Lucern is a canton that is in the center of Switzerland. As of 2007 it had a population of just over 360,000. Of those, almost 16% are foreigners. The city Lucerne is the cantonal capital. The canton was accumulated, as it were, by the city Lucerne by purchase, armed takeover, or treaty. This process started in the 14th century with the town of Weggis. Hochdorf, Sempach, Kriens, Sempach, Rothenburg, and several others followed. They gave one back: in 1803 they gave up Merenschwand, which they'd held since 1397 in exchange for the town of Hitzkirch.
The canton of Lucerne coalesced around a Benedictine monastery that was founded in the 8th century on the Reuss. The name Lucerne is believed to derive from the name of the patron saint of the monastery, St. Leodegar, which gradually became Lucerrun in the 13th century.
Late in the 13th century, the Habsburgs bought Lucerne from Murbach. This purchase caused three so-called "forest" cantons, Unterwalden, Uri, and Schwyz, to form an alliance, and some historians consider that alliance to be the beginnings of Switzerland as it is known today. Three decades later, in 1332, Lucerne joined the forest cantons as a member of the Swiss Confederation.
The Habsburgs were forced out of Lucerne in the Battle of Sempach in 1386. After that victory, Lucerne began acquiring territory around it. Lucerne stayed Roman Catholic during the Protestant reformation, and it has been a Catholic center in Switzerland ever since. From 17th through most of the 19th century, the papal nuncio was located in Lucerne.
Geographically, Lucerne is in the center of the country. It's drained by two rivers, Kleine Emme and the Reusse. The lands are in the Swiss Alps' northern foothills. The Brienzer Rothorn rises over 2,300 meters and is the highest elevation in Lucerne. The canton takes up 1,493 square meters.
Lucerne has more agricultural land than many of the other cantons: some 55% of the land area. About 30% of Lucerne is wooded, and the rest consists of developed land, lakes, rivers, or mountains. Though agriculture dominates as a cantonal source of income, there is also industry, which is concentrated in the areas of tobacco, wood, machinery, textiles, and paper. Fruit and cattle make up the primary agricultural products of Lucerne. Because the canton leads to the famous Alpine resorts, it is a crossroads for a lot of travel between Germany and Italy.
Lucerne the city is the cantonal capital and is the district seat for the district of Lucerne. The city's population is almost 60,000, making it the most populated area in central Switzerland. The city's metropolitan area covers 17 other metropolises ranging over three cantons. When these are considered, the population rises to almost 200,000.
The city is located on Lake Lucerne and has views of Rigi and Mt. Pilatus. This scenic geographic abundance gives Lucerne a well-earned reputation as a tourist destination. Visitors to Lucerne are often taken by the many bridges it has, being situated on two rivers. The Chapel Bridge is a wooden bridge of 670 feet long that was built in 1333. Unfortunately, most of it required replacement after a fire in 1993, six and a half centuries after its construction. Part of the way across the bridge, it skirts the octagonal Wasserturm (water tower), which was a 13th century fort. Inside the bridge, a number of 17th century paintings give a visual history of Lucerne.
The Mill Bridge, which crosses the Reuss in a zigzag pattern, was built in 1408, and is the oldest covered bridge in Switzerland and all of Europe. It contains many medieval plague paintings with the haunting title Dance of Death. The paintings show men, women, hunters, millers, nuns, and people from every walk of life, in the presence of Death, who grants mercy on nobody. Other old parts of the city feature beautiful half-timber buildings, and parts of the old town walls remain on hills above Lucerne, and the wall still has eight watchtowers. Yet another tower - this one with a gate - is at the bottom of the hill on the banks of the Reuss river.
Much more could be written about the city and the canton of Lucerne. It is the perfect place to visit on a tour of Europe: a crossroads of German and Italian travel at the base of the Alps, with beautiful view of hills, Lake Lucerne, and two rivers. It is geographically and metaphorically the center of Switzerland.