Monday, December 8, 2008

Great Cities of the Empire

Great Cities of the Empire


First founded in BC as a garrison by the Roman Emperor Augustus. Home to the wealthy Fugger family of Bankers, this rich city lies atop the major overland trade route leading from north to south between Imperial lands and southern Europe. It's major crafts are textiles, cloth and woven goods. It first emerged into importance in the Imperial period as the site of Otto's (the King of the Romans), decisive victory over the Magyar hordes. They never seriously threatened Europe again and were eventually Christianised becoming the Kingdom of Hungary. It was first chartered as a city commune in 1156 by Frederick Barbarossa and it has the status of Imperial Free City, granted in 1276. It currently lies in the throes of the black plague, which is killing citizens in their thousands.

A major centre of the European overland and shipping trade, the Imperial Free City Imperial Free City of Hamburg lies near the river Elbe. It had it's original origins as a Saxon village and fortress but as the German eastward colonisation pulled the Elbe into the heartlands and spurred economic development, it became a major trading centre. In 1189 Frederick Barbarossa gave the city Burghers the right to levy tolls on the Elbe and the status of Imperial Free city. With Luebeck, it is a major Hanseatic league city and North Sea port forming one end of the busy overland route between the two Hansa cities. It ships grains, cloth, furs, herrings, spices, timber and metals, as well as it's most important export, beer.
Koln, regarded as the foremost city in the Empire, originated as a settlement of Roman Veterans established in AD 50 who mingled with the local Germanic tribesmen. It is situated on the banks of the lower Rhine in an area of flat lowlands. In the 12th and 13th centuries Koln became prosperous due to straddling both east-west and north-south trade routes in the emerging European economy. Koln was famous for it's skilled armourers, goldsmiths, clothiers,, swordsmiths, wool drapers and dyers. The Cathedral school and the cloisters also fostered learning and philosophy and at one time or another some of the great minds of the middle ages, Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus and Caesarius of Heisterbach, amongst others, lived and taught there. It's famed university was established by the Burghers in 1388. Alongside it's wealth and intellectual stature, religion figured heavily in the life, fortunes and ultimately politics of the great city. It was rich in churches and relics, including those of the three magi and in the past had been known as the "northern Rome" and a great centre of pilgrimage. It's great Cathedral, "Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria" began construction in 1248 and is still not completed. While Koln had a bishop as early as the 2nd century, it was not until the time of Charlemagne that the city was made an Archbishophoric. The Archbishops of Koln had a troubled relationship with their flock, with an uprising in 1074 and a bloody battle with in 1288 that saw the Archbishop ejected form the city retaining only the right to administer justice. Free of their Archbishops, the people of Koln prospered during the economic takeoff during the the 13th Century when they joined the Hanseatic league and in the 14th Century when the were made an Imperial Free City. Patrician rule was replaced with wider "Democratic" (the franchise only extending to the Burghers) rule near the end of the 14th Century. In the 15th Century Koln's Archbishops still figure heavily in it's affairs with a number of attempts being made to retake the city, the most recent being last year in 1419.

The centre and "Queen" Hanseatic league, Luebeck is an Imperial Free City and a rich and populous centre of commerce. In addition to it's role as trading and political centre, it is also home to the most skilled shipbuilders in the North sea. It is notable for the heavy use of brick in it's construction. It was as a jumping off port for colonists to lands newly conquered by the Teutonic knights in the 12th century that Luebeck began to gain prominence. In 1226 the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II "Stupor Mundi" proclaimed Luebeck an Imperial Free City. In 1375, Emperor Charles IV hailed Lübeck as one of the five "Glories of the Empire", along with with Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence. The city is famous also for it's high steepled churches including the famed Lübecker Dom and Marienkirche.

