Neuchâtel in 2001
Conseil communal CC |
with 5 members
le Président du Conseil communal (list)|
Fabio Bongiovanni FDP/PRD/PLR
(as of January 2017)
Conseil général CG |
with 41 members
|• Total||18.06 km2 (6.97 sq mi)|
|Elevation (railway station)||479 m (1,572 ft)|
|Highest elevation (Grand Chaumont)||1,177 m (3,862 ft)|
|Lowest elevation (Port)||434 m (1,424 ft)|
|Population (Dec 2016)|
|• Density||1,900/km2 (4,800/sq mi)|
|Localities||La Coudre, Serrières, Pierre-à-Bot, Gorges du Seyon, Chaumont, Petit Chaumont, Grand Chaumont|
|Surrounded by||Auvernier, Boudry, Chabrey (VD), Colombier, Cressier, Cudrefin (VD), Delley-Portalban (FR), Enges, Fenin-Vilars-Saules, Hauterive, Peseux, Saint-Blaise, Savagnier, Valangin|
|Twin towns||Aarau (Switzerland), Besançon (France), Sansepolcro (Italy)|
Neuchâtel (French pronunciation: [nøʃatɛl]), or Neuchatel; (Old French: neu(f) "new" and chatel "castle" (French: château); German: Neuenburg; Italian: Neuchâtel; Romansh: Neuchâtel or Neufchâtel)[notes 1] is a town, a municipality, and the capital of the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel on Lake Neuchâtel.
The city has approximately 34,000 inhabitants (80,000 in the metropolitan area). The city is sometimes referred to historically by the German name Neuenburg (help·info), which has the same meaning. It was originally part of the Holy Roman Empire and later under Prussian control from 1707 until 1848.
The official language of Neuchâtel is French.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography and climate
- 3 Politics
- 4 Demographics
- 5 Economy
- 6 Education
- 7 Transport
- 8 Sights
- 9 Sport
- 10 Notable people
- 11 Gallery
- 12 See also
- 13 Notes and references
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
The oldest traces of humans in the municipal area are the remains of a Magdalenian hunting camp, which was dated to 13,000 BC. It was discovered in 1990 during construction of the A5 motorway at Monruz (La Coudre). The site was about 5 m (16 ft) below the main road. Around the fire pits carved flints and bones were found. In addition to the flint and bone artifacts three tiny earrings from lignite were found. The earrings may have served as symbols of fertility and represent the oldest known art in Switzerland. This first camp was used by Cro-Magnons to hunt horse and reindeer in the area. Azilian hunters had a camp at the same site at about 11,000 BC. Since the climate had changed, their prey was now deer and wild boar.
During the 19th century, traces of some stilt houses were found in Le Cret near the red church. However, their location was not well documented and the site was lost. In 1999, during construction of the lower station of the funicular railway, which connects the railway station and university, the settlement was rediscovered. It was later determined to be a Cortaillod culture (middle Neolithic) village. According to dendrochronological studies, some of the piles were from 3571 BC.
One of the most important Merovingian cemeteries in the canton was discovered at Les Battieux in Serrières. In 1982, 38 graves dating from the 7th century were excavated many of which contained silver-inlaid or silver-plated belt buckles. Also in Serrières at the church of Saint-Jean, the remains of a 7th-century shrine were excavated.
In 1011, Rudolph III of Burgundy presented a Novum castellum or new castle (Old French neu, now neuf and Old French châtel, now château, in antiquated German: Welschen Nüwenburg or Newenburg am See) on the lake shore to his wife Irmengarde. It was long assumed that this new castle replaced an older one, but nothing about its location or design is known. At the time of this gift Neuchâtel was probably the center of a newly created royal court, which was recently developed to complement the other royal estates which managed western estates of the Kings of Burgundy.
The first counts of Neuchâtel were named shortly afterwards, and in 1214 their domain was officially dubbed a city.
Early modern era
For three centuries, the County of Neuchâtel flourished, and in 1530, the people of Neuchâtel accepted the Reformation, and their city and territory were proclaimed to be indivisible from then on. Future rulers were required to seek investiture from the citizens.
