Bremen brāˈmən [key], city, capital of the state of Bremen, NW Germany, on the Weser River. Known as the Free Hanse City of Bremen (Ger. Freie Hansestadt Bremen), it is Germany's largest port after Hamburg and is a commercial and industrial center trading in cotton, wool, tobacco, and copper. The city's products include ships, aircraft, steel, machinery, electrical equipment, textiles, beer, and foodstuffs, particularly roasted coffee. In recent years Bremen has employed about half its workforce in commerce, transportation, and the service sector. The shipyard that was once its largest employer closed in 1996. Bremen is Germany's oldest port city. It was made an archbishopric in 845, and under Archbishop Adalbert (1043–72) it included all of Scandinavia, Iceland, and Greenland. The archbishops held temporal sway over a large area between the Weser and Elbe rivers, but the city of Bremen itself remained virtually independent as its importance grew. In 1358 it became one of the leading members of the Hanseatic League. It accepted the Reformation in 1522, and in 1646 it was made a free imperial city. It stubbornly fought to preserve this status after the archbishopric had been assigned to Sweden by the Peace of Westphalia and later was ceded (1719) by Sweden to the elector of Hanover (George I of England). Bremen was occupied by France from 1810 to 1813. The city's overseas trade—from the late 18th cent. particularly with the United States—grew in the 19th cent., partly because of the founding (1827) of nearby Bremerhaven and the establishment (1857) of Norddeutscher Lloyd (North German Lloyd), a large shipping company. The city joined the German Empire in 1871. After World War I, there was a short-lived (1918–19) socialist republic of Bremen. The city was badly damaged by bombs during World War II, but numerous historic monuments remain, including the Gothic city hall (1405–9); the statue of Roland, the medieval hero, which was erected in 1404 as a symbol of the city's freedom; the cathedral (begun 1043), a blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles; and two noted churches—the Liebfrauenkirche (13th cent.) and the Johanneskirche (14th cent.). The city has a major art museum and a museum of overseas ethnology. The state of Bremen, 156 sq mi (404 sq km), was formed in 1947 by combining Bremen and Bremerhaven.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: German Political Geography