La Trappe Abbey
La Trappe Abbey or La Grande Trappe is a monastery in Soligny-la-Trappe, France. It is known for being the house of origin of the Trappists, formally known as the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, to whom it gave its name; the site of the famous La Trappe Abbey was for centuries isolated in a valley surrounded by forests and lakes, 9 miles from Mortagne and 84 miles from Paris, in the Diocese of Séez and the former province of Normandy. It began as a small oratory chapel to the Virgin Mary, built in 1122 by Rotrou III, Count of Perche, as a memorial to his wife Matilda FitzRoy, Countess of Perche. A few years Rotrou built a monastery adjoining, which he offered to the monks of Le Breuil-Benoît Abbey near Dreux, a house of the Order of Savigny; the order was respected at that time for its fervour and holiness. In 1140 the monastery of La Trappe was raised to the status of abbey. In 1147 Savigny Abbey, with all its affiliated monasteries, was united to the Cistercian Order. From that time onwards, La Trappe was a Cistercian abbey subordinate to the abbot of Clairvaux.
After years of prosperity, La Trappe suffered during the Hundred Years' War. It was in the path of both the French armies; the monks were forced to abandon the monastery, burnt and pillaged in 1376 and again in 1465. In the 16th century, after the reconstruction, the abbey, in common with many other monasteries, was given to a series of absentee abbots in commendam; the lack of leadership depressed its fortunes. The 14th commendatory abbot, installed in 1662, Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé, godson of Cardinal Richelieu, proved to be La Trappe's greatest leader. De Rancé experienced a religious conversion, he became abbot in fact as well as in name. From 1664 La Trappe was the centre of a thorough reform of the Cistercian Order, led by de Rancé; the reform movement became renowned as an order. Bossuet, a friend of de Rancé, was a frequent visitor at La Trappe. James II of England came here while a refugee in France; the distinguished Benedictine scholar, Dom Jean Mabillon, after his long quarrels with de Rancé, visited him here to make peace.
The abbey did not escape the general fate of religious houses under the French Revolution. Pursuant to the decree of 13 February 1790 against the religious orders of France, the abbey was suppressed; some of the monks were martyred. Others, under the novice master, Dom Augustin de Lestrange, went into exile at La Valsainte Charterhouse in Switzerland; the French government sold the abbey as national property. After the Bourbon Restoration, de Lestrange purchased the property back in 1815; when the religious community returned, the brothers found the premises in a ruinous state. They rebuilt the monastery in its entirety and the new church was consecrated on 30 August 1832; the abbey's reputation as a place of retreat continued. It attracted both the Count of Artois, afterwards Charles X and Louis Philippe in 1847. In 1880 the Trappists were expelled under French laws against religious institutions, but after a couple of years, they were able to return; the monastery was rebuilt under the 45th abbot, Dom Etienne Salasc.
The buildings, in Neo-Gothic style, are still occupied by the Trappist community, under the leadership of abbot Dom Guerric Reitz-Séjotte, appointed in 2004. La Trappe Abbey directly supervises four other Trappist houses, at Bellefontaine in Anjou, Timadeuc in Brittany, Échourgnac in Dordogne, Tre Fontane in Italy. Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé Augustin de Lestrange Trappist beer Herbermann, Charles, ed.. "La Trappe". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. La Trappe Abbey website
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history; the causes of the French Revolution are still debated among historians. Following the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution, the French government was in debt, it attempted to restore its financial status through unpopular taxation schemes, which were regressive.
Leading up to the Revolution, years of bad harvests worsened by deregulation of the grain industry and environmental problems inflamed popular resentment of the privileges enjoyed by the aristocracy and the Catholic clergy of the established church. Some historians hold something similar to what Thomas Jefferson proclaimed: that France had "been awakened by our Revolution." Demands for change were formulated in terms of Enlightenment ideals and contributed to the convocation of the Estates General in May 1789. During the first year of the Revolution, members of the Third Estate took control, the Bastille was attacked in July, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was passed in August, the Women's March on Versailles forced the royal court back to Paris in October. A central event of the first stage, in August 1789, was the abolition of feudalism and the old rules and privileges left over from the Ancien Régime; the next few years featured political struggles between various liberal assemblies and right-wing supporters of the monarchy intent on thwarting major reforms.
