Mendrisio is a municipality in the district of Mendrisio in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland.
Mendrisio is the seat of the Accademia di Architettura of the university of Italian-speaking Switzerland (USI).
The municipality was boosted in size on 4 April 2004 when it incorporated the former municipality of Salorino.
On 5 April 2009 it incorporated the former municipalities of Arzo, Capolago, Genestrerio, Rancate and Tremona.
On 14 April 2013 the former municipalities of Besazio, Ligornetto and Meride merged into the municipality of
Mendrisio is served by Mendrisio railway station.
Mendrisio was first mentioned in 793 as Mendrici and was also known by its German name, Mendris though this
name is no longer used. However, the area was inhabited during the Roman era. Around thirty tombs, a villa
and coins from a Roman settlement have been discovered in the area. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire,
Mendrisio was the center of a Lombard district and grew into a town. During the Middle Ages, several fortifications
were built on the valley floor between the Porta S. Giovanni and the Moree river. In the Late Middle Ages the Torriani
family built their castle on the rocky hills above the town. Mendrisio became an independent town in the County of Seprio in 1140.
The County was taken over by Como three decades later in 1170. Como ruled over Mendrisio until 1335, when Como was brought
under Milan’s control. Mendrisio then remained under Milanese control until 1402. At some point in the 15th century,
the town was given as a fief to the Rusca and Sanseverino families.
In the late 15th and early 16th century, the Swiss Confederation canton of Uri began expanding down into the
Leventina valley. After a number of setbacks, by 1512 Uri and the rest of the Confederation captured the city
of Lugano and incorporated the Landvogtei of Mendrisio. Nine years later, in 1521, the Swiss Confederation
established a system of shared responsibility over the Italian Bailiwicks and appointed a bailiff to manage
Mendrisio. Mendrisio remained a conquered territory with limited autonomy and rights until the 1798 French
invasion and the creation of the Helvetic Republic.
Despite Mendrisio’s early growth, it remained a part of the large parish of Balerna until the 15th century.
Over the following years, two parishes were formed in the town, under the parish churches of SS Cosma e Damiano
and S. Sisinio. The Church of SS Cosma e Damiano was built in the Baroque style in 1672. The first building was
demolished in the 19th century and a new Classicist style church was built nearby in 1863-75.
The church of S. Sisino was built outside the town in the village of La Torre. A number of religious orders
also settled in Mendrisio, including the Humiliati, the Servite Order, the Ursulines and the Capuchins.
The Servites established a boys school in 1644 in the Convent of S. Giovanni. In 1852 that school became a
cantonal secondary school. During the 19th century the religious orders’ convents and monasteries were all
In the past century, the town has expanded away from the Moree river and developed a large industrial sector.
During the late 19th century, one of the first factories in town, the Torriani-Bolzani spinning mill employed
about 350 women and children (over 10% of the population in 1900). The factories brought jobs to the town and
encouraged villagers to move into Mendrisio. The population doubled over the last 60 years of the 19th century.
Wealthy industrialists built large villas and the Beata Vergine hospital. The construction of a railroad through
the town brought more residents and industry. During the 20th century, a number of service companies opened
in the town and industry began to decline. In 2000 almost three-quarters of the working population worked in
the services sector. Mendrisio’s location near the Italian border means that many of the residents and workers
are cross-border commuters.
As a district capital, Mendrisio provides services for the surrounding communities. A neuro-psychiatric clinic
was opened in 1898. This was followed by primary and secondary schools in 1944 and in 1996 the School of
Architecture of the Università della Svizzera italiana opened.