Answer to Map #89

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Answer: This week’s map was a choropleth showing the percentage of residents in each Swiss canton who are Roman Catholic.

Switzerland is a country that does not have a single dominant religion. Ever since the Reformation, Switzerland has been home to many Catholics and many Protestants (especially members of the Swiss Reformed Church). Overall, about 37% of the population is Catholic and 25% belongs to the Swiss Reformed Church. Another 25% of Swiss residents profess to have no religion. Around 5% of the population is Muslim.

Traditionally, individual Swiss cantons had the freedom to choose their own established church, which in practice meant either Catholicism or the Swiss Reformed Church. The map we see in 2018 reflects these decisions. In general, the areas around the most populous cities, including Zurich, Geneva, and Basel, are fairly Protestant (though the percentage of Catholics in Geneva is growing because of immigration from nearby France). In addition, the canton of Bern in the middle of the country has long been a staunchly Protestant canton. Bern borders the cantons of Valais, Obwalden, and Uri, all of which are overwhelmingly Catholic. In fact, in 1528, the government of Obwalden invaded Bern in an attempt to keep the people of Bern from leaving the Catholic church.

One key to solving this map was to look at the cantons of Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden. These two cantons used to be one, but they split in the 1520s after a series of bloody conflicts. It was decided that one of the new cantons would be Protestant and the other Catholic. Any individual in the canton could choose either faith, at which point the person would be free to relocate if necessary. Today, the legacy of this history is apparent: Appenzell Innerrhoden is 81% Catholic, while Appenzell Ausserrhoden is only 31% Catholic.

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