The Republic was proclaimed in September 1792 after the French victory at Valmy. In a momentous event that led to international condemnation, Louis XVI was executed in January 1793. External threats shaped the course of the Revolution; the Revolutionary Wars beginning in 1792 featured French victories that facilitated the conquest of the Italian Peninsula, the Low Countries and most territories west of the Rhine – achievements that had eluded previous French governments for centuries. Internally, popular agitation radicalised the Revolution culminating in the rise of Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins; the dictatorship imposed by the Committee of Public Safety during the Reign of Terror, from 1793 until 1794, established price controls on food and other items, abolished slavery in French colonies abroad, de-established the Catholic church and created a secular Republican calendar, religious leaders were expelled, the borders of the new republic were secured from its enemies. After the Thermidorian Reaction, an executive council known as the Directory assumed control of the French state in 1795.
They suspended elections, repudiated debts, persecuted the Catholic clergy, made significant military conquests abroad. Dogged by charges of corruption, the Directory collapsed in a coup led by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799. Napoleon, who became the hero of the Revolution through his popular military campaigns, established the Consulate and the First Empire, setting the stage for a wider array of global conflicts in the Napoleonic Wars; the modern era has unfolded in the shadow of the French Revolution. All future revolutionary movements looked back to the Revolution as their predecessor, its central phrases and cultural symbols, such as La Marseillaise and Liberté, fraternité, égalité, ou la mort, became the clarion call for other major upheavals in modern history, including the Russian Revolution over a century later. The values and institutions of the Revolution dominate French politics to this day; the Revolution resulted in the suppression of the feudal system, emancipation of the individual, a greater division of landed property, abolition of the privileges of noble birth, nominal establishment of equality among men.
The French Revolution differed from other revolutions in being not only national, for it intended to benefit all humanity. Globally, the Revolution accelerated the rise of democracies, it became the focal point for the development of most modern political ideologies, leading to the spread of liberalism, radicalism and secularism, among many others. The Revolution witnessed the birth of total war by organising the resources of France and the lives of its citizens towards the objective of military conquest; some of its central documents, such as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, continued to inspire movements for abolitionism and universal suffrage in the next century. Historians have pointed to many events and factors within the Ancien Régime that led to the Revolution. Rising social and economic inequality, new political ideas emerging from the Enlightenment, economic mismanagement, environmental factors leading to agricultural failure, unmanageable national debt, political mismanagement on the part of King Louis XVI have all been cited as laying the groundwork for the Revolution.
Over the course of the 18th century, there emerged what the philosopher Jürgen Habermas called the idea of the "public sphere" in France and elsewhere
A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in communities or alone. A monastery includes a place reserved for prayer which may be a chapel, church, or temple, may serve as an oratory. Monasteries vary in size, comprising a small dwelling accommodating only a hermit, or in the case of communities anything from a single building housing only one senior and two or three junior monks or nuns, to vast complexes and estates housing tens or hundreds. A monastery complex comprises a number of buildings which include a church, cloister, library and infirmary. Depending on the location, the monastic order and the occupation of its inhabitants, the complex may include a wide range of buildings that facilitate self-sufficiency and service to the community; these may include a hospice, a school, a range of agricultural and manufacturing buildings such as a barn, a forge, or a brewery. In English usage, the term monastery is used to denote the buildings of a community of monks.
In modern usage, convent tends to be applied only to institutions of female monastics communities of teaching or nursing religious sisters. A convent denoted a house of friars, now more called a friary. Various religions may apply these terms in more specific ways; the word monastery comes from the Greek word μοναστήριον, neut. of μοναστήριος – monasterios from μονάζειν – monazein "to live alone" from the root μόνος – monos "alone". The earliest extant use of the term monastērion is by the 1st century AD Jewish philosopher Philo in On The Contemplative Life, ch. III. In England the word monastery was applied to the habitation of a bishop and the cathedral clergy who lived apart from the lay community. Most cathedrals were not monasteries, were served by canons secular, which were communal but not monastic. However, some were run by monasteries orders, such as York Minster. Westminster Abbey was for a short time a cathedral, was a Benedictine monastery until the Reformation, its Chapter preserves elements of the Benedictine tradition.
