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History

 
Bellinzona devasted by flooding (rememebered as the "buzza di Biasca") in 1515. Woodcut taken from the "Schweizer Chronik" by Johannes Stumpf, 1548.

Bellinzona becomes part of the Confederation

In 1499, King Louis XII of France, believing himself to be the legitimate heir to the Duchy of Milan, made a bid to take what he felt was rightfully his. Bellinzona, which had merely been a Visconti-Sforza bastion against the Swiss for over a century, suddenly found itself once more at centre stage on the European political scene In exchange for mercenary troops, essential for the conquest of Milan, the King promised the confederates possession of Bellinzona. However, once he had claimed victory over Milan, he did not keep his word and forearming himself against retaliation by the Swiss, he occupied the fortress in Bellinzona with 1000 troops.

In the winter of 1499/1500, popular uprisings against Louis XII almost caused the collapse of his rule, and there was a revolt in Bellinzona too. The French garrison retreated to the Murata and to Sasso Corbaro Castle. But in the spring of 1500, Louis XII set out to reconquer Lombardy, occupied the region and captured the Duke of Milan. Fearing reprisals by the victors, Bellinzona solicited the support of Swiss troops returning to the villages of the three «forest valleys», who swiftly put the French troops to flight, accepting an act of submission by the town in return. The cantons sympathetic to the French obviously kept well out of the affair, whilst Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden adamantly refused to relinquish the stronghold they had struggled at such lengths to possess. In the Treaty of Arena in 1503, Louis XII gave his approval to this new state of things, and in 1508, Emperor Maximilian ratified the ownership of the imperial fief of Bellinzona by the three cantons. The Treaty of Perpetual Peace of 1516, which would be the basis for diplomatic relations between France and the confederates for centuries to come, also granted possession to the latter of the occupied territories in the southern part of Ticino, as it is today. So it was that Bellinzona fell once and for all under the feudal jurisdiction of the original founder cantons of the Confederation, Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden, a situation that lasted until the fall of the Confederation of the 13 cantons in 1798.


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