With increasing power and prestige, Neuchâtel was raised to the level of a principality at the beginning of the 17th century. On the death in 1707 Marie d'Orleans-Longueville, duchess de Nemours and Princess of Neuchâtel, the people had to choose her successor from among fifteen claimants. They wanted their new prince first and foremost to be a Protestant, and also to be strong enough to protect their territory but based far enough away to leave them to their own devices. Louis XIV actively promoted the many French pretenders to the title, but the Neuchâtelois people passed them over in favour of King Frederick I of Prussia, who claimed his entitlement in a rather complicated fashion through the Houses of Orange and Nassau. With the requisite stability assured, Neuchâtel entered its golden age, with commerce and industry (including watchmaking and lace) and banking undergoing steady expansion.
At the turn of the 19th century, the King of Prussia was defeated by Napoleon I and was forced to give up Neuchâtel in order to keep Hanover. Napoleon's field marshal, Berthier, became Prince of Neuchâtel, building roads and restoring infrastructure, but never actually setting foot in his domain. After the fall of Napoleon, Frederick William III of Prussia reasserted his rights by proposing that Neuchâtel be linked with the other Swiss cantons (the better to exert influence over all of them). On September 12, 1814, Neuchâtel became the capital of the 21st canton, but also remained a Prussian principality. It took a bloodless revolution in the decades following for Neuchâtel to shake off its princely past and declare itself, on March 1, 1848, a republic within the Swiss Confederation.
Geography and climate
Neuchâtel has an area, as of 2009[update], of 18.1 square kilometers (7.0 sq mi). Of this area, 1.84 km2 (0.71 sq mi) or 10.2% is used for agricultural purposes, while 9.74 km2 (3.76 sq mi) or 53.8% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 6.42 km2 (2.48 sq mi) or 35.5% is settled (buildings or roads), 0.03 km2 (7.4 acres) or 0.2% is either rivers or lakes and 0.02 km2 (4.9 acres) or 0.1% is unproductive land.
Of the built up area, industrial buildings made up 2.2% of the total area while housing and buildings made up 18.0% and transportation infrastructure made up 10.1%. while parks, green belts and sports fields made up 4.3%. Out of the forested land, 51.8% of the total land area is heavily forested and 2.0% is covered with orchards or small clusters of trees. Of the agricultural land, 1.4% is used for growing crops and 8.0% is pastures. All the water in the municipality is in lakes.
The city is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Neuchâtel (French: Lac de Neuchâtel, German: Neuenburgersee), a few kilometres east of Peseux and west of Saint-Blaise. Above Neuchâtel, roads and train tracks rise steeply into the folds and ridges of the Jura range – known within the canton as the Montagnes Neuchâteloises. Like the continuation of the mountains on either side, this is wild and hilly country, not exactly mountainous compared with the high Alps further south but still characterized by remote, windswept settlements and deep, rugged valleys. It is also the heartland of the celebrated Swiss watchmaking industry, centered on the once-famous towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, which both rely heavily on their horological past to draw in visitors. The river Doubs marks for a part the border with France, set down in a gorge and forming along its path an impressive waterfall, the Saut du Doubs, and lake, the Lac des Brenets.
|Climate data for Neuchâtel (1981-2010)|
|Average high °C (°F)||3.3
|Daily mean °C (°F)||1.2
|Average low °C (°F)||−0.7
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||70
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||9.9||9.3||9.9||9.7||11.9||10.6||9.9||10.0||8.6||10.4||9.7||10.4||120.3|
|Average relative humidity (%)||84.9||79.7||72.6||68.1||68.5||67.3||64.9||68.5||73.5||80.4||82.2||84.4||74.6|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||45||81||137||165||185||208||238||221||166||99||57||39||1,641|
|Source: MeteoSwiss |
Coat of arms
The Municipal Council (Conseil communal, CC) constitutes the executive government of the City of Neuchâtel and operates as a collegiate authority. It is composed of five councillors (French: Conseiller communal/ Conseillère communale), each presiding over administrational sections and services comprising the related commissions. The president of the executive department acts as mayor (président(e)) and is nominated annually in a tournus by the collegiate itself. In the mandate period January 2017 – June 2018 (l'année administrative) the Municipal Council is presided by Monsieur le président Fabio Bongiovanni. Departmental tasks, coordination measures and implementation of laws decreed by the General Council (parliament) are carried by the Municipal Council. The regular election of the Municipal Council by any inhabitant valid to vote is held every four years. Any resident of Neuchâtel allowed to vote can be elected as a member of the Municipal Council. Due to the constitution by canton of Neuchâtel not only Swiss citizens have the right to vote and elect and being elected on communal and cantonal level, but also foreigners with a residence in the canton of Neuchâtel and being resident in the canton of Neuchâtel for at least 1 year for communal elections and votes, and at least 5 years of residence in the canton for cantonal elections and votes. The current mandate period is from 1 January 2017 to 31 May 2018. The delegates are selected by means of a system of proportional representation.
