 
1444St. Jakob's battle next to the river Birse between Swiss confederates' small troop and the too strong Armagnacs' army under the French Dauphin
1460Foundation of Basel's University (the oldest university in Switzerland) by Pope Pius II
1471The Emperor Friedrich III confers on Basel the right to hold 2 fairs a year
1501Basel is accepted into the Swiss Confederation
1529Johannes Oekolampad introduces the Reformation. The Bishop of Basel leaves the city and settles down at Porrentruy and later at Soleure.
1646 / 47After the Thirty­ Years War (1618­-1648), Mayor Johann Rudolf, from Basel, takes part in the Peace Congress of Münster and Osnabrück in Westphalia and succeeds in getting absolute sovereignty for the Swiss Confederation from the German Empire.
1661The Council and the University buy up the Amerbach art collection. First public art collection in the world.
1798“Basel Revolution”: the population of Basel Country has the same legal rights as the town’s population.
1833The canton of Basel was separated into 2 half-cantons : Basel-Town and Basel-Country.
1844The first railway-train reaches Basel.
1875Neue Verfassung. Sie bedeutet das Ende des Zunftherrenregiments (damit verbunden ist die Abschaffung des Bürgermeisteramtes).
1897First Zionist congress in the world takes place in Basel. Theodor Herzl proclaims the Jewish State (Stadtcasino).
1904Beginning of the navigation on the Rhine up to Basel.
1912World peace congress in Münster (international socialism).
1917First Swiss “Mustermesse” Fair.
1946Inauguration of Basel­Mulhouse’s airport.
1971Connection of the Federal Railways’ Intercity net with Basel City. Basel builds ten-lane motorway over the Rhine.
1989European Ecumenical Congress “Peace in Justice”. Summit meeting during which the French State President François Mitterand, the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and the President of Switzerland, Jean­Pascal Delamuraz, sign a declaration for a closer collaboration between the three countries.
1996Merger of the two chemical companies Ciba and Sandoz to become a new large group.