See the entry cathedral. They are to be distinguished from collegiate churches, such as St George's Chapel, Windsor. In most of this article, the term monastery is used generically to refer to any of a number of types of religious community. In the Roman Catholic religion and to some extent in certain branches of Buddhism, there is a somewhat more specific definition of the term and many related terms. Buddhist monasteries are called vihara. Viharas may be occupied by men or women, in keeping with common English usage, a vihara populated by females may be called a nunnery or a convent. However, vihara can refer to a temple. In Tibetan Buddhism, monasteries are called gompa. In Thailand and Cambodia, a monastery is called a wat. In Burma, a monastery is called a kyaung. A Christian monastery may be a priory, or conceivably a hermitage, it may be a community of men or of women. A charterhouse is any monastery belonging to the Carthusian order. In Eastern Christianity, a small monastic community can be called a skete, a large or important monastery can be given the dignity of a lavra.
The great communal life of a Christian monastery is called cenobitic, as opposed to the anchoretic life of an anchorite and the eremitic life of a hermit. There has been under the Osmanli occupation of Greece and Cyprus, an "idiorrhythmic" lifestyle where monks come together but being able to own things individually and not being obliged to work for the common good. In Hinduism monasteries are called matha, koil, or most an ashram. Jains use the Buddhist term vihara. In most religions the life inside monasteries is governed by community rules that stipulate the gender of the inhabitants and require them to remain celibate and own little or no personal property; the degree to which life inside a particular monastery is separate from the surrounding populace can vary widely. Others focus on interacting with the local communities to provide services, such as teaching, medical care, or evangelism; some monastic communities are only occupied seasonally, depending both on the traditions involved and the local weather, people may be part of a monastic community for periods ranging from a few days at a time to an entire lifetime.
The life within the walls of a monastery may be supported in several ways: by manufacturing and selling goods agricultural products, by donations or alms, by rental or investment incomes, by funds from other organizations within the religion, which in the past formed the traditional support of monasteries. There has been a long tradition of Christian monasteries providing hospitable and hospital services. Monasteries have been associated with the provision of education and the encouragement of scholarship and research, which has led to the establishment of schools and colleges and the association with universities. Christian monastic life has adapted to modern society by offering computer services, accounting services and management as well as modern hospital and educational administration. Buddhist monasteries, known as vihāra i
Thomas Merton was an American Trappist monk, theologian, poet, social activist, scholar of comparative religion. On May 26, 1949, he was given the name Father Louis. Merton wrote more than 70 books on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton's most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, which sent scores of World War II veterans and teenagers flocking to monasteries across the US, was featured in National Review's list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding, he pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama, the Japanese writer D. T. Suzuki, the Thai Buddhist monk Buddhadasa, the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, authored books on Zen Buddhism and Taoism. In the years since his death, Merton has been the subject of several biographies. Thomas Merton was born in Prades, Pyrénées-Orientales, France, on January 31, 1915, to Owen Merton, a New Zealand painter active in Europe and the United States, Ruth Jenkins, an American Quaker and artist.
He was baptized in accordance with his father's wishes. Merton's father was absent during his son's upbringing. During World War I, in August 1915, the Merton family left France for the United States, they settled first with Ruth's parents on Long Island, New York, near them in Douglaston, New York. In 1917, the family moved into an old house in Flushing, New York, where Merton's brother, John Paul, was born on November 2, 1918; the family was considering returning to France when Ruth was diagnosed with stomach cancer, from which she died on October 21, 1921, in Bellevue Hospital. Merton was six years old. In 1922, Owen Merton and Thomas traveled to Bermuda, where Owen fell in love with the American novelist Evelyn Scott, a married woman. Still grieving for his mother, Thomas never quite warmed to Scott. Happy to get away from Scott, Thomas returned to Douglaston in 1923 to live with his mother's family and his brother. Owen Merton and her husband sailed to Europe and traveled through France, Italy and Algeria.
During the winter of 1924, while in Algeria, Owen Merton became ill and was thought to be near death. The news of his father's illness filled Thomas with anxiety. By March 1925, Owen Merton was well enough to organize a show of his paintings at the Leicester Galleries in London, he returned to New York and took Thomas to live with him in Saint-Antonin, France. Thomas returned to France with mixed feelings, as he had lived with his grandparents for the last two years and had become attached to them. During their travels, Merton's father and Scott had discussed marriage on occasion. After the trip to New York, Owen Merton realized that Thomas would not be reconciled to Scott and broke off his relationship with her. In 1926, when Merton was eleven, his father enrolled him in a boys' boarding school in Montauban, the Lycée Ingres. There, Merton felt lonely and abandoned. During his initial months at the school, Merton begged his father to remove him. With time, however, he grew comfortable with his surroundings.
