Switzerland Church History
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The Catholic Church prevailed in Switzerland for over 1,000 years prior to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s. Some of the earliest Church records in Europe were begun in Switzerland in the late 1400s and early 1500s. Zurich and Geneva were centers of the Protestant Reformation which divided Cantons and inaugurated a period of political and religious rivalry that pitted the seven catholic Cantons against the Protestants. Remarkably, however, religious differences were put aside and tolerated to the envy of the world. Huguenots and others fled to Switzerland from France and Germany where freedom of religion was guaranteed by the constitution. Most Catholic parishes began keeping records in 1539, although a few started earlier. Early Protestant records began in 1525.
Religious adherence has changed only slightly over the past centuries. In 1850 the population of Switzerland consisted of 59.3% Protestants, 40.6% Roman Catholics, and 0.1% Jews. By 1900 there were 57.8% Protestants, 41.6% Catholics, 0.4% Jews and 0.2% others. Currently the population of Switzerland is 44.3% Protestant, 47.6% Catholic, 0.3% Christ-Catholic, 0.3% Jews, and 7.5% others or of no religion. Other denominations include Mennonites, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox and Muslims.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Switzerland,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1984-1998.