History of Bonn

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The history of Bonn goes back beyond the Stone Age and archaeological findings prove that people have lived in Bonn for more than 12,000 years. The fortress "Bonna" was first mentioned in the writing of the Roman Florus between 13 and 9 BC. A Roman castle once stood between today's Rathausgasse and the St. Remigius-Kirche church. Around 69 AD the Bonn complex was destroyed by Germanic reserve troops of the Romans. The first Christian communities in Bonn were founded during this time.

After the Roman Empire dissolved, the Frankish era began in the Rhineland. The Franks spoke of the "castrum Bonna", or Bonn castle, right up until the 9th century. The castle lost its importance over time and could not withstand with the Norman attacks between 881 and 882. In 925 the German Empire was founded through the division of the Carolingian Empire. Signs of the Middle Ages can still be seen today. In 1151 the Doppelkirche (church) was consecrated, the building of the Godesburg Castle began in 1210. The archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden ordered a city wall to be built in 1244, of which the three important city gates Sterntor, Stockentor and Kölntor still remain. The plague epidemic in 1348 meant that the city suffered severe setbacks with regard to economy and development.

The era of government by the Cologne Electors began with the "Truchseßschen War" (1583-1588). The victor, Ernst von Bayern, began a long succession of Electors from the House of Wittelsbach, which reigned until 1761. After Bonn came through the Thirty Years' War relatively unscathed, the city was almost completely destroyed during the war with the Netherlands in 1689. Rebuilding of the city was initiated by the Elector Joseph Clemens, who also laid the foundation for a new residence, later the university.

The 18th century was a peaceful time in Bonn and signalled the erection of buildings by Elector Clemens August. He showed an interest in making structural changes to the Poppelsdorfer Castle, Kreuzberg Church and commissioned the Town Hall. After his death, the "philosopher of the Enlightenment" Max Friedrich governed. His successor, Max Franz, also closely connected to the Enlightenment era, made sure that the Academy erected by Clemens August was given the status of a university. The city experienced a cultural heyday under Max Franz. Bad Godesberg became a health resort and the Redoute ballroom was built.

After the French invasion of the Rhineland, Bonn was governed from France (1798-1814). The city first became Prussian in 1815. The newly founded university of 1818 was of particular significance for the city, and many prominent students such as the Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, Emanual Geibel, Heinrich Heine and Hoffmann von Fallersleben studied here and have helped the university enjoy a high standing. The first Bonn professors are just as well known, such as August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Heinrich Hertz, Ernst Moritz Arndt and Georg Niebuhr.

In the 19th century, the unveiling of the Beethoven memorial on the Münsterplatz was certainly the most important event. Both the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and the English Queen Victoria were present at the ceremony, observing from the balcony of the Royal Palace (today the Main Post Office). In 1898, the first proper bridge over the Rhine was built (Kennedy Bridge).

After the First World War, Bonn was occupied by Allied troops (1918-1926). In 1938, Hitler and Chamberlain met in Bad Godesberg. During the Second World War, bomb attacks in 1944-45 destroyed much of the city centre and Beuel. Bonn was occupied by American troops in 1945. In 1949 the Bundestag made Bonn a provisional capital city, and in 1989 Bonn's 2000th anniversary was celebrated. With the reunification treaty a year later, Berlin became the capital city of Germany once again and Bonn was made Germany's premier UN city.

Helen Earis