Religious sites in Switzerland

Wasserkirche

The Wasserkirche ('Water Church') of Zürich was first mentioned around 1250. It seems likely that the original building was used for cult meetings. The meetings were centred on a stone now located in the crypt of the church. According to medieval tradition, the site was used for the execution of Saints Felix and Regula. The church was built in the 10th century and modified at various points, culminating i ...
Founded: 1486 | Location: Zürich, Switzerland

Bern Minster

The first church on this site of Bern Minster probably was a small chapel built during the founding of Bern (1191). By the 15th century, Bern had expanded and become a major city-state north of the Alps. To celebrate their growing power and wealth, the construction of new church began in 1421. During the first phase, Matthäus Ensinger, a foreman from Ulm, was in charge of the project. The construction took over 150 yea ...
Founded: 1421 | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Grossmünster

The Grossmünster is a Romanesque-style Protestant church in Zurich. The core of the present building near the banks of the Limmat was constructed on the site of a Carolingian church, which was, according to legend, originally commissioned by Charlemagne. Construction of the present structure commenced around 1100 and it was inaugurated around 1220. The Grossmünster was a monastery church, vying for precedence wi ...
Founded: 1100-1220 | Location: Zürich, Switzerland

Fraumünster

The Fraumünster Church in Zurich is built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women which was founded in 853 by Louis the German for his daughter Hildegard. He endowed the Benedictine convent with the lands of Zurich, Uri, and the Albis forest, and granted the convent immunity, placing it under his direct authority. In 1045, King Henry III granted the convent the right to hold markets, collect ...
Founded: 853 AD | Location: Zürich, Switzerland

Calvin Auditory

The Calvin Auditory (Auditoire de Calvin), originally the Notre-Dame-la-Neuve Chapel, played a significant role in the Protestant Reformation. It is associated with John Calvin, Theodore Beza and John Knox. The auditorium lies directly adjacent to St. Pierre Cathedral in the Place de la Taconnerie. The austere Gothic-style building was constructed in the 15th century, on the site of earlier 5th-century religi ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Geneva, Switzerland

St. Peter's Cathedral

The St. Peter"s Cathedral in Geneva is known as the adopted home church of John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. Inside the church is a wooden chair used by Calvin. St. Peter"s Cathedral was build between years 1160-1252, on the place where previously used to stand basilica from the 6th century. Cathedral was rebuilded several times, last reconstructions took place in 18th century. In ...
Founded: c. 1160 | Location: Geneva, Switzerland

St. Peter's Church

Located next to the Lindenhof hill, site of the former Roman castle, St. Peter"s church was built on the site of a temple to Jupiter. An early church is archaeologically attested for the 8th or 9th century. This building was replaced by an early Romanesque church around AD 1000, in turn replaced in 1230 by a late romanesque structure, parts of which survive. Rudolf Brun, first independent mayor of the town, was bu ...
Founded: c. 1230 | Location: Zürich, Switzerland

Jesuit Church

The Lucerne Jesuit Church is the first large baroque church built in Switzerland north of the Alps. The Jesuit order, founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1534, were active participants in the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic fight against the birth of Protestantism. Protestant reformers such as Zwingli in Zurich and Calvin in Genevadivided the predominately Catholic Switzerland. In response, the Jesuits wer ...
Founded: 1667 | Location: Lucerne, Switzerland

Basel Minster

The Basel Minster is one of the main landmarks and tourist attractions of the Swiss city of Basel. It adds definition to the cityscape with its red sandstone architecture and coloured roof tiles, its two slim towers and the cross-shaped intersection of the main roof. Early structures The hill on which the Minster is located today was already a building site in the late Celtic Era in first century BC. A pre-R ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Basel, Switzerland

French Church

Today, the French Church in Bern is much more than just a place of prayer and refuge. It is now the oldest sacred building in the capital and attracts fans of architecture, art and culture alike. The place of worship was built in the 13th century by the local Dominicans. From 1623 onward it served the Protestant community and was home to French church services. Later, the church became known as a safe haven for the Hugue ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Nydeggkirche