As of 2017[update], Neuchâtel's Municipal Council is made up of two representatives of the PS/SP (Social Democratic Party), two representatives of the PLR/FDP (Les Libéraux-Radicaux), and one member of the PES/GPS (Green Party), giving the left parties a majority of three out of five seats. The last regular election was held on 27 November 2016.
(Conseiller communal/ Conseillère communale)
|Party||Head of section (Directeur/Directrice de, since) of||Elected since|
|Fabio Bongiovanni[CC 1]||PLR||Finances, Human Resources, and Social Actions (des Finances, des Ressources humaines et de l'action sociale, 2013)||2013|
|Olivier Arni[CC 2]||PS||Urban Development, Economy, and Environmental Sustainability (de l'Urbanisme, de l'Economie et de l'Environnement, 2009)||2009|
|Thomas Facchinetti||PS||Culture, Sports, Tourism (la culture, des sports et du tourisme, 2012)||2012|
|Voilaine Bletry-de-Montmollin||PLR||Security, Civil Engineering and Construction and Energy, Development of the agglomeration (la Sécurité, des Infrastructures et Energies, et du Développement de l'agglomération, 2017)||2016|
|Christine Gaillard||Les Verts||Education, Health, and Transport (de l'éducation, de la santé et de la mobilité, 2011)||2011|
- Mayor (président) for one administrative year
- Vice-Mayor (vice-président) for one administrative year
Rémy Voirol is Town Chancellor (chancelier) since 1993, and Bertrand Cottier is Deputy Town Chancellor (vice-chancelier) since 2005 for the City Council.
The General Council (Conseil général, CG), the city parliament, holds legislative power. It is made up of 41 members, with elections held every four years. The General Council decrees regulations and by-laws that are executed by the Municipal Council and the administration. The delegates are selected by means of a system of proportional representation.
The sessions of the General Council are public. Unlike members of the Municipal Council, members of the General Council are not politicians by profession, and they are paid a fee based on their attendance. Any resident of Neuchâtel allowed to vote can be elected as a member of the General Council. Due to the constitution of the canton of Neuchâtel not only Swiss citizen have the right to vote and elect and be elected on the communal level, but also foreigners in the canton of Neuchâtel having been resident in the canton of Neuchâtel for at least one year for communal elections and votes, and at least five years of residence in the canton for cantonal elections and votes. The CG holds its meetings in the Town Hall (L'Hôtel de Ville), in the old city on Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville.
The last regular election of the General Council was held on 27 November 2016 for the mandate period (la législature) from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2020. Currently the General Council consist of 13 members of The Liberals (PLR/FDP), 13 Social Democratic Party (PS/SP), 7 Les Verts, Ecologie et Liberté members (an alliance of the Green Party (PES/GPS) and others), 3 members of the Green Liberals (pvl/glp), 3 members of the left party solidaritéS, and one each of the two parties Swiss Party of Labour (PST-POP/PdA) (Parti Suisse du Travail - Parti Ouvrier et Populaire) and of the Christian Democratic People's Party (PDC/CVP).
In the 2015 federal election the most popular party was the PS which received 29.3% of the vote. The next four most popular parties were the PLR (22.8%), the UDC (13.6%), the Green Party (12.1%), and the Swiss Party of Labour (10.1%). In the federal election, a total of 8,136 voters were cast, and the voter turnout was 41.4%.
- Neuchâtel is a pilot city of the Council of Europe and the European Commission Intercultural cities programme.
Twin towns – Sister cities
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Neuchâtel is twinned with:
Neuchâtel has a population (as of December 2016[update]) of 33,772. As of 2008[update], 32.1% of the population are resident foreign nationals. Over the last 10 years (2000–2010) the population has changed at a rate of 3.9%. It has changed at a rate of 2.4% due to migration and at a rate of 1% due to births and deaths.
