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Lübeck

Lübeck (lüˈbĕk) [key], city (1994 pop. 217,270), Schleswig-Holstein, central Germany, on the Trave River near its mouth on the Baltic Sea. It is a major port and a commercial and industrial center; the port is the city's primary employer. Among its industries are shipbuilding, metalworking, food processing, and manufacturing of ceramics, wood products, and medical instruments. Known in the 11th cent., Lübeck was destroyed by fire in 1138 but was refounded in 1143. It was acquired and chartered by Henry the Lion c.1158; the charter, which granted far-reaching communal rights, was copied by more than 100 other cities in the Baltic area. In 1226, Frederick II made Lübeck a free imperial city. Ruled by a merchant aristocracy, it soon rose to great commercial prosperity, acquired hegemony over the Baltic trade, and headed the Hanseatic League. However, the rise of the maritime powers of Denmark and Sweden and the revolution in commerce caused by the discovery and development of the Americas resulted in the decline of the League and, with it, of Lübeck. In 1630 the last of the Hanseatic diets was held there. The city escaped the ravages of the Thirty Years War (1618–48), and, in spite of a decline in Lübeck's power, its patrician merchant families continued to prosper. In the French Revolutionary Wars, Lübeck was sacked by French troops in 1803, and, after the Prussian army under Blücher capitulated (1806) to the French at nearby Ratekau, the city was occupied by the French. Lübeck, governed by a senate, joined the North German Confederation and later the German Empire as a free Hanseatic city; it retained that status until 1937, when it was incorporated into Schleswig-Holstein. The opening (1900) of the Elbe-Lübeck Canal (formerly called the Elbe-Trave Canal) helped increase Lübeck's trade. Despite heavy damage by bombing in World War II, the inner city of Lübeck remains one of the finest examples of medieval Gothic architecture in N Europe. Among the buildings that have been restored are the magnificent city hall (13th–15th cent.); the churches of St. Catherine and St. Jacob (both: 14th cent.); the Hospital and Church of the Holy Ghost (13th cent.); the Holstentor (completed 1477), an imposing city gate flanked by two round towers; the cathedral (founded in 1173); the large brick Church of St. Mary (13th–14th cent.); and many of the old patrician residences. There are also several museums in the city. Dietrich Buxtehude, the composer and organist, was active in Lübeck from 1668 to 1707. The life and decline of a Lübeck patrician family is the subject of the novel Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann, who, with his brother Heinrich Mann, was born in the city. The city of Lübeck should not be confused with the former bishopric of Lübeck, whose rulers resided from c.1300 at nearby Eutin.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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