History of Luebeck

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History

Luebeck Rathaus
Luebeck Rathaus

[ source: Wikipedia]

The scenic city of Luebeck is the second largest city in Schleswig-Holstein and is home to Germany's largest port on the Baltic Sea. The history of Luebeck stretches far back into antiquity. Although the city was founded in 1143, archaeologists have found the sites of settlements in the area, dating from just after the last Ice Age. In the 9th century, Charlemagne moved Polabian Slavs to the area to help christianize the region. They founded settlement with the name of Liubice, which means "lovely," near the current city of Luebeck. This settlement was destroyed in the 12th century, but within a few years, a new German settlement was given a name derived from the Slavic one.

Luebeck quickly became an important commercial trade city. In 1226, the city was elevated to the status of an Imperial Free City. This meant that the city and its inhabitants answered directly to the emperor, not to a prince or a duke. In the 14th century, the city became the "Queen of the Hanseatic League," a title that reflected Luebeck's status as the Hanse's largest and most powerful member. The history of Luebeck was strongly influenced by its role as the "capital" of this extremely important medieval trade network. At one point, almost 200 cities belonged to the Hanse, and on average 70 of these sent representatives to the annual conferences that primarily took place in Luebeck. The city's merchants profited during this period, maintaining trade contacts as far away as Russia and the Orient. In recognition of the city's significance, Emperor Charles II named Luebeck as one of the five "Glories of the Empire" in 1375, making it the only "Glory" located outside of Italy. (This status was shared with Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Venice.)

Luebeck's treasured status as an independent city ended in 1937, when the Nazis incorporated the city into the state of Schleswig-Holstein, which was partly due to Hitler's personal dislike of the city. During the war, Luebeck was the first major metropolitan area attacked by the RAF. A bomb attack on Palm Sunday 1942 destroyed most of the old city. The Bay of Luebeck also became the site of one the biggest disasters in naval history, when RAF fighters sank three ships on May 3, 1945 (three days before Hitler's suicide), which were filled with evacuated concentration camp survivors. About 7,000 people died in this attack.

No history of Luebeck would be complete without a mention of its famous marzipan. According to legend, this beloved German confection was invented here.

Today, tourists are attracted to Luebeck, in part, because of its large collection of brick Gothic structures. In 1987, UNESCO named the city a World Cultural Heritage Site, and 1,800 buildings were listed as significant contributing sites. Furthermore, Luebeck is prominent as the home of Dieterich Buxtehude (Buxtehude vacation rentals | Buxtehude travel guide), the famed Baroque era organist, and Heinrich and Thomas Mann, the acclaimed literary brothers.

About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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Location, Map, and Driving Directions

Location: Am Petrikirchhof 1, 23552 Lübeck, Germany

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