Schwyz (shvēts), canton (1993 pop. 116,100), 351 sq mi (909 sq km), central Switzerland, one of the Four Forest Cantons. Bordering on the Lake of Zürich in the north and the Lake of Lucerne in the southwest, Schwyz is a mountainous and forested region, with meadows supporting livestock and orchards in the valleys. Cotton and silk textiles and wood furniture are manufactured, and there are large hydroelectric plants in the north. The population is German-speaking and Roman Catholic. In the early 13th cent. the rights to Schwyz passed to the counts of Hapsburg, but in 1240 Emperor Frederick II granted Schwyz a charter making it immediately subject to the Holy Roman Empire. The charter was revoked in 1274 by Rudolf I of Hapsburg, and in 1291 Schwyz concluded with Uri and Unterwalden the pact which became the basis of Swiss liberty. (The name Switzerland derives from Schwyz.) The canton rejected the Reformation and in 1845 joined the Catholic Sonderbund. Its capital, Schwyz (1993 pop. 13,000), one of the oldest towns in Switzerland, is a summer resort. The Swiss federal archives there contain the original pact of 1291. The town has a 16th-century town hall with historic paintings, several baroque churches, and numerous patrician houses (17th–18th cent.).
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