As of 2008[update], the population was 47.7% male and 52.3% female. The population was made up of 10,371 Swiss men (31.5% of the population) and 5,344 (16.2%) non-Swiss men. There were 12,366 Swiss women (37.5%) and 4,892 (14.8%) non-Swiss women. Of the population in the municipality, 8,558 or about 26.0% were born in Neuchâtel and lived there in 2000. There were 5,134 or 15.6% who were born in the same canton, while 7,744 or 23.5% were born somewhere else in Switzerland, and 10,349 or 31.4% were born outside of Switzerland.
As of 2000[update], there were 14,143 people who were single and never married in the municipality. There were 14,137 married individuals, 2,186 widows or widowers and 2,448 individuals who are divorced.
As of 2000[update], there were 15,937 private households in the municipality, and an average of 2. persons per household. There were 7,348 households that consist of only one person and 547 households with five or more people. In 2000[update], a total of 15,447 apartments (89.9% of the total) were permanently occupied, while 1,429 apartments (8.3%) were seasonally occupied and 311 apartments (1.8%) were empty. As of 2009[update], the construction rate of new housing units was 2.5 new units per 1000 residents.
As of 2003[update] the average price to rent an average apartment in Neuchâtel was 921.35 Swiss francs (CHF) per month (US$740, £410, €590 approx. exchange rate from 2003). The average rate for a one-room apartment was 451.40 CHF (US$360, £200, €290), a two-room apartment was about 675.66 CHF (US$540, £300, €430), a three-room apartment was about 825.15 CHF (US$660, £370, €530) and a six or more room apartment cost an average of 1647.88 CHF (US$1320, £740, €1050). The average apartment price in Neuchâtel was 82.6% of the national average of 1116 CHF. The vacancy rate for the municipality, in 2010[update], was 0.53%.
The historical population is given in the following chart:
|Historical Population Data |
|Year||Total Population||French Speaking||German Speaking||Protestant||Catholic||Other||Jewish||Islamic||No religion given||Swiss||Non-Swiss|
Most of the population (as of 2000[update]) speaks French (25,881 or 78.6%) as their first language, German is the second most common (1,845 or 5.6%) and Italian is the third (1,421 or 4.3%). There are about six people who speak Romansh.
Neuchâtel was historically Protestant, but Catholics have since formed a plurality due to immigration. From the 2000 census[update], 10,809 or 32.8% were Roman Catholic, while 9,443 or 28.7% belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church. Of the rest of the population, there were 374 members of an Orthodox church (or about 1.14% of the population), there were 80 individuals (or about 0.24% of the population) who belonged to the Christian Catholic Church, and there were 1,756 individuals (or about 5.34% of the population) who belonged to another Christian church. There were 58 individuals (or about 0.18% of the population) who were Jewish, and 1,723 (or about 5.23% of the population) who were Muslim. There were 99 individuals who were Buddhist, 100 individuals who were Hindu and 59 individuals who belonged to another church. 7,549 (or about 22.94% of the population) belonged to no church, are agnostic or atheist, and 1,717 individuals (or about 5.22% of the population) did not answer the question.
In 2014 the crime rate, of crimes listed in the Swiss Criminal Code, in Neuchâtel was 140.4 per thousand residents. During the same period, the rate of drug crimes was 16.3 per thousand residents. The rate of violations of immigration, visa and work permit laws was 5.7 per thousand residents.
Renowned for its watch industry, Neuchâtel has been able to position itself as the heart of micro-technology and high-tech industry. During the last 20 years, the Neuchâtel area has attracted many leading companies in the high-tech sectors such as medical technology, micro technology, biotechnology, machines & equipment, IT and clean technologies.
Neuchâtel is home to research centres and well-known organizations such as Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), Micro technology Institute of the university Engineer’s School of Arc Jurassien EIAJ, Neode (scientific and technological park), or Philip Morris International's Cube. The apparel company heidi.com also established its headquarters in the city.
As of 2010[update], Neuchâtel had an unemployment rate of 7.5%. As of 2008[update], there were 46 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 14 businesses involved in this sector. 5,658 people were employed in the secondary sector and there were 261 businesses in this sector. 20,472 people were employed in the tertiary sector, with 1,955 businesses in this sector. There were 16,353 residents of the municipality who were employed in some capacity, of which females made up 45.4% of the workforce.
