Lucerne (Ger. Luzern), I. A central canton of Switzerland, bounded N. by Aargau, N. E. by Zug, E. by Schwytz, S. E. and S. by Unter-walden and Bern, and W. by Bern; area, 570 sq. m.; pop. in 1870, 132,338, of whom all but about 4,000 were Roman Catholics. With regard to the language spoken, Lucerne is one of the 14 purely German cantons. The southern part of the canton belongs to the basin of the Reuss, and the northern part to that of the Aar. The former river flows through the lake of Lucerne. The other principal sheets of water are the Sempach and Baldegg (or Heidegg) lakes. The lake of Pilatus, which is associated with this canton by several historians of the middle ages, has been drained. The canton is not mountainous excepting in its S. portion, on the borders of Unterwalden and the Bernese Oberland, where however even the highest peaks of the Pilatns do not attain the limits of perpetual snow. This mountain group is situated S. W. of the town of Lucerne, extending along the borders of Lucerne and Unter-walden. The highest of the seven peaks of this group are the Oberhaupt and the Tomlis-horn, about 7,000 ft. high. The soil is fertile, and yields more corn than is needed for the population. The rearing of cattle, however, is the principal branch of industry.
Fruit trees abound, and the vine is cultivated to some extent. There are also some manufactures of* linen, cotton, and other goods, and some commerce is carried on with Italy by the St. Gothard pass. The canton sends seven members to the national council of Switzerland. It early joined the Swiss confederation. After 1830 it belonged to the so-called " regenerated cantons," but its liberal constitution was overthrown in 1841 by the ultramontane-popular party, which led to the bringing in of the Jesuits in 1844, and the war of the Sonder-bund in 1847, Lucerne being the head and centre of the seven Catholic cantons. (See Switzerland.) A new constitution was adopted in March, 1863. According to it, the canton is divided into 25 electoral districts, which elect 100 members of the grand council for a term of four years. The grand council elects from its number a governing council (Regie-rungsrath) of seven members, also for a term of four years. Its president is elected by the grand council for one year, and has the title of Schultheiss or Statthalter.
II. A City, capital of the canton, at the 1ST. W. extremity of the lake of Lucerne, 40 m. E. by N. of Bern and 25 m. S. S. W. of Zurich; pop. in 1870, 14,524. It is in sight of the snowy Alps of Schwytz, and 10 m. from Mount Rigi, is traversed by the river Reuss, and connected through the central Swiss railway with the principal towns of Switzerland. The town is surrounded by a circle of ancient watch towers, and is walled in on the land side. The chief curiosities of Lucerne are the bridges which span the Reuss, viz.: the Muhlenbrucke, which is decorated with paintings nearly obliterated of the "Dance of Death," the Reuss-bracke, and the Kapellbracke. Against the timbers supporting the roof of the last are suspended nearly 80 pictures illustrative of the patron saints of the town and of Swiss history. The Hofbracke, the largest bridge, was removed in 1852, and a new bridge has been built over the river where it issues from the lake. Commerce and industry are not very extensive. In the northern suburbs of the city is the monument erected in 1821 in honor of the Swiss guards who fell in the defence of the Tuileries, Aug. 10, 1792, the model for which was designed by Thorwaldsen.
III. Lake, a body of water bordering on the cantons of Uri, Unterwalden, Schwytz, and Lucerne, and hence called Vierwaldstadter-See, "lake of the four forest cantons." It lies at a height of about 1,400 ft. above the level of the sea, and branches in different directions, its various bays being named after the chief places situated on them. The W. branch is thus called the lake of Lucerne in the narrower sense; the bay of Alpnach is on the south, that of Kussnacht on the north, and Buochs stretches east and west; while the bay of Uri constitutes the S. E. end of the lake. The total length is about 25 m.; the breadth varies greatly. Its scenery is superb. The patriotic (according to recent criticisms, legendary) deeds of William Tell took place on its shores. Perched on a cliff of the bay of Kussnacht is the ruined castle of New Hapsburg, and near it a fortress which belonged to the counts of Hapsburg, the progenitors of the imperial Austrian dynasty. The lake is visited by violent gales, blowing at the same time from opposite quarters in different parts of it.