According to legend, in the 8th century, Charlemagne rediscovered the tombs of the patron saints of Zurich, Felix and Regula. While out hunting, he was pursuing a stag from Aachen to Zurich when his horse suddenly fell to its knees to pay homage to the saints’ tombs. Charlemagne subsequently had the bones exhumed and he founded the church and the provostry of the Grossmünster in their honor.
In 853 AD, Charlemagne’s grandson, Louis the German, built a “Pfalz”, or palace, on the Lindenhof and gave an existing women’s convent with its own jurisdiction as a gift to his eldest daughter, Hildegard. Thus the Fraumünster abbey was founded.
Zurich prospered in the 11th and 12th centuries thanks to the Fraumünster, which as a convent for aristocratic women attracted princesses from all over Europe. Under the Frankish kings, Zurich also grew to become the most important market town, with trade connections reaching from northern Italy to Holland. Thanks to the relics of Zurich’s patron saints, Felix and Regula, the city was also an important pilgrimage site.
In 1218, Zurich gained its freedom from the Empire after the extinction of the main line of the Zähringer family, the imperial bailiffs responsible for Zurich. Zurich was placed under the direct control of the emperor, but was allowed to govern itself.