Bellinzona, Or Bellenz
BELLINZONA, or BELLENZ, one of the three towns which are the capital in turn of the Swiss canton of Tessin or Ticino. It is built on two hills, one on each side of the Ticino at the entrance of the Riviera valley, and is so situated as completely to bar the passage by that route between Italy and Germany. Its fortifications, which were of great strength during the Middle Ages, have been partially restored. There are three castles, the Castello Grande, Corbario, and Di Mezzo, which belonged to the three cantons of Uri, Unterwalden, and Schwyz respectively; the first of these is now used as an armoury and prison. The abbey church is a fine building of the 16th century, and contains some paintings of value. The Augustinian convent is now used as a Government house. The inundations of the river are prevented from injuring the town by a large dyke, built by the French in the reign of Francis I. A considerable transit trade is carried on with Italy, and there is a famous manufacture of acqua di cedro from the blossom and rind of the orange. Bellinzona was in existence at least as early as 1242, when it was conquered by Otto Visconti. It was long an object of contest between the Swiss and the Milanese; in the 15th century it was the scene of a famous battle, in which the Swiss were defeated; and it finally passed into the hands of the three cantons of Uri, Unterwalden, and Schwyz after the battle of Marignano in 1515. Population in 1870, 2051.