The Hanseatic City of Lubeck ( , Low German ) is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. Situated on the river Trave, it was for several centuries the leading city of the Hanseatic League ("Queen of the Hanse"). Because of its extensive Brick Gothic architecture, it is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In 2005 it had a population of 213,983.
The old part of Lubeck is on an island enclosed by the Trave. The Elbe–Lubeck Canal connects the Trave with the Elbe River. Another important river near the town centre is the Wakenitz. The Autobahn 1 connects Lubeck with Hamburg and Denmark (Vogelfluglinie). The borough of Travemunde is a sea resort and ferry port on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Its central station links Lubeck to a number of railway lines, notably the line to Hamburg.
The area around Lubeck was settled after the last Ice Age. Several Neolithic dolmens can be found in the area.
Around AD 700 Slavic peoples started coming into the eastern parts of Holstein, which had previously been settled by Germanic inhabitants; the latter had moved on in the course of the Migration Period. In the early 9th century Charlemagne, whose efforts to Christianise the area were opposed by the Saxons, expelled the Saxons out and brought in Polabian Slavs, allied to Charlemagne, in their stead. Liubice ("lovely") was founded on the banks of the river Trave about four kilometres (2.5 miles) north of the present-day city centre of Lubeck. In the 10th century it became the most important settlement of the Obotrite confederacy and a castle was built. The settlement was burned down in 1128 by the pagan Rani from Rugen.
The modern town was founded as a German settlement in 1143 by Adolf II, Count of Schauenburg and Holstein, on the river island Bucu. He built a new castle, which was first mentioned by Helmold in 1147. Adolf had to cede the castle to Henry the Lion in 1158. After Henrys fall from power in 1181, the town became an Imperial city for eight years. Emperor Barbarossa ordained that the city should have a ruling council of twenty members. With the council dominated by merchants, Lubecks politics were led by pragmatic trade interests for centuries to come. The council survived into the 19th century.
The town and castle changed ownership for a period afterwards and were part of the Duchy of Saxony until 1192, of the County of Holstein until 1217, and as part of Denmark until the Battle of Bornhoved in 1227.
Around 1200 the port became the main point of departure for colonists leaving for the Baltic territories conquered by the Livonian Order and, later, Teutonic Order. In 1226 Emperor Frederick II elevated the town to the status of an Imperial Free City, by which it became the Free City of Lubeck.
In the 14th century Lubeck became the "Queen of the Hanseatic League", being by far the largest and most powerful member of this medieval trade organization. In 1375, Emperor Charles IV named Lubeck one of the five "Glories of the Empire", a title shared with Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence. Several conflicts about trade privileges were fought by Lubeck and the Hanseatic League against Denmark and Norway with varying outcomes. While Lubeck and the Hanseatic League prevailed in conflicts in 1435 and 1512, Lubeck lost when it became involved in the Counts Feud, a civil war that raged in Denmark from 1534 to 1536. Lubeck also joined the Schmalkaldic League.
After its defeat in the Counts Feud, Lubecks power slowly declined. The city remained neutral in the Thirty Years War, but, the combination of the devastation from the decades-long war and the new transatlantic orientation of European trade, caused the Hanseatic League and thus Lubeck to decline in importance. But, after the Hanseatic League was de facto disbanded in 1669, Lubeck still remained an important trading town on the Baltic Sea.
The great Danish-German composer Dieterich Buxtehude (born in what is present-day Sweden) was appointed as the organist at the Marienkirche in Lubeck in 1668 and served in the post until at least 1703.
In the course of the war of the Fourth Coalition against Napoleon, troops under Bernadotte occupied the neutral Lubeck after a battle against Blucher on 6 November 1806. Under the Continental System, the bank went into bankruptcy. From 1811 to 1813, Lubeck was formally annexed as part of France until the Vienna Congress of 1815.
In 1937 the Nazis passed the so-called Greater Hamburg Act, whereby the nearby Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg was expanded, to encompass towns that had formally belonged to the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. To compensate Prussia for these losses (and partly because Hitler had a personal dislike for Lubeck after it had refused to allow him to campaign there in 1932), Hitler ended the 711-year-long independence of Lubeck, and ensured that almost all its territory was incorporated into Schleswig-Holstein.
During World War II, Lubeck was the first German city to be attacked in substantial numbers by the Royal Air Force (RAF). The attack on 28 March 1942 created a firestorm that caused severe damage to the historic centre. The Bombing of Lubeck in World War II destroyed three of the main churches and greater parts of the built-up area. Germany operated a POW camp for officers, Oflag X-C, near the city from 1940 until April 1945. The British Second Army entered Lubeck on 2 May 1945 and occupied it without resistance.
On 3 May 1945, one of the biggest disasters in naval history occurred in the Bay of Lubeck when RAF bombers sank three ships: the SS Cap Arcona, the SS Deutschland, and the SS Thielbek - which, unknown to them, were packed with concentration-camp inmates. About 7,000 people were killed.
Lubecks population grew considerably from about 150,000 in 1939 to more than 220,000 after the war, owing to an influx of ethnic German refugees expelled from eastern Europe, the so-called former Eastern provinces of Germany.
Lubeck remained part of Schleswig-Holstein after the war (and consequently lay within West Germany). It was situated directly on what became the inner German border during the division of Germany into two states in the Cold War period. South of the city, the border followed the path of the river Wakenitz, which separated the Germanys by less than 10 m (32.81 ft) in many parts. The northernmost border crossing was in Lubecks district of Schlutup. Lubeck spent decades restoring its historic city centre. In 1987 this area was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lubeck was the scene of a notable art scandal in the 1950s. Lothar Malskat was hired to restore the medieval frescoes of the cathedral of the Marienkirche, which were discovered after the cathedral had been badly damaged during World War II. Instead he painted new works which he passed off as restorations, fooling many experts. Malskat later revealed the deception himself. Gunter Grass featured this incident in his novel The Rat.
On the night of 18 January 1996, a fire broke out in a home for foreign refugees, killing 10 people and severely injuring more than 30 others, mostly children. Most of the shelters inhabitants thought it was a racist attack, as they had encountered other overt hostility in the city. The police and the local court were criticized at the time for ruling out racism as a possible motive before even beginning preliminary investigations. The perpetrators have not been caught.
Much of the old town has kept a medieval appearance with old buildings and narrow streets. At one time the town could only be entered via any of four town gates, of which today two remain, the well-known Holstentor (1478) and the Burgtor (1444).
The old town centre is dominated by seven church steeples. The oldest are the Lubecker Dom (the citys cathedral) and the Marienkirche (Saint Marys), both from the 13th and 14th centuries.
Like many other places in Germany, Lubeck has a long tradition of a Christmas market in December, which includes the famous handicrafts market inside the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Spirit), located at the northern end of Konigstrasse.
Lubeck has many small museums, such as the St. Annen Museum, the Behnhaus and the Holstentor. Lubeck Museum of Theatre Puppets is a privately run museum. Waterside attractions are a lightvessel that served Fehmarnbelt and the Lisa von Lubeck, a reconstruction of a Hanseatic 15th century caravel.