In 2008[update] the total number of full-time equivalent jobs was 21,624. The number of jobs in the primary sector was 38, of which 20 were in agriculture and 18 were in forestry or lumber production. The number of jobs in the secondary sector was 5,433 of which 4,234 or (77.9%) were in manufacturing, 9 or (0.2%) were in mining and 1,022 (18.8%) were in construction. The number of jobs in the tertiary sector was 16,153. In the tertiary sector; 2,397 or 14.8% were in wholesale or retail sales or the repair of motor vehicles, 796 or 4.9% were in the movement and storage of goods, 919 or 5.7% were in a hotel or restaurant, 766 or 4.7% were in the information industry, 1,077 or 6.7% were the insurance or financial industry, 1,897 or 11.7% were technical professionals or scientists, 1,981 or 12.3% were in education and 2,633 or 16.3% were in health care.
In 2000[update], there were 15,535 workers who commuted into the municipality and 6,056 workers who commuted away. The municipality is a net importer of workers, with about 2.6 workers entering the municipality for every one leaving. Of the working population, 33.7% used public transportation to get to work, and 43.4% used a private car.
Neuchâtel is home to the French-speaking University of Neuchâtel. The university has five faculties (schools) and more than a dozen institutes, including arts and human sciences, natural sciences, law, economics and theology. For the 2005–2006 academic year, 3,595 students (1,987 women and 1,608 men) were enrolled. The Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences is the largest school of those that comprise the university of Neuchâtel with 1,500 students. Some courses at the University are taught in English.
Neuchâtel is home to 8 libraries. These libraries include: the Bibliothèque de la Faculté des Lettres, the Bibliothèque de l'Institut d'ethnologie et du Musée d'ethnographie, the Bibliothèque de la Faculté des Sciences, the Bibliothèque de droit, the Bibliothèque des sciences économiques, the Bibliothèque de la Faculté de théologie, the Service de coordination des bibliothèques and the Haute école Arc - Santé. There was a combined total (as of 2008[update]) of 736,773 books or other media in the libraries, and in the same year a total of 58,427 items were loaned out.
In Neuchâtel about 11,076 or (33.7%) of the population have completed non-mandatory upper secondary education, and 5,948 or (18.1%) have completed additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule). Of the 5,948 who completed tertiary schooling, 43.6% were Swiss men, 28.4% were Swiss women, 16.4% were non-Swiss men and 11.6% were non-Swiss women.
In the canton of Neuchâtel most municipalities provide two years of non-mandatory kindergarten, followed by five years of mandatory primary education. The next four years of mandatory secondary education is provided at thirteen larger secondary schools, which many students travel out of their home municipality to attend. During the 2010-11 school year, there were 27 kindergarten classes with a total of 527 students in Neuchâtel. In the same year, there were 78 primary classes with a total of 1,424 students. Secondary schools include the Lycée Jean-Piaget.
Apart from one International Montessori school for kids up to age 11 offering an English and a French class there is no international school in Neuchâtel. Neuchâtel Junior College was founded in 1956 as a non-profit foundation of the Ville de Neuchâtel to provide a unique international education. Neuchâtel Junior College is a one-year school annually welcoming over 100 students in their final pre-university year to study the Ontario Grade 12 curriculum as well as Advanced Placement.
- Neuchâtel has local public transport provided by Les Transports Publics du Littoral Neuchâtelois (TN), which operates the extensive Neuchâtel trolleybus system, a funicular, and an interurban light rail line to Boudry. The total length of the TN network is 81.2 km (50.5 mi). It serves 78,400 people (more than half using it on a daily basis) and in 2007 transported 17,670,000 travelers.
- Neuchâtel railway station forms part of one of Switzerland's most important railway lines, the Jura foot railway (Olten–Genève-Aéroport), which is operated by the Swiss Federal Railways. The station is also a junction for several other lines, including a cross-border line served by the TGV (High Speed Train), with direct trains linking Neuchâtel to Paris in four hours.
- Neuchâtel's airport is about 6 km (3.7 mi) away from the center of the city and it takes 9 minutes to get into town with the direct tramway. It is a small airport that does not offer commercial flights. Neuchâtel is also linked to four international airports: Bern, Geneva, Basel and Zürich which are respectively 58 km (36 mi), 122 km (76 mi), 131 km (81 mi) and 153 km (95 mi) away by car. Geneva and Zürich airports both have direct trains to Neuchâtel, connecting the cities respectively in 1h 17min and 1h 49min.
