Flag of the canton
In Schwyz, in the Museum of the Swiss Charters (Bundesbriefmuseum) the charter of 1291 is on display. North east of the town of Schwyz is the world-famous abbey of Einsiedeln. Brunnen is located on Lake Lucerne.
The canton of Schwyz is located in central Switzerland. The river Sihl and the smaller Muota travers the canton. About three quarters of the total area is considered productive land. Most of the land is hilly rather than mountainous, making it suitable for agriculture. Of the productive land, about 240 km² are forests. Lakes take up 65 km². This area is made up of parts of the Lake Zürich and the Lake Lucerne. Only a small part of the Lake Zug is within the canton of Schwyz. The smaller lakes Lauerz (Lauerezersee) and Sihl (Sihlsee), however, are completely within the canton of Schwyz.
There are findings that show that people were living in the area of the canton of Schwyz thousands of years ago. Many of these findings are concentrated in the north of the canton, in the area of Hurden and Freienbach on Lake Zürich. Many of the findings date back 5000 years. Stone and bronze tools were recovered from these sites.
About 1400 years ago, the Allemanni settled in the area of the canton. This influenced agriculture and the way of living of the locals. Christianity only arrived in the area by the late 7th century. There are churches in Tuggen and Schwyz that date back to this time.
In the 10th century the abbey of Einsiedeln became more and more powerful. It soon controlled many of the surrounding lands, many of which outside the area today covered by the canton of Schwyz. The economy benefited from the transit across the Gotthard, but these profits attracted other powers, such as the Habsburgs.
On 1 August 1291 the canton of Schwyz founded the Swiss Confederation together with Uri and Unterwalden (Pact of the Rütli). It's one of the Four Woodlands (Vier Waldstätten, Schwyz, Uri, Unterwalden, Lucerne), located on the shores of the Vierwaldstättersee Lake Lucerne. The canton of Schwyz took the leadership in the confederation early on. As early as 1320 the name of the canton was applied to the whole of the confederation. It was only in 1803, howerver, that the name Schweiz as derived from the canton of Schwyz became the official name of Switzerland. The flag of Switzerland is derived from the banner of Schwyz.
The rulers of Schwyz little by little expanded their area of influence. This included a number of smaller battles, such as the Alt Zürcherkrieg. In 1386 the canton of Schwyz won the Battle of Sempach and as a result greatly expanded its area. Protestant reformation was resistet in the canton. At the Battle of Kappel in 1531 troops of Schwyz beat those of the reformation leader Huldrych Zwingli fell. Zwingli himself was the most prominent to die at this battle which killed hundreds of soldiers.
Between 1798 and 1803 the canton of Schwyz was part of the Helvetic Republic. After this it regained its independence and most of the changes introduced by Napoleon were reverted. This lead to frictions within the canton, leading to the separation of part of the canton. A canton of Schwyz Outer Countries was created in 1830, only to be re-unified with the other half in 1833. In 1845 the canton joined the separatist Roman Catholic league (Sonderbund). The venture of this league failed and the canton re-joined the confederation as an ordinary member.
Most of the canton relies on agriculture. The local breed of brown cattle is renowed. Textiles used to be of greatest importance in the canton but now mostly ceased to exist. Where it does, it is concentrated around the capital Schwyz. In the same area are located many producers of fine furniture. There are a few large hydroelectric power plants in the canton. Tourism is of importance in a number of regions, most notably probably in the centre of pilgrimage Einsiedeln. Einsiedeln is also a centre of winter sports. The mountain railways on the Rigi are well known around the country.
Freienbach in the north of the canton is known for the lowest taxes in Switzerland. This attracted a number of rich people.
There are about 131,400 inhabitants (2002). The official languages is German, although the people speak the Swiss German dialect of central Switzerland. The majority is Roman Catholic.
The districts are Schwyz, Einsiedeln, Gersau, Höfe, Küssnacht, March.
The municipalities are: Alpthal, Altendorf, Arth, Einsiedeln, Feusisberg, Freienbach, Galgenen, Gersau, Illgau, Ingenbohl, Innerthal, Küssnacht, Lachen, Lauerz, Morschach, Muotathal, Oberiberg, Reichenburg Riemenstalden, Rothenthurm, Sattel, Schübelbach, Schwyz, Steinen, Steinerberg, Tuggen, Unteriberg, Vorderthal, Wangen, Wollerau