Hanseatic City of Lübeck

Lübeck, Germany

Founded in 1143 on the Baltic coast of northern Germany, Lübeck was from 1230 to 1535 one of the principal cities of the Hanseatic League, a league of merchant cities which came to hold a monopoly over the trade of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. The plan of the Old Town island of Lübeck, with its blade-like outline determined by two parallel routes of traffic running along the crest of the island, dates back to the beginnings of the city and attests to its expansion as a commercial centre of Northern Europe. To the west, the richest quarters with the trading houses and the homes of the rich merchants are located, and to the east, small commerces and artisans. The very strict socio-economic organization emerges through the singular disposition of the Buden, small workshops set in the back courtyards of the rich hares, to which access was provided through a narrow network of alleyways (Gänge).

Lübeck has remained an urban monument characteristic of a significant historical structure even though the city was severely damaged during the Second World War. Almost 20% of it were destroyed, including the most famous monumental complexes- the Cathedral of Lübeck, the churches of St Peter and St Mary and especially the Gründungsviertel, the hilltop quarter where the gabled houses of the rich merchants clustered. Selective reconstruction has permitted the replacement of the most important churches and monuments.

Omitting the zones that have been entirely reconstructed, the World Heritage site includes three areas of significance in the history of Lübeck. The first area extends from the Burgkloster in the north to the quarter of St Aegidien in the south. The Burgkloster, a Dominican convent built in fulfilment of a vow made at the battle of Bornhöved (1227), contains the original foundations of the castle built by Count Adolf von Schauenburg on the Buku isthmus. The Koberg site preserves an entire late 18th-century neighbourhood built around a public square bordered by two important monuments, the Jakobi Church and the Heilig-Geist-Hospital. The sections between the Glockengiesserstrasse and the Aegidienstrasse retain their original layout and contain a remarkable number of medieval structures.

Between the two large churches that mark its boundaries - the Petri Church to the north and the Cathedral to the south - the second area includes rows of superb Patrician residences from the 15th and 16th centuries. The enclave on the left bank of the Trave, with its salt storehouses and the Holstentor, reinforces the monumental aspect of an area that was entirely renovated at the height of the Hansa epoch (about 1250 to 1400), when Lübeck dominated trade in Northern Europe.

Located at the heart of the medieval city, the third area around St Mary’s Church, the Town Hall, and the Market Square bear the tragic scars of the heavy bombing suffered during the Second World War.

Lübeck city centre has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987.

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