Countryaah, Switzerland is relatively densely populated (206
residents per km2), but the population is
unevenly distributed. The largest concentrations are found
in the northwest, in a triangle between the metropolitan
areas of Zurich, Basel and Bern, and in western Switzerland
at Geneva and Lausanne. In these five urban agglomerations,
more than 30 percent of the country's population lives. In
the highland areas and other sparsely populated areas,
depopulation has been going on for a long time.
More than 20 percent of the population are foreign
nationals. In addition, guest and border workers, many of
whom commute daily to Switzerland.
Three languages have official languages at the national
level: German, French and Italian, while a fourth, Romanian,
is only partially official. The spoken German dialects,
which are the mother tongue of about 4.9 million people
(estimated in 2008) and in summary are called Swiss German,
differ greatly from standard German, which is almost
exclusively spoken as written language and is also used as a
spoken language in many public contexts.
French is the native language of 1.6 million (estimated
in 2008), completely dominant in the cantons of Geneva,
Vaud, Neuch‚tel and Jura, majority languages in Valais and
Friborg; the French-speaking areas are collectively referred
to as "Romanesque Switzerland". The differences between the
local spoken language and the standard French are relatively
small. Italian is the native language of about 500,000,
mainly in the Canton of Ticino. Straight Romanian, which is
strongly fragmented, is spoken in the canton of GraubŁnden
by about 35,000 people. Switzerland is often seen as an
example as a multilingual society, although linguistic
conflicts are not lacking.
Christianity reached Switzerland from Italy and Gaul
during the 300–400s and through Columbanus' Irish mission in
the 500s. An important center became the monastery
Einsiedeln founded in the 9th century. Due to its federal
nature, Switzerland was never uniformly organized as a
church province. Even today, Roman Catholic bishopric seats
are directly under the Holy See.
The Reformation came to different terms: Zwingli's
reformation in Zurich, Calvin's in Geneva. Even in the
present day, the cantons have different religious
characteristics, from the wholly Protestant Basel to the
wholly Catholic Tessin / Ticino, although differences
diminish. With some exceptions (including the approximately
11,000 Lutherans), the Protestant churches are united in a
federation. The population is fairly evenly distributed
among Catholics and Protestants, each slightly below 50%
(1999); since 1970, Catholics have increased somewhat. The
Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed Church Union are both
officially recognized in all the cantons. The Old Catholic
Church (Christkatholische Kirche) has about 20,000 members.
The World Council of Churches is headquartered in Geneva.