In 1191, the year in which the city of Bern was founded, Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen commanded nobleman Cuno von Bubenberg to build a city on a peninsula covered by an oak forest. Von Bubenberg felled the forest and used the resulting timber to erect houses. Von Bubenberg had the forest cut down and houses built from the wood. The Clock Tower formed the city gate.
The bear featured on the present city coat of arms first appeared in 1224. According to legend, the city was named after the first animal killed by the Duke while hunting during the construction of the city.
In the 13th century, Bern was expanded towards the west, and the Prison Tower formed the new main gate In the 14th century, the third and final expansion phase of the city took place up to the present main railway station. In 1353 Bern became the eighth member of the “Confederation” and was regarded in the late Middle Ages as the biggest and most powerful city-state north of the Alps.
In 1405 Bern suffered a heavy loss when most of the city was burned to the ground. Reconstruction in sandstone began immediately, and by the 16th and 17th centuries most houses had already been built in the new material. This is why the original medieval cityscape has remained largely intact up to the present day. In 1528, followers of Zwingli introduced the Reformation in Bern. In 1798, French troops marched in, triggering the decline of the old city. Bern became a university city in 1834, and in 1848 it was chosen to be the Federal Capital of Switzerland by the 1st National Swiss Parliament. Bern is both the capital of the Canton of Bern and the seat of the Swiss government. Discover more information in the BernShow.