A Minute History Of Strasbourg
Are you planning a trip to the fabulous city of Strasbourg, but you don’t know anything about the story of this atypical French city? Don’t worry! Here, you will find all the information required to understand the heart of this European city and its lively history.
Whether you are studying in Strasbourg or you are just passing by and visiting, there are a few things you must know about the distinctive history of this French city.
WAS FOUNDED ‘CAUSE:
As soon as you get downtown, you will feel the age of this city. Picture yourself at the feet of the beautiful Strasbourg Cathedral. Here, you will certainly recognize that this city has a long and in-depth history; but, would you have imagined that this story started right where you are, at the stead of the Strasbourg Cathedral, around 2,029 years ago? Indeed, the Roman army settled there around 12 BCE. They saw the then-land as a strategic crossing – one that could provide them with wealth and protection. They called their camp Argentoratum. This was the very first iteration of Strasbourg. Impressive, right?
Then, history does its job, and different groups of people occupied Argentoratum, until the Francs, who already were ruling over the whole region of Alsace, created a new city on the ruins of Argentoratum. They dubbed their residence Strateburgum, which means “fortified town of the roads”. (Or something like that. I have poor knowledge when it comes to translations from medieval Latin to modern English!) Year after year, the city grew, until it became a real crossing in the centre of Europe during the reign of the Carolingian dynasty.
It’s during a long period of prosperity that the cathedral, Strasbourg Cathedral, was built. At that same moment, the city grows upwards, many churches are built, and corporations develop.
In 1263, Strasbourg became one of the first cities to get rid of tutelage of the bishops, who ruled over the city from 982 to 1262. From then onwards, the bourgeois (or “people of the city”) reigned over the city – turning public concerns of religion and taxes to that of property values and conventional respectability.
But the golden age of the city happened during the 15th and 16th centuries, when a huge enthusiasm grew for the Reformation. The city welcomed protestants and banned masses. There was then a lot of intellectual agitation, which was calmed down by the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) – from which Strasbourg was saved thanks to its neutrality.
It was in the 17th century that the back and forth of Strasbourg between France and Germany started. In 1648, by the Treaty of Westphalie, Alsace (the region in which Strasbourg resides) becomes French – excepted for the cities of Mulhouse and Strasbourg itself. Isolated, Strasbourg knew a decline would follow if it did not agree to the Treaty, and finally becomes French in 1681. The Reformation time was over. Strasbourg again became Christian and, at the same time, reclaimed its university, institutions and rights as a free city. However, during the French Revolution, Strasbourg was not saved by the Terreur.
With Napoléon, Strasbourg became very thriving. The Emperor saw again in Strasbourg what the Roman army saw centuries ago: a crossing in Europe. German became a public language and the universities flourished again. However, backlash occurred during the war between France and Prussia. Strasbourg was burned by the Prussian shells and became a German city again, even though the inhabitants felt more sympathy for the French people as they, too, were attacked by the Prussians.
But Germans and Alsacians coexist peacefully… until the end First World War, when France won, and Germany lost. Strasbourg becomes French again. Locals don’t get on well with the new French administration, which decreed a lot of not-so-nice laws, like the return to the French language. It was so bad that there was almost a social war in Strasbourg.
As the Second World War approached, the city was fully evacuated. Germany then takes back Alsace during the war and decrees a forced Germanisation. And then, again, at the end of the war, the city becomes French, and remains so until today.
Since these events, Strasbourg has become a European metropolis. The tramway now joins the city to the one of Kehl, at the German border. It hosts the Council of Europe and the Controller of Human Rights. It is a very opened city, which welcomes a lot of foreign students. It is also culturally wealthy. So, in a sentance, you never get bored in Strasbourg!