Port of Basel
Review and History

The Port of Basel is capital of Basel-Stadt in Northern Switzerland. Lying on the Rhine River where the Birs and Wiese rivers and the Swiss, German, and French borders meet, The Port of Basel is the gateway to the Swiss Rhineland. Being so near both France and Germany, the city’s culture reflects a rich multi-national heritage. It is a major industrial center for pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The Port of Basel is Switzerland’s second largest metropolitan area, with 731 thousand inhabitants in 2008.

Port History

Settled first by the Celtic Rauraci tribe, the Romans named their fortifications there Basilia in 374 AD. For many years, Basel had the only bridge over the Rhine between the sea and Lake Constance, making in an important site for commerce and trade. After the Romans left the area, the Port of Basel was governed by prince-bishops. The 1019 Cathedral of Basel (called Munster) was built there by the German Emperor Heinrich II. An earthquake destroyed most of the city and many castles in the area in 1356, and the city invited nobles to rebuild their castles in the Port of Basel in exchange for protecting the city. In the middle 15th Century, apprentices of Johann Gutenberg introduced the craft of printing to Basel.

Switzerland’s first university was founded there in 1460 by Pope Pius II, and the oldest publishing house still in operation, Schwabe, was founded there in 1488. Many works by Erasmus, who is entombed at Munster, were published in Basel during that period.

The Port of Basel was admitted into the Swiss Confederation in 1501 after the Port of Basel separated from the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th Century, it was a center for humanism and the Protestant Reformation. In 1536, John Calvin published his Christianae religionis instituto at Basel, and the first anatomy book was published there in 1543.

With the influx of workers fleeing Counter-Reformation strife, the trade guilds held political power over the city by the 18th Century. After independence was declared in 1832, the city became the modern Basel-Stadt. In 1897, Theodor Herzl led the first congress of the World Zionist Organization in Basel.

The Port of Basel is home to many glorious historic buildings, including the 1521 Gothic town hall, a 14th Century Franciscan church that is now a museum, and three medieval gates (one – St. Paul’s Gate - is said to be the finest in Europe). The university library contains precious manuscripts by reformers Martin Luther and Erasmus, among others, and the 1662 public art gallery contains fine artwork collections.

As a major import distribution center, the Port of Basel contributes a third of Switzerland’s customs revenues. It is the site for the Bank for International Settlements. Its central location makes it the hub for railroads and air services. In addition to the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, banking and machinery manufacturing are important to the city’s economy.

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