1519 –2019
500th Anniversary of the Reformation in Zurich
The key information about the Reformation in Zurich at a glance

Reformation in Zurich

In the 16th century, under Huldrych Zwingli and his successor, Heinrich Bullinger, Zurich became the birthplace and center of the Reformation in German-speaking Switzerland.

Huldrych Zwingli, the Revolutionary

Huldrych Zwingli came to Zurich in 1519 to work as a pastor, and he began to preach a whole new interpretation of the Word of God. He shared Martin Luther’s view that everything that was not mentioned in the original version of the Bible should be banned from religious life. Thus he did away with holy images, singing hymns and fasting for Lent in the churches, and spoke out against the veneration of relics, celibacy and the Eucharist. In addition, he sought to eliminate the selling of indulgences and the practice of mercenary soldiers.

Affluent Switzerland Thanks to the Reformation?

From 1530, the citizens of Zurich were subjected to a whole series of strict moral mandates:

  • the wearing of high-fitting clothing
  • strict division of gender roles
  • compulsory attendance at Sunday services
  • closure of inns and taverns at 9.00pm

At first sight, this seems very strict and disagreeable, but at the same time these rules and regulations laid the foundations for the affluent Switzerland that we know today. Zwingli advocated a new work ethic – diligence, discipline, thrift and frugality – and introduced a social welfare system to look after the poorest and most disadvantaged people. And while subsequently the first factories, new commercial enterprises and international trade established themselves in the Protestant areas, the Catholic cantons continued to be characterized by impoverished farming communities, which had to give their already meagre income to the all the more ostentatious Catholic churches.

Reformation Today

Nowadays, churches, monuments and guided city tours invite visitors to explore Zurich on the trail of Christianity and the Reformation.

In 2019, Zurich celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Celebrations already get underway in 2018; you can find the full program here.

GuidedBy Zurich TourismBy FootGuided City ToursSpecial Topic
Zürich
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City tour about the Reformation and its continued importance for modern day Zurich.
Attractions, Monuments, Churches
Zwingli was Zurich's first reformer. His theology gave rise to the Reformed Church. ...
Attractions, Monuments
The Swiss theologian Heinrich Bullinger reinforced the Reformation in Zurich and beyond. ...
Attractions, Churches
Zürich
The Grossmünster is a landmark of Zurich.
Attractions, Works of Art, Churches
Zürich
The Fraumünster and Grossmünster churches are landmarks of Zurich. ...
Attractions, Churches
Zürich
The site of the Wasserkirche church is where Zurich’s patron saints were executed. ...
Attractions, Churches
Zürich
The St. Peter church in Zurich has the largest clock face in Europe. ...
Culture, Museums, Cultural History, Architecture
Zürich
The National Museum houses the largest collection of cultural-historical objects in the country.

Multifaceted Zurich

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