The original small church was built from 1341 to 1346 to replace the old fort on the site. From 1480 to 1483 the city added a tower and from 1493 to 1504, a new nave was added. After the Protestant Reformation in 1529, the Nydeggkirche was transformed into a warehouse for barrels, timber and grain, but in 1566 again served as worship space. Beginning in 1566 it was cleaned out and minor renovations made to the windows an ...
Founded: 1341 | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Lausanne Cathedral

Construction of the Lausanne Cathedral began in 1170. Twenty years later another master mason restarted construction until 1215. Finally a third engineer, Jean Cotereel, completed the majority of the existing cathedral including a porch, and two towers, one of which is the current day belfry. The other tower was never completed. The cathedral was consecrated and dedicated to Our Lady in 1275 by Pope Gregory X, Rudolph o ...
Founded: 1170-1275 | Location: Lausanne, Switzerland

Abbey of Saint Gall

The Abbey of Saint Gall has existed at least since 747 AD and became an independent principality between 9th and 13th centuries, and was for many centuries one of the chief Benedictine abbeys in Europe. The Abbey of St Gall is an outstanding example of a large Carolingian monastery and was, since the 8th century until its secularisation in 1805, one of the most important cultural centres in Europe. The library at ...
Founded: 747 AD | Location: St. Gallen, Switzerland

Solothurn Cathedral

The St. Ursus Cathedral in Solothurn is dedicated to Ursus of Solothurn, who was a 3rd-century Roman Christian venerated as a saint. His his body is located under the cathedral. The first church on the site was built in the Early Middle Ages. St. Ursus of Solothurn was venerated in the city by the 5th century. By 870 there was a college of canons and presumably a collegiate church in Solothurn. A Romanesq ...
Founded: 1772-1773 | Location: Solothurn, Switzerland

Elisabethenkirche

The Elisabethenkirche is a well detailed example of Swiss Gothic Revival style churches. It has a 72 metres tall bell tower and spire. The tower has internal stairs. The church was begun in 1857 and completed in 1864. The construction was sponsored by the wealthy Basel businessman Christoph Merian and his wife Margarethe Burckhardt-Merian. They were both laid to rest in black marble sarcophagi in the crypt below t ...
Founded: 1857-1864 | Location: Basel, Switzerland

Predigerkirche

Predigerkirche is one of the four main churches of the old town of Zürich. First built in 1231 as a Romanesque church of the then Dominican Predigerkloster, the Basilica was converted in the first half of the 14th century, the choir between 1308 and 1350 rebuilt, and an for that time unusual high bell tower was built, regarded as most high Gothic edifice in Zürich. The abbey-choir building had been used for secu ...
Founded: 1231 | Location: Zürich, Switzerland

St. George's Abbey

Around 1007, Emperor Henry II moved St. George"s Abbey from its former location on the Hohentwiel in Singen to Stein am Rhein — at that time, little more than a small fishing village on the Rhine. The move was a means to strengthen his presence at this strategic point, where major roads and river routes intersected. He gave the abbots extensive rights over Stein and its trade so that they could develop it co ...
Founded: 1007 | Location: Stein am Rhein, Switzerland

Sion Cathedral

The first building on the site of current Sion Cathedral was built in the 9th century and destroyed by fire in 1010. The next Romanesque cathedral existed until the 15th century. The existing bell tower dates from the 13th century. The nave was rebuilt in Gothic style between 1450 and 1500. The cathedral contains several Roman inscriptions, 15 altars, and many fonts.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Sion, Switzerland

Basilica of Our Lady of Geneva

The Basilica Notre-Dame of Geneva is the main Roman Catholic church in Geneva. The church was built according to the design of Alexandre Grigny between 1852 and 1857 on the site of a former stronghold fortifications. This neo-Gothic building, whose appearance is partly inspired by the Beauvais Cathedral, could break ground thanks to the city of Geneva, which had ceded land to religious communities to build places ...
Founded: 1852-1857 | Location: Geneva, Switzerland

Fribourg Cathedral

The Gothic Cathedral of St. Nicholas dominates the center of the medieval town of Fribourg. It is built on a rocky outcrop 50 metres above the river Sarine (Saane). The main body of the church was started in 1283 and completed by 1430. The tower was completed in 1490. It is 76 metres tall and houses 11 bells. It also features a rose window above the main portal with stained glass by Harrison Weltlich (1988). The st ...
Founded: 1283 | Location: Fribourg, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kisimul Castle

Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.

Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.

The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.