Germany off the beaten track

Heidelberg: A romantic atmosphere persists in the city on the Neckar River. © Bjoern Rudek

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History

On the track of history

Approx. 600,000 years old - that is the estimated age of the "Heidelberg Man", whose jaw-bone was discovered in 1907 at nearby Mauer, the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. The Romans maintain a caster (permanent camp/ circa 80 A.D) and a signaling tower on the bank of the Neckar and build a wooden bridge across the Neckar River. The first civilian settlement develops under the protection of the camp.

In 764, the "Kloster Lorsch" (Lorsch Monastery) was erected. In 863, the "Michaelskloster" (Monastery of St. Michael) was founded on the "Heiligenberg" (Holy Mount) inside a double Celtic rampart (dating from 5 BC.), and around 1130, the "Abtei Neuburg" (Neuburg Abbey) was built in the Neckar valley. At the same time, the bishopric of Worms extended its influence into the valley, founding the "Kloster Schönau" (Schönau Monastery) in 1142. It was from a tiny hamlet at the foot of a Worms castle that Heidelberg eventually developed.  In 1155, the oldest castle and settlement leave the possession of the Bishop of Worms and are taken over by the house of Hohenstaufen. Konrad, of this dynasty, becomes "Pfalzgraf" (Count Palatine) of the Rhine.

Count Palatine Ruprecht I, one of the seven imperial Prince Electors, founded Heidelberg University in 1386, which played a leading part in the era of humanism and reformation and the conflict between Lutheranism and Calvinism in the 15th and 16th centuries.

In 1518, a few months after the proclamation of the 95 theses, Martin Luther was received in Heidelberg, with high honors where he defended the theses. In 1620, the Protestant Elector, Friedrich V, who was married to Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James VI of Scotland, accepted the Bohemian crown; he is known as the "winter king", as he only reigned for one winter. He lost the battle of the White Hill near Prague, and with it the electorship which passed to the Catholic Maximilian of Bavaria. This marked the beginning of the Thirty Years War.

The Castle fortification and its towers were destroyed during the War of Palatine Succession in 1689 and 1693 by the troops of Louis XIV, the Sun King of France. The Castle ruins have dominated Heidelberg's cityscape ever since.

In 1720, religious conflicts with the citizens of Heidelberg caused the Prince Elector Carl Philipp to transfer his residence to Mannheim, where it remained until the Elector Karl Theodor became Elector of Bavaria in 1777 and established his court in Munich. In the 18th century, the city was rebuilt on the old Gothic layout, but in Baroque style.

In 1803, the Grand Duke Karl Friedrich of Baden re-founded the University, named "Ruperto-Carola" after its two founders. Notable scholars soon built its reputation as a "royal residence of the intellect." The Emperor of Austria, the Tsar of Russia and the King of Prussia formed the "Holy Alliance" in Heidelberg (1815). In 1848, it was decided to constitute a German National Assembly in Heidelberg.

In 1849, during the Palatinate-Baden rebellion, Heidelberg was the headquarters of a revolutionary army that was defeated by the Prussian army near Waghäusel. The city was occupied by Prussian troops until 1850. In the Second World War, Heidelberg escaped bombing. In 1945, thanks to the surgeon Karl Heinrich Bauer and the philosopher Karl Jaspers, the University re-opened. Today, Heidelberg has a population of 135,000 and more than 28,000 students.

Discover Heidelberg

See the best of Heidelberg

Inspiration, discoveries, relaxation, family fun: whatever your mood and whoever you´re with, an escape to the beautiful and historic places makes a perfect day out.

Heidelberg: Walking tour of the Old Town

Enchanting alleys and squares, small gardens that pop up unexpectedly, museums and galleries: Heidelberg's Old Town has many facets. Whether it is the "Heiliggeistkirche" (Church of the Holy Spirit), the "Jesuitenviertel" (Jesuit District) district, Germany's oldest university with the "Studentenkarzer" (Students' Prison), or other sightseeing attractions: Every place of interest in the Old Town has a unique ambiance and history well worth immersing yourself for a few minutes. The tour also passes along the "Hauptstrasse" (Main Street), one of the longest pedestrian zones in Europe.

Further information on guided city tours in Heidelberg

European History

Codex Manesse – is the biggest collection of German songs and was written at the beginning of the 14th century. It persists of 426 pages with 137 unique artistic little pictures.