The beautiful city of Cologne, or Köln, as the Germans know it, is the fourth largest city in Germany. With its prime location on both sides of the Rhine river, Cologne would prove an excellent trading partner in the Hanseatic League, whose support would outlive that of most Hanseatic city states, and would be instrumental in ruling the Scandinavian trading market, ensuring the Hanseatic League’s power and monopoly for centuries.
A Brief Historical Overview:
The great city of Cologne was founded in the 1st Century AD with the primary function of operating as the capital of the Roman province, as well as being the headquarters for the Roman military. Originally named, Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, we today use the more common French spelling, Cologne. During the Middle Ages, Cologne was a notable battlefield between the Romans and the Germanic people in their struggle for power and control. Cologne finally gained independence in 1288, after the Battle of Worringen. This state of independence would only be revoked again in the early 19th Century, during the French occupation of all territories on the left bank of the Rhine river.
Cologne in modern times, would continue to see much war and occupation by different armies. While it remained relatively unharmed during WWI, it was one of the most heavily bombed cities during WWII. Cologne endured approximately 262 air raids, had almost the entire city centre obliterated, and suffered as much as 20 000 civilian casualties. Cologne was also the target of “Operation Millennium” where the Royal Air Force unleashed 1455 tons of explosives on the city. This destroyed 600 acres of the city, killed almost 1000 people, and rendered 59000 people homeless.
Cologne in the Hanseatic League
Cologne’s geographical position and attitude towards economy and trade, ensured that the city established itself as a major port on the trading route as early as the beginning of the 13th Century. By being so well-placed on the Rhine river, Cologne found itself being right on the intersection on the trading route between East and West, as well as between the North and South of Europe.
While Cologne only officially joined Lübeck and Hamburg’s trading agreement in 1260, Cologne had been pioneering the ideals of the Hanseatic League as early as 1157, when it had tried to convince King Henry II of England, to grant them free travel access, as well as special trading privileges in England, a request that would only be later by granted to the Hanseatic League by King Henry III in 1266.
Cologne was instrumental in helping the Hanseatic League hold onto its power for as long as it did, due to its large military resources. This resource perhaps fuelled the Hanseatic especially in its war against Denmark. In 1368 all Hanseatic cities allied in the Confederation of Cologne in order to regain its monopoly by force. In order to secure this monopoly, they managed to force both the King of Norway as well as Denmark to concede 15% of the trading profits to the Hanseatic League.
Despite this, Cologne became excluded from the Hanseatic League after the Anglo-Hanseatic War (1470-1474), and was replaced by Dortmund as chief city on the Rhine river.
Today Cologne is in the middle between two very important political centres: Düsseldorf and Bonn, which means that Cologne itself is the centre for some very important organizations and agencies, both national and international.
Cologne has been rebuilt extensively after WWII which inherently meant a loss of some very important cultural treasures, including several special cathedrals and other important landmarks of Cologne architecture. Several architects have, since WWII, been dedicated to rebuilding this beautiful city, which perhaps lends to the modern and efficient feel of the city.
Cologne is culturally vibrant and politically inclined. Cologne is the home of many festivals, including one of the largest Pride festivals world-wide, the Cologne Lights (a fireworks festival) and many more.
- The Cologne Cathedral took 632 years to build.
- Cologne is home to the world’s largest functioning bell. It’s called Peter, is housed in the Cologne Cathedral and weighs 24 tonnes.
- The famous “eau de Cologne” perfume, which originated in Cologne, was originally created to cure the small pox.