Halberstadt is situated between the Harz in the south and the Huy hills in the north on the Holtemme and Goldbach rivers, both left tributaries of the Bode. The municipal area comprises the villages of Aspenstedt, Athenstedt, Langenstein, Sargstedt, and Ströbeck, all incorporated in 2010. Halberstadt is the base of the Department of Public Management of the Hochschule Harz University of Applied Studies and Research.
The town centre retains many important historic buildings and much of its ancient townscape. Notable places in Halberstadt include Halberstadt Cathedral, the Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) and St Martin's, churches built in the 12th and 13th centuries. Halberstadt is the site of the first documented large, permanent pipe organ installation in 1361. The cathedral is notable among those in northern European towns in having retained its medieval treasury in virtually complete condition. Among its treasures are the oldest surviving tapestries in Europe, dating from the 12th century. The town is also a stop on the scenic German Timber-Frame Road
The town can be reached via the Bundesstraße 6n, 79, 81, and 245 federal highways. Halberstadt main station is an important railway hub on the Magdeburg–Thale and Halle–Vienenburg lines, mainly served by Transdev Sachsen-Anhalt. The Halberstadt tramway network currently operates two lines.
Germania Halberstadt is a football club which plays in Halberstadt.
In 814 the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious made the Christian mission in the German stem duchy of Saxony the episcopal see of the Diocese of Halberstadt. It was vested with market rights by King Otto III in 989. The town became the administrative centre of the Saxon Harzgau and an important trading location. The Halberstadt bishops had the Church of Our Lady erected from about 1005 onwards. In his fierce conflict with Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, the forces of the Saxon duke Henry the Lion devastated the town in 1179.
Upon Henry's downfall, the Halberstadt diocese was elevated to a prince-bishopric about 1180. Its Cathedral was rebuilt from 1236 and consecrated in 1491. Halberstadt, Quedlinburg and Aschersleben joined a league of towns (Halberstädter Dreistädtebund) in 1326; from 1387, the city was also a member of the Hanse.
From 1479, the diocese was administrated by the Archbishops of Magdeburg. While the Halberstadt citizens turned Protestant around 1540, the cathedral chapter elected Prince Henry Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel first Lutheran bishop in 1566. During the Thirty Years' War, the town was occupied by the troops of Albrecht von Wallenstein in 1629 and temporarily re-Catholicized according to the imperial Edict of Restitution. According to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, the prince-bishopric was finally secularized to the Principality of Halberstadt held by Brandenburg-Prussia. The first secular governor was Joachim Friedrich von Blumenthal.
Halberstadt became part of the newly established Kingdom of Prussia in 1701. From 1747 Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim worked here as a government official and made his home an intellectual centre of the Enlightenment (Aufklärung) movement. Upon the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit, the town became part of the Kingdom of Westphalia, a Napoleonic client-state and administrative seat of the Department of the Saale. On 29 July 1809, a Westphalian regiment was defeated by the Black Brunswickers under Prince Frederick William of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in the Battle of Halberstadt.
After the defeat of Napoleon, the town was restored to Prussia and subsequently administered within the Province of Saxony. From 1815, Halberstadt was home of garrison of the Prussian 7th (Magdeburg) Cuirassiers "von Seydlitz" regiment, with Otto von Bismarck in the rank of an officer à la suite from 1868. The town's economy was decisively promoted by the opening of the Magdeburg–Halberstadt Railway in 1843. The tramway was inaugurated in 1903.
In 1912 the Halberstädter Flugzeugwerke aircraft manufacturer was founded followed by the opening of a military airbase, providing the German Luftstreitkräfte in World War I. After the war it had to close down according to the regulations of the Treaty of Versailles, until in the course of the German re-armament, it opened again in 1935 as a branch of the Junkers company in Dessau. The aircraft factory was the site of a SS forced labourer camp, one of several subcamps of Buchenwald; the production facilities and the nearby Luftwaffe airbase were targets of Allied bombing during the 'Big Week' in February 1944.
In the last days of World War II, in April 1945, US forces approached Halberstadt as they attacked remaining Nazi troops in the short-lived Harz pocket. They dropped leaflets instructing Halberstadt's Nazi ruler to fly a white flag on the town hall as a token of surrender. He refused, no white flag was raised and on 8 April 1945, 218 Flying Fortresses of the 8th Air Force, accompanied by 239 escort fighters, dropped 595 tons of bombs on the centre of Halberstadt. This killed about 2,500 people and converted most of the old town into some 1.5 million cubic metres of rubble, which American troops briefly occupied three days later. By June 1945, the town and its garrison was handed over to the 3rd Shock Army of the Soviet Red Army forces.
Halberstadt was part of newly established Saxony-Anhalt from 1945–1952, after which it was within Bezirk Magdeburg in East Germany. During the Peaceful Revolution in Autumn 1989, St Martin's Church was a centre of the Swords to ploughshares movement. After the reunification of Germany, Halberstadt became part of the restored state of Saxony-Anhalt.
In the 17th century, Halberstadt had one of the largest Jewish communities in central Europe. At the time, nearly one in twelve of the town's inhabitants, almost 700 people, were Jewish. Notable amongst them was Berend Lehmann (1661–1730). One example of Lehmann's work was the impressive Baroque synagogue he financed, which was completed in 1712. In November 1938, after the Kristallnacht pogroms, the Nazi authorities forced the Jewish community to demolish the building, as the attack on it was said to have left it in danger of collapsing.
A short distance from the synagogue, Lehmann also had a house built for students of Judaism, with a collection of theological writings. This building, known as the "Klaus", was where many important students of the Talmud and rabbis were taught. The "Klaus" gave Halberstadt the reputation of being an important centre for the study of the Torah. Today the Moses Mendelssohn Academy is based there; this organises exhibitions, congresses and presentations and provides a wide range of information about the Jewish culture and way of life.
A performance of John Cage's organ piece As Slow As Possible began in the Burchardikirche in Halberstadt in September 2001; the performance is scheduled to take 639 years. The concert began on 5 September 2001 with a rest lasting 17 months. On the dates of the sound changes the church is usually well visited.Caspar Abel - theologian, historian, and poet
Albert of Saxony (philosopher)- logician, physicist, and Bishop of Halberstadt from 1366-1399
Johann Christian Josef Abs - teacher and school administrator
Martin Bormann - private secretary to Adolf Hitler
Lily Braun - feminist writer
Wibke Bruhns - journalist and author, author of My Father's Country
Gottfried August Bürger - poet
Johann Augustus Eberhard - theologian and philosopher
Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim - poet
Adalbert of Hamburg - Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen
Ferdinand Heine - ornithologist
Azriel Hildesheimer - rabbi
Gustav Eduard von Hindersin - general
Johann Georg Jacobi - poet
Israel Jacobson - philanthropist and father of Reform Judaism
Alexander Kluge - film director and author
Issachar Berend Lehmann - banker, merchant, diplomatic agent and army contractor
Paul Laurentius - theologian
George Müller - Christian evangelist and administrator of orphanages
Adolf Reubke - organ builder
Jürgen Sparwasser - footballer and manager
Adolf Stoecker - theologian and politician
Helmut Weidling - general
Andreas Werckmeister - organist and music theorist, from 1696 to 1706
Walter Wislicenus - astronomer
Carl Zillier - American politician
Halberstadt is twinned with: Banská Bystrica, Slovakia
Náchod, Czech Republic
Villars, Loire, France