History of Frankfurt

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When the Saxons beat the king of the Franks, Charlemagne, he fled and came to the Main with his warriors, but the powerful river blocked his way. Then a deer came out of the riverside forest and crossed the river by a ford (Furt). The Franks (Franken) followed it and thus could escape their persecutors. Because of his joy at their salvation, Charlemagne allowed a town to be built to protect the ford. This town was named Frankenfurt.

Each and every resident of Frankfurt knows the story of the king and the deer. But the origins of the town go back even further than this, as the first foundations were already standing 7000 years before. At the time of Christ's birth, the Romans arrived at the cathedral hill, followed by the Alemannians, then the Franks. Around 700 AD, on the site of today's cathedral, a stone church and the king's palace was built, where Charlemagne signed a document 'to the well-known town with the name of Franconofurd'.

Frankfurt was described as a "town" as early as 1140 and the ascent of the place into a centre of power and trade took its course. From 1240 onwards, the blossoming settlement was the venue for an annual trade fair. From 1330 a spring trade fair took place as well as the traditional autumn trade fair with goods from distant trading places. A book fair was held for the first time in about 1480.

From 1147 onwards, the election of the German king took place in Frankfurt and the right to this was established in the 'Golden Bull' in 1356. Frankfurt became a royal free town in 1372 and ten kings in total were crowned in the Kaiserdom.

In the 14th century, Frankfurt had a population of about 10,000 and was bursting at the seams. From 1333 onwards a new city wall with new moats and fortification towers was built. Because the town hall was also too small, the town bought the Patrizierhaus (patrician's house) 'Zum Roemer' in 1405.

In 1533, Frankfurt joined the Lutheran denomination and consequently was taken over by the Imperial Army. Once freedom of religion had been established in the Augsburger Religionsfrieden (Augsburg religious peace) in 1555, Frankfurt was allowed to call itself a Protestant 'Free City' of the Roman Empire.

In the so-called Fettmilch Rebellion, social unrest led to the fleeing of the patrician powers from the town. The ghetto on Frankfurt's Judengasse by the alten jüdischen Friedhof (Old Jewish cemetery) was plundered and in the following period many an attack took place on the Jewish community.

On the 28th August 1749, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in Frankfurt. In 1782 the first town theatre was opened and Friedrich Schiller came from Mannheim to Frankfurt. After the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire, the 'Free City' was the permanent seat for the Legation Council of the German Federation.

The first German National Assembly met on the 18th May 1848 in the Paulskirche. But the passing of a constitution and the choosing of a new German Emperor failed and the people's rebellion that followed was bloodily suppressed by the Prussian troops.

During the 'Deutsche Krieg' (German war) between Prussia and Austria, Prussian troops occupied neutral Frankfurt in 1866 and made it a dependent provincial town. In 1867 Frankfurt's cathedral was burnt to the ground.

With the start of the Second German Reich in 1870-1, Frankfurt again experienced an upswing ' bridges were built, water pipes installed and industrial enterprises founded. Representational buildings such as the Alte Oper, Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) and Städel were built. Through many expansion programmes, the town area increased in size more and more.

The First World War left few traces. In October 1914, the university was opened and the trade fair was revived in 1920. The November Revolution led to the setting up of a Worker's and Soldier's Council but this was soon deprived of its power. In the following years, a stadium, racetrack, big market hall and airport were built.

From 1929 onwards the world's economic crisis was noticeable. On 12th March 1933 the National Socialists took over power in the Römer and the deportation of Frankfurt Jews began in 1941. From the autumn of 1943 onwards, Frankfurt was bombed by the Allies. The invasion of American soldiers and their occupation of the IG-Farbenhaus on 26th March 1945 ended the National Socialist regime.

With the 'Enttrümmerung der Stadt' period (raising the town from ruins), the rebuilding phase was set in motion. Between 1945 and 1964 more than 150,000 flats were built. The building of high rise administration and industrial buildings as well as the founding of the Bankenviertel significantly changed the town's appearance.

In 1949 Frankfurt lost out to Bonn in the race to become the capital city of Germany. The town subsequently developed its international economic metropolis. With over 400 internal and foreign credit institutions, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the headquarters of the European Central bank as well as the Börse (Stock Exchange), Frankfurt is one of the world's most important financial centres.