Accounted the unofficial Imperial "Capital", this great city lies on the Pegnitz river in upper Bavaria. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II "Stupor Mundi" proclaimed Nurnburg an Imperial Free City in 1219. Along with Augsburg, Nurnburg lies on and is enriched by, the major north-south trade route to Italy. According to the "Golden bull" in 1356, each Holy Roman Emperor was obliged to convene an Imperial Diet (Parliament) after his ascension. This obligation reinforced the long tradition of Nurnburg as the site for important events in Imperial politics. The city also housed the site of frequent Imperial courts at Nurnburg castle, where every Emperor from 1050 has dwelt, at least for a time. In addition to the great churches, including St Lorenzthe, the city is home to the Heilig-Geist-Spital (Holy Spirit Hospital) for Lepars founded in 1332. the City lies in a rich mining region and it's guilds were famed as the best armourers in the Empire.Princes from far afield will have Nurnberg plate custom built and imported at great cost and Nurnberg is the main destination of all those who wish to be outfitted with the best to be had.

Prag is the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia, with the assistance of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, it has become a centre of culture and learning with one of the greatest universities in all of Christendom. Bohemia became part of the new Holy Roman Empire (it had previously been more closely aligned to the east than to the Saxons) when Otto I first established it in 962. Bohemia became a Kingdom under Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and the Prag emerged from the town that grew up around the royal castle. Prague had been Charles IV's capital when he was Emperor, he raises the city to an Archbishophoric and rebuilt the castle and many great buildings were constructed along with the university in 1348. However, controversies and tensions between the German and Czech speaking "nations" (essentially the groupings of foreign and native students and faculty) led to the mass walkout of German students and faculty and the establishment of the rival university in Leipzig. Jan Hus, burnt at the stake as a heretic at the council of Constanz in 1415, taught at Prague university and had a great following amongst the Bohemians. When Sigismund took over as King of Bohemia after his brothers death, (he had promised Hus safe passage to Constanz but Hus was tried and burnt in his absence) these tensions exploded into full blown rebellion and the Bohemians had royal officials Defenestrated and rose in revolt. Fierce fighting between forces led by the Regent Sophia and the rebels wrecked areas of the city but a truce was called in November and the city has been quiet over the Christmas feasts, however, Sigismund is said to be gathering his forces to end the truce, retake the city and crush the rebels.

As a result of it's place at the intersection of the Rhine and overland routes, there has always been a settlemtn at this site since the bronze age.. In 12 BC, this settlement became a fort of the Roman empire named Argentoratum. It became part of the Empire in 923. Under the Holy Roman Empire, the city grew, enriched by it's trade routes and centers of learning. It's importance was enhanced by construction of a large bridge over the river Rhine. It is another city with a long history of conflict between the wealthy families and it's Archbishops and In 1262, the town broke free from the ruling bishops becoming an Imperial Free City. Duties levied on traffic over this bridge and down the Rhine enriched it greatly. In order to gain the support of this wealthy city, the Holy Roman Emperor granted it tax exemptions and privileges. The great Cathedral has been under construction since the 1100's and is still uncompleted, though it's tower is surely the tallest in all Europe.

The great fortress-city is situated on the left bank of the Danube, in a fertile plain at the foot of the Swabian Alps. The city is mentioned first in 854, as the scene of several Carolingian assemblies. It became a town in 1027, and was the leading city in Swabia until burnt to the ground by Henry the Lion, it rebuilt and was awarded the status of Imperial Free City in 1155. It continues to be the leading city in Swabian affairs. The city is situated at the northernmost navigable point of the Danube, making it a key transshipment point for overland to river trade and travelers. This link is doubly important due to Ulm's proximity to the passes north of the Schwarzewald (Black Forest) and thence to the headwaters of the river Rhine south to the low countries or west into France. The city is famed for it's barley, beer, pipe-bowls and sweet cakes (Ulmer Zuckerbrot). as well as bleaching, brewing and brass-founding. Brass founding, previously important only to the creation of bells for Europe's many churches, has achieved new significance with the slowly increasing popularity of guns. Notable buildings in the city include a great Commandery of the Teutonic Order and the Dom (Cathedral) which began construction in 1377.

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