He befriended a circle of aspiring writers at the Lycée and he himself wrote two novels. Sundays at the Lycée offered a nearby Catholic Mass, but Merton never attended, instead taking an early train home. A Protestant clergyman came Sundays to teach at the Lycée to those who did not attend Mass, but Merton took scant interest. During the Christmas breaks of 1926 and 1927, he spent his time with friends of his father in Murat, Auvergne, he admired the devout Catholic couple, whom he saw as good and decent people, but religion only once came up as a topic between them. Merton expressed his belief that all religions "lead to God, only in different ways, every man should go according to his own conscience, settle things according to his own private way of looking at things." He wanted them to argue with him. As he came to understand they realized that his attitude "implied a fundamental and utter lack of faith, a dependence on my own lights, attachment to my own opinion". In the summer of 1928, he took Merton out of the Lycée Ingres, informing him that they were headed together to England.
Merton and his father moved to the home of Owen's aunt and uncle in West London. Merton was soon enrolled in Ripley Court Preparatory School, another boarding school, this one in Surrey. Merton enjoyed his studies there and benefited from a greater sense of community than had existed at the Lycée. On Sundays, all students attended services at the local Anglican church. Merton began praying, but discontinued the practice after leaving the school. During holidays, Merton stayed at his great-aunt and uncle's home, where his father visited. During Easter vacation in 1929, Merton and Owen went to Canterbury. Merton enjoyed the countryside around Canterbury; when the holiday ended, Owen returned to Merton to Ripley. Toward the end of that year, Merton learned that his father was living in Ealing. Merton went to see him and together they left for Scotland, where a friend had offered his house for Owen's recovery. Shortly after, Owen was taken to London to the North Middlesex Hospital. Merton soon learned.
He took the news badly, but when he visited Owen in hospital, the latter se
The Benedictines the Order of Saint Benedict, are a monastic Catholic religious order of monks and nuns that follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. They are sometimes called the Black Monks, in reference to the colour of the members' religious habits. Despite being called an order, the Benedictines do not operate under a single hierarchy but are instead organised as a collection of independent monastic communities, with each community within the order maintaining its own autonomy. Unlike other religious orders, the Benedictines do not have a superior general or motherhouse with universal jurisdiction. Instead, the order is represented internationally by the Benedictine Confederation, an organisation, set up in 1893 to represent the order's shared interests; the monastery at Subiaco in Italy, established by Saint Benedict of Nursia c. 529, was the first of the dozen monasteries he founded. He founded the Abbey of Monte Cassino. There is no evidence, that he intended to found an order and the Rule of Saint Benedict presupposes the autonomy of each community.
When Monte Cassino was sacked by the Lombards about the year 580, the monks fled to Rome, it seems probable that this constituted an important factor in the diffusion of a knowledge of Benedictine monasticism. It was from the monastery of St. Andrew in Rome that Augustine, the prior, his forty companions set forth in 595 on their mission for the evangelization of England. At various stopping places during the journey, the monks left behind them traditions concerning their rule and form of life, also some copies of the Rule. Lérins Abbey, for instance, founded by Honoratus in 375 received its first knowledge of the Benedictine Rule from the visit of St. Augustine and his companions in 596. Gregory of Tours says that at Ainay Abbey, in the sixth century, the monks "followed the rules of Basil, Cassian and other fathers and using whatever seemed proper to the conditions of time and place", doubtless the same liberty was taken with the Benedictine Rule when it reached them. In Gaul and Switzerland, it supplemented the much stricter Irish or Celtic Rule introduced by Columbanus and others.
In many monasteries it entirely displaced the earlier codes. By the ninth century, the Benedictine had become the standard form of monastic life throughout the whole of Western Europe, excepting Scotland and Ireland, where the Celtic observance still prevailed for another century or two. Through the work of Benedict of Aniane, it became the rule of choice for monasteries throughout the Carolingian empire. Monastic scriptoria flourished from the ninth through the twelfth centuries. Sacred Scripture was always at the heart of every monastic scriptorium; as a general rule those of the monks who possessed skill as writers made this their chief, if not their sole active work. An anonymous writer of the ninth or tenth century speaks of six hours a day as the usual task of a scribe, which would absorb all the time available for active work in the day of a medieval monk. In the Middle Ages monasteries were founded by the nobility. Cluny Abbey was founded by William I, Duke of Aquitaine in 910; the abbey was noted for its strict adherence to the Rule of St. Benedict.