- Three funiculars serve the city:
- The Société de Navigation sur les Lacs de Neuchâtel et Morat SA is the boat company which serves 17 towns on Lake Neuchâtel, 6 towns on Lake Murten and 7 towns on Lake Bienne from 6:30am to 9pm. Some boats offer free wireless internet connections.
Heritage sites of national significance
- Archeological sites: Paleolithic settlement at Monruz
- Churches: Abbey of Fontaine-André, Collegiate Church of Neuchâtel et cénotaphe, Notre-Dame Church
- Houses: Maison des Halles, Maison at Rue du Pommier 7, Maison at Rue du Pommier 8 or Rue du Château 19, Maison at Rue du Pommier 9, Villa James de Pury with an annex decorated with frescos by Hans Erni
- Libraries and Museums: Bibliothèque des Pasteurs de Neuchâtel, Galeries de l‘Histoire, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Musée d‘ethnographie, Musée d‘histoire naturelle
- Schools: Collège Latin
- Public Buildings and Structures: Neuchâtel Castle and archives, Fountain of Justice, Fountain at place de l‘Hôtel de Ville, Fountain at rue des Moulins, Fountain at rue du Château, Banneret Fountain, Griffon Fountain, Lion Fountain, Neubourg Fountain, City Fortification, Grande Rochette, City Hall, Hôtel Du Peyrou, Cantonal Observatory at Rue de l‘Observatoire 52, Parc de la Petite Rochette, Poste at Place Numa-Droz 2, Prison tower and former prison at Rue Jehanne-de-Hochberg 3
Neuchâtel’s Old Town is attractive, with about 140 street fountains, a handful of which date from the 16th century. The Place des Halles is overlooked by fine Louis XIV architecture – shuttered façades and the turreted orioles of the 16th-century Maison des Halles. A two-minute walk east, on Rue de l’Hôpital, is the grand 1790 Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), designed by Louis XVI’s chief architect Pierre-Adrien Paris.
The center of the Old Town are located at the top of the hill, accessed by the steeply winding Rue du Château. The Collégiale church, begun in 1185 and consecrated in 1276, is a graceful example of early Gothic. The east end of the church, has three Norman apses. The main entrance, to the west, is crowned by a giant rose window of stained glass. Within the vaulted interior, the transept is lit by a lantern tower. The unique Cenotaph of the Counts of Neuchâtel is located on the north wall of the choir. Begun in 1372, and the only artwork of its kind to survive north of the Alps, the monument comprises fifteen near-life-size painted statues of various knights and ladies from Neuchâtel’s past, framed by 15th-century arches and gables. Beside the church is the Castle, begun in the 12th century and still in use as the offices of the cantonal government. The nearby turreted Prison Tower, which is the remains of a medieval bastion, has panoramic views over the town, along with interesting models of Neuchâtel in different eras.
Neuchâtel has several museums, including the Laténium, an archeology museum focusing on the prehistorical times in the region of Neuchâtel and Hauterive, particularly the La Tène culture; the MEN, an ethnography museum; The flagship Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Esplanade Léopold-Robert, and its star attractions, the Automates Jaquet-Droz (Jaquet-Droz Mechanical Figurines) are also notable. The CAN - Centre d'art Neuchâtel shows contemporary art and has featured shows by Olivier Mosset, Jonathan Monk, and Steven Parrino.
The ground floor is devoted to the historical collections, with rooms on the history of Neuchâtel. Upstairs are the rooms devoted to fine art, which have been organized radically differently from most other museums. Instead of displaying works by period, or artist, or genre, the collection is grouped by theme, with the various rooms labelled Nature, Civilization, The Sacred, and so on. In each room you can climb podia – each one hung all round with paintings – in order to get a better view of the works hung high on the four walls.
In a room at the rear of the ground floor the Automates Jaquet-Droz are displayed. The Automates are three mechanical figurines built to the most exacting technical standards by a Neuchâtelois watchmaker in the 1770s and still in perfect working order today. The three – the Draughtsman, the Writer and the Musician – are displayed static behind glass. The Draughtsman is a child sitting at a mahogany desk and holding a piece of paper with his left hand; his right hand, holding a pencil, performs extraordinarily complex motions to produce intricate little pictures of a dog, the god Eros in a chariot pulled by a butterfly, or a noble profile of Louis XV. The Writer, a chubby-cheeked little boy, also sits at a mahogany desk, with a goose quill in his right hand and a tiny pot of ink nearby for dipping. He writes in a florid and chunky style, and staggeringly enough, can even be programmed to produce any text of up to forty characters. While he writes, his eyes follow the words across the page. But perhaps the most charming of the three is the Musician, a gracious young girl with slender and dextrous fingers who plays a small organ – a real instrument, not a disguised musical-box. As her fingers strike the keys to produce the notes and her eyes, head and body move subtly from side to side in time, her chest rises and falls delicately in an imitation of rhythmic breathing. Her melodies were composed in the early 1770s by Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz.
Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721–90) was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds into a venerable and wealthy local family. After studying theology at university, he returned to Neuchâtel – by then already a centre for clock and watchmaking – and worked to combine his interest in mathematics with the skills of applied mechanics used by the artisans of the watch industry. By the age of 26, Jaquet-Droz had gained a reputation for technical brilliance, and in 1758 he and his father-in-law, a craftsman named Abram Sandoz, travelled to Madrid to show off the skill of Neuchâtelois clockmakers at the Spanish court (Jaquet-Droz’s so-called “Shepherd’s Clock” is still on display in one of the King of Spain’s palace museums).
Jaquet-Droz was by now wealthy enough to retreat from business life and concentrate on problems of applied mathematics, exemplified in his construction of incredibly complex mechanical figurines – the earliest of computers – designed to do particular tasks. He trained his son, Henri-Louis, and a colleague, Jean-Frédéric Leschot, to work with him; together, they produced the Writer, the Draughtsman and the Musician, and presented all three for the first time to the public in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1774. Writers of the day reported that people flocked from all over the country to see such extraordinary works of whimsy and technical skill. The same year, the three craftsmen showed their figurines in drawing rooms and royal palaces all across Europe, from London to Russia and Paris to Madrid, receiving high acclaim wherever they went. Perhaps aware of impending revolutionary violence in France and Switzerland, Jaquet-Droz sold the figurines to a collector in Spain in 1778. After the conflicts, in 1812, they reappeared in Paris and began touring again. Some twenty years later, they became the centrepiece of Martin and Bourquin’s “Museum of Illusions”, which toured Central Europe until the turn of the 20th century. In 1906, helped by a grant from the Swiss federal government, Neuchâtel bought the figurines back, and they have been on display in the town’s museum ever since, in virtually the same condition as when they were first made, almost 230 years ago.
During the summer of 2002, Neuchâtel was one of five sites which held Expo.02, the sixth Swiss national exhibition, which was subject to financial controversy. The Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival is held every year to celebrate fantastic cinema from around the world. The festival of the Fête des Vendanges, representing the wine harvest, is held traditionally in late September.\
Neuchâtel Xamax is the most important football club based in Neuchâtel. It was created in 1970 through a merger between FC Cantonal (1906) and FC Xamax (1916). The club has played for several years in Swiss Super League, the highest Swiss football league, but currently plays in the Swiss Challenge League, after having been excluded from the Swiss Super League in early 2012 due to bankruptcy and thereafter rising through the lower leagues. The club plays its home matches at the Stade de la Maladière.
HC Uni Neuchâtel plays in the MySports League, the third tier of the Swiss hockey league system. Their home games are held in the 7,000-seat Littoral.
Jean Piaget, Robert Miles, and Marcel Junod were all born in Neuchâtel. Friedrich Dürrenmatt lived in Neuchâtel the last 30 years of his life. Prens Sabahaddin, was an Ottoman sociologist and thinker of the Ottoman dynasty, lived in Neuchâtel the last 25 years of his life. Canadian illustrator John Howe, well known for his illustrations of J. R. R. Tolkien's work and his participation in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy as chief conceptual designer, also lives in the Swiss city. It was also the site of a secret first meeting between French novelist Honoré de Balzac and the married woman who later became his wife, Eveline Hanska.
Roger Schutz, founder of the Taize Community in France, was born on 12 May 1915 at the village of Provence near Neuchâtel. He was stabbed to death on 16 August 2005 by a mentally deranged woman during a prayer meeting in Taize's Church of Reconciliation.
The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Silvio Fanti was born in Neuchâtel in 1919. He founded and developed Micropsychoanalysis, a new school of psychoanalysis. Another important psychiatrist, Gottlieb Burckhardt, practiced in Neuchâtel.
Abraham Louis Breguet, the founder of the Breguet watch company and an esteemed inventor, often regarded as the father of modern horology.
Notes and references
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