Speyer shpī´ər [key], city (1994 pop. 49,310), Rhineland-Palatinate, SW Germany, on the Rhine River. The city, sometimes called Spires in English, is a river port and industrial center; manufactures include shoes, electrotechnical products, beer, metal and wood products, chemicals, and textiles. There are also shipyards in the city, as well as an oil refinery, several aircraft factories, stoneworks, glassworks, and brickworks. Speyer is a noted cultural and historical center of the Rhine plain. Its site was originally settled by the Celts and was known under the Romans as Augusta Nemetum and Noviomagus. The city was destroyed (c.450) by the Huns but was later rebuilt and became (7th cent.) an episcopal see; in 1146 the Second Crusade was preached at Speyer by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. It was made a free imperial city in 1294, but its bishops ruled substantial territories on both sides of the Rhine as princes of the Holy Roman Empire. Several imperial diets were held there, notably the diet of 1529 (see Reformation ), at which Lutheran princes issued a strong protest against the anti-Lutheran measures of Emperor Charles V. The imperial chamber of justice (Ger. Reichskammergericht ) was located at Speyer from 1526–27 to 1689; after the city had been devastated (1689) by the French during the War of the Grand Alliance, the chamber was moved to Wetzlar. Speyer, together with the territory of the bishops of Speyer W of the Rhine, was occupied by the French during the French Revolutionary Wars and formally ceded to France by the Treaty of Campo Formio (1797). The secularized bishopric E of the Rhine passed to Baden in 1803. Speyer and the episcopal lands W of the Rhine were subsequently given to Bavaria at the Congress of Vienna (1815); they were incorporated into the Rhenish Palatinate, of which Speyer was the capital until 1945. The city has retained parts of its medieval wall and gates. Its four-towered Imperial Cathedral (begun c.1030 by Conrad II, completed 1061; altered 1082–1125; restored several times thereafter) is one of the greatest Romanesque buildings in Germany and contains the tombs of eight emperors. The Historical Museum of the Palatinate, located at Speyer, has large collections of pre-Roman and Roman materials and includes a wine museum. An early center of printing, the city was the home of the 15th-century printers John of Speyer and his brother Wendelin.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: German Political Geography