The abbot of Cluny was the superior of all the daughter houses, through appointed priors. One of the earliest reforms of Benedictine practice was that initiated in 980 by Romuald, who founded the Camaldolese community; the dominance of the Benedictine monastic way of life began to decline towards the end of the twelfth century, which saw the rise of the Franciscans and Dominicans. Benedictines took a fourth vow of "stability". Not being bound by location, the mendicants were better able to respond to an "urban" environment; this decline was further exacerbated by the practice of appointing a commendatory abbot, a lay person, appointed by a noble to oversee and to protect the goods of the monastery. Oftentimes, this resulted in the appropriation of the assets of monasteries at the expense of the community which they were intended to support; the English Benedictine Congregation is the oldest of the nineteen Benedictine congregations. Augustine of Canterbury and his monks established the first English Benedictine monastery at Canterbury soon after their arrival in 597.
Other foundations followed. Through the influence of Wilfrid, Benedict Biscop, Dunstan, the Benedictine Rule spread with extraordinary rapidity, in the North it was adopted in most of the monasteries, founded by the Celtic missionaries from Iona. Many of the episcopal sees of England were founded and governed by the Benedictines, no fewer than nine of the old cathedrals were served by the black monks of the priories attached to them. Monasteries served as places of refuge for the weak and homeless; the monks studied the healing properties of plants and minerals to alleviate the sufferings of the sick. Germany was evangelized by English Benedictines. Willibrord and Boniface preached there in the seventh and eighth centuries and founded several abbeys. In the English Reformation, all monasteries were dissolved and their lands confiscated by the Crown, forcing their Catholic members to flee into exile on the Continent. During the 19th century they were able to return to England, including to Selby Abbey in Yorkshire, one of the few great monastic churches to survive the Dissolution.
St. Mildred's Priory, on the Isle of Thanet, was built in 1027 on the site of an abbey founded in 670 by the daughter of the first Christian King of Kent; the priory is home to a community of Benedictine nuns. Five of
Catholic religious order
A Catholic religious order is a religious order of the Catholic Church. According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, they form part of a category of Catholic religious institutes. Subcategories are canons regular. Original Catholic religious orders of the Middle Ages include the Order of Saint Benedict, the Carmelites, the Order of Friars Minor, the Dominican Order, the Order of Saint Augustine; as such the Teutonic Order may qualify, as today it is monastic. In the past, what distinguished religious orders from other institutes was the classification of the vows that the members took in religious profession as solemn vows. According to this criterion, the last religious order founded was that of the Bethlehem Brothers in 1673. In the course of the 20th century, some religious institutes outside the category of orders obtained permission to make solemn vows, at least of poverty, thus blurring the distinction. Solemn vows were considered indissoluble; as noted below, dispensations began to be granted in times, but not the Pope could dispense from them.
If for a just cause a religious order was expelled, the vow of chastity remained unchanged and so rendered invalid any attempt at marriage, the vow of obedience obliged in relation to the bishop rather than to the religious superior, the vow of poverty was modified to meet the new situation but the expelled religious "could not, for example, will any goods to another. The 1917 Code of Canon Law reserved the name "religious order" for institutes in which the vows were solemn, used the term "religious congregation" or "congregation" for institutes with simple vows; the members of a religious order for men were called "regulars", those belonging to a religious congregation were "religious", a term that applied to regulars. For women, those with simple vows were called "sisters", with the term "nun" reserved in canon law for those who belonged to an institute of solemn vows if in some localities they were allowed to take simple vows instead. However, it abolished the distinction according to which solemn vows, unlike simple vows, were indissoluble.
It recognized no indispensable religious vows and thereby abrogated for the Latin Church the special consecration that distinguished "orders" from "congregations", while keeping some juridical distinctions. In practice before 1917 dispensations from solemn religious vows were being obtained by grant of the Pope himself, while departments of the Holy See and superiors specially delegated by it could dispense from simple religious vows; the 1917 Code maintained a juridical distinction by declaring invalid any marriage attempted by solemnly professed religious or by those with simple vows to which the Holy See had attached the effect of invalidating marriage, while stating that no simple vow rendered a marriage invalid, except in the cases in which the Holy See directed otherwise. Thus members of "orders" were barred from marriage, any marriage they attempted was invalid; those who made simple vows were obliged not to marry, but if they did break their vow, the marriage was considered valid. Another difference was that a professed religious of solemn vows lost the right to own property and the capacity to acquire temporal goods for himself or herself, but a professed religious of simple vows, while being prohibited by the vow of poverty from using and administering property, kept ownership and the right to acquire more, unless the constitutions of the religious institute explicitly stated the contrary.
