Leipzig history

more than a year ago

From its humble origins as a small community near a bunch of lime trees to its prominence as a centre for trade and high culture to its turbulent 20th century, Leipzig has had more than its fair share of good times and bad. And its dynamic future doesn’t seem to be any less interesting as it tries to reclaim that enviable combination of beauty and influence it once enjoyed.

7th - 9th centuries
Slavic tribes settle where the Elster River meets the Parthe River.

Chronicles of Bishop Thietmar von Merseburg first mention an “urbs Libzi”. The word “Libzi” is an old Sorbian word for “lime tree”.

Leipzig is granted a municipal charter as well as market rights. The city lies on the intersection of two major trade routes: Norway to Rome and the Ural Mountains to Paris.

15th century
The University of Leipzig is founded in 1409. Shortly thereafter, colleges for medicine and law are added. Due to changes in the dominant trade routes, Leipzig becomes the preferred trading centre of southern Germany with Poland, to the detriment of Venice and the Hanseatic League. Leipzig is granted the right to hold trade fairs in 1497, making it the only city allowed to do so within a 110-kilometre radius.

16th century
Persona non grata Martin Luther makes headlines in 1517 with his 95 theses in Wittenberg. Two years and a few narrow escapes later, he debates the issues of grave importance with noted scholar Johann Eck in the “Leipzig disputation” in the castle of Pleissenburg, Leipzig (now the site of the New City Hall). In 1539 he heralds the advent of Protestantism in a sermon held in St. Thomas Church. In other news, Hieronymous Lotter oversees construction of the Old City Hall in 1555-56, which is built in only nine months - a record still standing today for the world’s fastest government-managed project.

17th century
Swedish king Gustav II Adolf defeats the forces of Albrecht Wallenstein in 1632 during the 30 Years’ War in the Battle of Lützen near Leipzig, but is killed while doing so. Publication of the world’s first daily newspaper, Leipzig’s the Einkommende Zeitungen, begins in 1650.

18th century
Two of Germany’s favourite sons, Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, secure Leipzig’s tourism industry for centuries to come with their presence. Bach serves as musical director and choirmaster of St. Thomas Church from 1723 to his death in 1750. The young Goethe studies at the University of Leipzig from 1765 to 1768, where he nurtures both his literary genius and his taste for beer.

This year sees both the birth of dramatic composer Richard Wagner and the dramatic end to Napoleon’s dominance in Germany and Poland in the Battle of the Nations. Still licking his wounds from a disastrous campaign in Russia a year earlier, Napoleon finally meets his match on October 16-19 in Leipzig. Greatly outnumbered by the combined forces of Russia, Austria, Prussia and Sweden, his army is defeated.

19th century
The “German Booksellers and Publishers Association of Leipzig'' is founded in 1825 and the Brockhaus publishing company begins producing books on an industrial scale in 1826. In 1828 Anton Philipp Reclam founds both a lending library and publishing house. Travel between Leipzig and Dresden becomes easier with the introduction of the first long-distance railway line in 1839. The Leipzig Zoo opens its doors in 1878, and the Leipzig Fair becomes a samples fair starting in 1894, making it much easier for exhibitors to transport and display their wares.

20th century
Construction of the Central Station runs from 1902 to 1915 and is the largest terminal station in the world. Air raids deal Leipzig its harshest blow on 4 December 1943. Two years later, Leipzig falls under Soviet control. A national political protest against the East German government breaks out in East Berlin in the summer of 1953 and is eventually crushed, killing at least 125.

Mikhail Gorbachev is named general secretary of the Soviet Union. He immediately introduces the policies of economic perestroika (restructuring) and public glasnost (openness) to reform the government and avoid imminent collapse of the soviet system.

Monday prayer services held at the Nikolaikirche turn into ever-growing protests for government reform and, finally, change. The Berlin Wall falls under a collapsing system on November 9.

First free parliamentary elections are held in East Germany on March 16, and on October 3, East and West Germany are reunified to form the Federal Republic of Germany.

The birthday candle industry experiences an economic boom as the Music Conservatory celebrates its 150th, the Gewandhaus Orchestra its 250th and the Leipzig Opera House its 300th anniversaries.

The new Leipzig Trade Fair opens on 12 April, replacing its ramshackle predecessor.

The Central Station reopens in November after a two-year renovation project.

21st century
The Leipzig/Halle Airport adds a new runway to accommodate intercontinental flights in 2000. Porsche (2002) and BMW (2005) open manufacturing plants in Leipzig.

The eyes of the world are on Leipzig as it hosts several football matches in the World Cup 2006.


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