Würzburg was originally a Celtic settlement and was made an episcopal see by St. Boniface in 741. After the breakup (10th cent.) of the duchy of Franconia, its bishops ruled a vast territory on both sides of the Main as princes of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1168 the bishops assumed the title of dukes of Eastern Franconia, of which they held a major part. During the Peasants' War the bishop of Würzburg temporarily lost (1524–25) his territory to the rebels, but he held out at his fortress of Marienberg against Götz von Berlichingen. Later, the splendor-loving prince-bishops transformed (17th–18th cent.) the city into one of the finest residences of Europe and founded (1582) the Univ. of Würzburg, where the anthropologist and pathologist Rudolf Virchow and the physicist Wilhelm Roentgen taught in the 19th cent.
Secularized after the Treaty of Lunéville (1801), Würzburg passed (1803) to Bavaria; was made (1805) a separate electorate in favor of Ferdinand, the dispossessed grand duke of Tuscany; and reverted (1815) to Bavaria. The city was severely damaged during World War II. Noteworthy landmarks include the baroque former episcopal residence (1720–44; designed by B. Neumann); the Romanesque cathedral (11th–13th cent.), containing works by the sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider; the Marienkapelle (1377–1479), a late Gothic chapel; the Old Main Bridge; and Marienberg fortress (the episcopal residence from the mid-13th to the 18th cent.).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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