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Fribourg Canton

FRIBOURG CANTON [Ger. Freiburg], one of the Swiss Cantons, in the western portion of the country, and taking its name from the town around which the various districts that compose it gradually gathered. Its area is 646.3 sq. m., of which 568 sq. m. are classed as "productive" (forests covering 119 sq. m. and vineyards .8 sq. m.); it boasts of no glaciers or eternal snow. It is a hilly, not mountainous, region, the highest summits (of which the Vanil Noir, 7858 ft., is the loftiest) rising in the Gruyère district at its south-eastern extremity, the best known being probably the Moléson (6582 ft.) and the Berra (5653 ft.). But it is the heart of pastoral Switzerland, is famed for its cheese and cattle, and is the original home of the "Ranz des Vaches," the melody by which the herdsmen call their cattle home at milking time. It is watered by the Sarine or Saane river (with its tributaries the Singine or Sense and the Glâne) that flows through the canton from north to south, and traverses its capital town. The upper course of the Broye (like the Sarine, a tributary of the Aar) and that of the Veveyse (flowing to the Lake of Geneva) are in the southern portion of the canton. A small share of the lakes of Neuchâtel and of Morat belongs to the canton, wherein the largest sheet of water is the Lac Noir or Schwarzsee. A sulphur spring rises near the last-named lake, and there are other such springs in the canton at Montbarry and at Bonn, near the capital. There are about 150 m. of railways in the canton, the main line from Lausanne to Bern past Fribourg running through it; there are also lines from Fribourg to Morat and to Estavayer, while from Romont (on the main line) a line runs to Bulle, and in 1904 was extended to Gessenay or Saanen near the head of the Sarine or Saane valley. The population of the canton amounted in 1900 to 127,951 souls, of whom 108,440 were Romanists, 19,305 Protestants, and 167 Jews. The canton is on the linguistic frontier in Switzerland, the line of division running nearly due north and south through it, and even right through its capital. In 1900 there were 78,353 French-speaking inhabitants, and 38,738 German-speaking, the latter being found chiefly in the north-western (Morat region) and north-eastern (Singine valley) portions, as well as in the upper valley of the Jogne or Jaun in the south-east. Besides the capital, Fribourg (q.v.), the only towns of any importance are Bulle (3330 inhabitants), Châtel St Denis (2509 inhabitants), Morat (q.v.) or Murten (2263 inhabitants), Romont (2110 inhabitants), and Estavayer le Lac or Stäffis am See (1636 inhabitants).

The canton is pre-eminently a pastoral and agricultural region, tobacco, cheese and timber being its chief products. Its industries are comparatively few: straw-plaiting, watch-making (Semsales), paper-making (Marly), lime-kilns, and, above all, the huge Cailler chocolate factory at Broc. It forms part of the diocese of Lausanne and Geneva, the bishop living since 1663 at Fribourg. It is a stronghold of the Romanists, and still contains many monasteries and nunneries, such as the Carthusian monks at Valsainte, and the Cistercian nuns at La Fille Dieu and at Maigrauge. The canton is divided into 7 administrative districts, and contains 283 communes. It sends 2 members (named by the cantonal legislature) to the Federal Ständerath, and 6 members to the Federal Nationalrath. The cantonal constitution has scarcely been altered since 1857, and is remarkable as containing none of the modern devices (referendum, initiative, proportional representation) save the right of "initiative" enjoyed by 6000 citizens to claim the revision of the cantonal constitution. The executive council of 7 members is named for 5 years by the cantonal legislature, which consists of members (holding office for 5 years) elected in the proportion of one to every 1200 (or fraction over 800) of the population.

(W. A. B. C.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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