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.

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The monument of Huldrych Zwingli First Reformer of Zurich

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.

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