Lindenhof hill

Schipfe quarter, Limmat, Lindenhof hill and Käferberg (in the background), as seen from Grossmünster (April 2010)

The Lindenhof hill is a moraine hill and a public square in the historic center of Zürich, Switzerland, site of the Roman and Carolingian era Kaiserpfalz around which the city has historically grown. The hilltop area, including its prehistoric, Roman, and medieval remains, is listed as a Swiss heritage site of national significance.


Lindenhof hill (its northern part is called Sihlbühl) dominates Lindenhof quarter in district 1 (Altstadt), the historical center of Zurich's Altstadt. To the North, it ends at Uraniastrasse (City police station) and to the South near St. Peter church. In the West, the hill is limited by the Bahnhofstrasse, in the east by the Limmat and the Schipfe quarter.

Lindenhof hill sits atop the remains of the last glacial period. The hill and its public square is part of the Linth glacier's moraines in the area of Zurich. The now largely flattened Lindenhof (428 m ü. M) rises about 25 meters above the Limmat.



Lindenhof and Schipfe by Hans Leu the Elder (late 15th century)
Celtic, Roman and medieval remains at Lindenhofkeller
Lucius Aelius Urbicus' grave stone (200 AD) found at the upper part of the Pfalzgasse on Lindenhof hill

At the flat shore of Lake Zurich, we find Neolithic and Bronze Age (4500 to 850 BC) lakeside settlements, such as Kleiner Hafner and Grosser Hafner (both small former islands west of Sechseläutenplatz, near Bauschänzli at the Stadthausquai, Alpenquai at the Bürkliplatz square and Lindenhof. Lindenhof was largely surrounded by water: Until the early medieval area, neighboring Münsterhof (Fraumünster abbey square) was a swampy, by the Sihl flooded hollow, so that Lindenhof hill was an optimal location for early probably fortified settlements. Middle bronze age (1500 BC) artefacts were found near Limmat (Schipfe).[1][2] For the 1st century BC (La Tène culture) archaeologists found remains of a Celtic settlement, a so-called oppidum, whose remains were found in archaeological campaigns in the years 1989, 1997, 2004 and 2007 on Lindenhof and Rennweg.[3][4]

Vicus Turicum

Main article: Turicum (Zürich)

In 15 BC, Augustus' stepsons Drusus and Tiberius (later Emperor Tiberius Claudius Nero 14 to 37 AD) integrated the territory on the left side of Lake Zurich into the Roman provinces Raetia and Germania Superior. Several stone buildings from the Roman period were located on and surrounding the hill. It was part of the small vicus Turicum, located on both sides of the Limmat and connected by a Roman bridge located near the present Rathausbrücke. Turicum, Zurich's Roman and maybe Celtic name, is engraved on a 2nd-century tombstone of a little boy. It was found on May 15, 1747, and refers to the Roman STA(tio) TUR(i)CEN(sis). The tombstone is located in the Swiss National Museum; a copy is integrated in the Lindenhof wall at Pfalzgasse, leading to St. Peter church.

Using the advantage of topography, the Roman military built a citadel on top of the hill in the years of the Roman emperor Valentinian I (364–375), to defend migrations from the North by the Alamanni. 4500 m² large, it was fitted with 10 towers and two meter wide walls.[5]

Medieval castle and graveyard

During the middle ages, the hilltop leveled fort became the retaining wall and gave the Lindenhof terrace largely its current form. The remains of the Roman Castra were used as the center of the later fortification of the historical center of Zürich. Significant parts of the lime mortar and ancient castle wall are integrated into the town houses around the Lindenhof and in a Kaiserpfalz (1218 broken), place of festivities, as the engagement of the later German emperor Henry IV with Bertha von Turin on Christmas 1055. The Roman castle's remains existed until the early medieval age, as a Carolingian, later Ottonian Pfalz (1054) was built on its remains. This Kaiserpfalz was a long building with a chapel on the eastern side of the fortified hill; it is last mentioned in 1172, and was derelict by 1218, when its remains were partly scavenged for construction of the city walls and stone masonry on private houses.

In 1937, archaeologists found from west to east oriented graves of late medieval children and adults. In the year 1384, a chapel on the Lindenhof is mentioned, but no remains were found.[6] It is believed, that the chapel was part of the processional axis Wasserkirche, Grossmünster and Fraumünster church, processions that ended 1524/25 (Reformation in Zürich). These religious celebration at Pentecost honored Zurich's Saints Felix and Regula and Exuperantius.[7]

Modern public park

Hedwig fountain and pump station
Lindenhof as seen from Urania Sternwarte
Lindenhof as seen from ETH Zurich plateau
Masonic lodge Modestia cum Libertate (M.c.L.)
Lindenhof square

Following the demolition of the former royal residence, the hill – the only public place and park within the city walls – turned to an area of public life and relaxation, with dense tree vegetation, stone tables, crossbow stands, bowling and chess, which is still very popular in modern times. According to a chronicle, in 1474 52 tilias (lime tree) have been planted. Bow and crossbow-shooting next to the beverage was probably one of the most important leisure activities on the Lindenhof. In August 1526, guests coming from St. Gallen were invited by the city councils and all the Guilds of Zurich for a dinner, among them the prominent Zurich cleric, as Ulrich Zwingli, Leo Jud, Konrad Pelikan, Friedrich Myconius and the Kappel abbey's abbot. Each Zurich guild had its own stone table, and the costumed guild members met on Sechseläuten for dinner, described by Gottfried Keller in his poem Ein Festzug in Zürich (a procession in Zurich, 1856).[8]

The Hedwig fountain (1688) recalls the legend of the siege of Zurich (1292) by Duke Albrecht I. of Habsburg. The helmeted sculpture of the leader of the courageous Zurich women commemorates the incident. Under baroque influence, Lindenhof was converted in 1780 to a strictly geometrical park.

1851, the Masonic lodge Modestia cum Libertate (M.c.L.) bought the Paradies building and converted it to their lodge building with its distinctive gables. At this time, coins, stove tiles and other artefacts from the Roman and medieval times were found.[9] 1865, severe storm damage resulted in a redesign: Instead of Lime trees, the part was dominated for some years by chestnut, acacia and gods trees(???). The redesign was not accepted by the population, and in 1900 its present appearance was given to the Lindenhof square.

In addition to the historical guild dinner, there are numerous public events and festivals. The square is one of the most famous places and recreational areas in the heart of Zurich's city, has an impressive view about the historic core of the city, and is one of Zurich's tourist attractions. Cars are not allowed in the narrow streets to the Lindenhof hill.

Among the prominent historical visitors are Casanova, Goethe, Johannes von Müller, Herzog Charles Augustus, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, Schlegel, Johann Ludwig Uhland, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Brahms.

Heritage site of national significance

The hillside area is listed as a Swiss heritage site of national significance including the remains of its prehistoric Celtic, Gallo-Roman and medieval settlements respectively buildings.[10]



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Coordinates: 47°22′23″N 8°32′27″E / 47.37306°N 8.54083°E / 47.37306; 8.54083

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