BELLINZONA, the political capital of the Swiss canton of Tessin or Ticino, 105m. from Lucerne by the St. Gotthard rail way, and 14m. from Locarno. Until 1881 it was joint capital of the canton, with Lugano and Locarno. The old town is built on some high ground rising from the level valley floor of the Ticino, a little below the junction of the Val Mesocco. It thus blocked the road from Germany to Italy, while a great wall was built from the town to the river bank. Bellinzona still possesses three picturesque castles (restored in modern times), dating in their present form from the i 5th century. They belonged for several centuries to the three Swiss cantons which were masters of the town. The most westerly, Castello Grande (or San Michele), be longed to Uri ; the central castle, that of Montebello, was the property of Schwyz; while that of Sasso Corbaro was in the hands of Unterwalden. The church of San Biagio (Blaise) has a remarkable 14th-century fresco, while the collegiate church of San Stefano dates from the i6th century. Pop. (193o) 10,706, practically all Roman Catholic and Italian speaking.
Bellinzona is possibly of Roman origin ; it is first mentioned in 59o. It played a considerable part in the early history of Lom bardy, being a key to several Alpine passes. In the 8th century it belonged to the bishop of Como, while in the i3th and i 4th centuries it was tossed to and fro between the cities of Milan and Como. In 1499 (like the rest of the Milanese) it was occupied by the French, but in 1500 it was taken by Uri. In 1503 the French king ceded it to Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. It became in 1798 the capital of the canton Bellinzona of the Helvetic re public, but in 1803 it was united to the newly-formed canton of Ticino.