Braunschweig, Germany History

A History of Braunschweig, Germany

A city, of Lower Saxony Land (state), northern Germany, on the Oker River, some 38 miles (60 km) southeast of Hannover. Legend says that it was founded about 861 by Bruno, son of Duke Ludolf of Saxony, but it probably originated at a much later date. It was chartered and improved by Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, in the 12th century and became a leading member of the Hanseatic League in the 13th century; it later declined as a result of civil and external discords.

The constant partitions of the Braunschweig territories, and the quarrels of its separate lines of princes prevented Braunschweig from playing a great part in German politics. After the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Braunschweig began to be wholly overshadowed by the power of Brandenburg and its successor, Prussia.

After 1806, Braunschweig was included by Napoleon in the Kingdom of Westphalia, but in 1814, it was restored to its legitimate ruler, Duke Frederick William, who fell at Quatre Bras in 1815.

During the minority of his son, Charles II, the duchy was ruled by George, prince regent of Great Britain. (There was a House of Brunswick, the English name for Braunschweig, named for this royal line.) On coming of age, Duke Charles made himself very unpopular, and during the revolutionary upheaval of 1830, was forced to leave the country permanently. His brother William, who was formally proclaimed his successor in 1831, proved to be an able and popular ruler. He remained in charge until his death October 18, 1884.

An early supporter of the Reformed faith, Braunschweig belonged to the Protestant League of Schmalkalden. It was capital of the duchy of Brunswick before 1918 and of the Land of the same name until incorporated into the new Land of Lower Saxony in 1945.

Captured by Allied forces in 1945 after suffering heavy damage, it has been rebuilt.

Surviving medieval buildings include the 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral of St. Blasius, which contains the tombs of the founder, Henry the Lion, and his English consort, Matilda; in the vault are the tombs of the Guelf rulers of the Brunswick line from 1681. Other surviving medieval churches include St. Martin's, St. Katherine's, St. Andreas', and St. Aegidien's.

The Burg Dankwarderode, a castle containing the Treasure of the Guelfs, dates from the 12th century; on the castle square (Burgplatz) is the bronze Lion Monument (L”wendenkmal), emblem of Braunschweig, carved in 1166 as a symbol of Henry the Lion. Also notable are the old town hall (14th-15th century), the Renaissance Cloth Merchants' Hall (Gewandhaus), and the Richmond Palace, built in 1768-69 by Prince Charles William Ferdinand, son of Charles I of Brunswick.

The people.

The population of Lower Saxony regards itself as Lower German, linked by a common ancient Saxon origin and use of the Lower German dialect known as Plattdeutsch. The latter, a dialect closely related to Dutch, Frisian, and English, is quite distinct from the official High German.

Some regional literature is still produced in this form, and it remains the language of the home in much of the state. This feeling of cultural unity helps to bind together such diverse areas as the parts of ancient Hanover east of the Weser, the younger regions of Braunschweig, Emsland, Osnabruck, and South Oldenburg (which were formerly under Westphalian influence), and the Frisian portions of northern Oldenburg and Ostfriesland. About four-fifths of the population is Protestant, with a Roman Catholic minority in the state's western part.


              Home Return to Home Page                       Site Index Return to Table of Contents