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town, Bern canton, northwestern Switzerland. It lies at the northeastern end of Lake Biel (Bieler See), northwest of Bern city. Of Celtic origin (Belenus) and inhabited in Roman times, the town dates from the 11th century and was chartered in 1275. It was for centuries under the jurisdiction of the prince-bishops of Basel. In 1279 (permanently in 1352) it made alliance with Bern. Seized by the French in 1798, it became part of Bern canton in 1815. Situated on the language boundary, Biel's population is two-thirds German speaking and one-third French speaking. It is the only officially bilingual town in Switzerland.