After publication of the 1917 Code, many institutes with simple vows appealed to the Holy See for permission to make solemn vows. The Apostolic Constitution Sponsa Christi of 21 November 1950 made access to that permission easier for nuns, though not for religious institutes dedicated to apostolic activity. Many of these latter institutes of women petitioned for the solemn vow of poverty alone. Towards the end of the Second Vatican Council, superiors general of clerical institutes and abbots president of monastic congregations were authorized to permit, for a just cause, their subjects of simple vows who made a reasonable request to renounce their property except for what would be required for their sustenance if they were to depart; these changes resulted in a further blurring of the clear distinction between "orders" and "congregations", since institutes that were founded as "congregations" began to have some members who had all three solemn vows or had members that took a solemn vow of poverty and simple vows of chastity and obedience.
The current Code of Canon Law, which came into force in 1983, maintains the distinction between solemn and simple vows, but no longer makes any distinction between their juridical effects, including the distinction between "orders" and "congregations". It has accordingly dropped the language of the 1917 code and uses the single term "religious institute" to designate all such institutes. While solemn vows once meant those taken in what was called a religious order, "today, in order to know when a vow is solemn it will be necessary to refer to the proper law of the institutes of consecrated life.""Religious order" and "religious institute" tend indeed
Switzerland the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in western and southern Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities; the sovereign state is a federal republic bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2. While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of 8.5 million people is concentrated on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva. The establishment of the Old Swiss Confederacy dates to the late medieval period, resulting from a series of military successes against Austria and Burgundy. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648; the country has a history of armed neutrality going back to the Reformation.
It pursues an active foreign policy and is involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organisations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association, but notably not part of the European Union, the European Economic Area or the Eurozone. However, it participates in the Schengen Area and the European Single Market through bilateral treaties. Spanning the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French and Romansh. Although the majority of the population are German-speaking, Swiss national identity is rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, Alpine symbolism. Due to its linguistic diversity, Switzerland is known by a variety of native names: Schweiz. On coins and stamps, the Latin name – shortened to "Helvetia" – is used instead of the four national languages.
Switzerland is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product according to the IMF. Switzerland ranks at or near the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic competitiveness and human development. Zürich and Basel have all three been ranked among the top ten cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the first ranked second globally, according to Mercer in 2018; the English name Switzerland is a compound containing Switzer, an obsolete term for the Swiss, in use during the 16th to 19th centuries. The English adjective Swiss is a loan from French Suisse in use since the 16th century; the name Switzer is from the Alemannic Schwiizer, in origin an inhabitant of Schwyz and its associated territory, one of the Waldstätten cantons which formed the nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy. The Swiss began to adopt the name for themselves after the Swabian War of 1499, used alongside the term for "Confederates", used since the 14th century.
The data code for Switzerland, CH, is derived from Latin Confoederatio Helvetica. The toponym Schwyz itself was first attested in 972, as Old High German Suittes perhaps related to swedan ‘to burn’, referring to the area of forest, burned and cleared to build; the name was extended to the area dominated by the canton, after the Swabian War of 1499 came to be used for the entire Confederation. The Swiss German name of the country, Schwiiz, is homophonous to that of the canton and the settlement, but distinguished by the use of the definite article; the Latin name Confoederatio Helvetica was neologized and introduced after the formation of the federal state in 1848, harking back to the Napoleonic Helvetic Republic, appearing on coins from 1879, inscribed on the Federal Palace in 1902 and after 1948 used in the official seal.. Helvetica is derived from the Helvetii, a Gaulish tribe living on the Swiss plateau before the Roman era. Helvetia appears as a national personification of the Swiss confederacy in the 17th century with a 1672 play by Johann Caspar Weissenbach.
Switzerland has existed as a state in its present form since the adoption of the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1848. The precursors of Switzerland established a protective alliance at the end of the 13th century, forming a loose confederation of states which persisted for centuries; the oldest traces of hominid existence in Switzerland date back about 150,000 years. The oldest known farming settlements in Switzerland, which were found at Gächlingen, have been dated to around 5300 BC; the earliest known cultural tribes of the area were members of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel. La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age from around 450 BC under some influence from the Gree