Young old city
History was made in Münster, and it continues to have an effect to this day. Here is a condensed historical retrospect:
Münster’s roots can be traced back to the 6th century AD. However, the city officially came into existence in 793, when Frisian missionary Liudger founded the “Monasterium” cloister. Münster became a cathedral city as early as 805, and the city remains an active centre of the Roman-Catholic church.
Münster’s development into a religious Christian centre in Westphalia went hand in hand with its increased significance as a commercial and political hub. Münster received its town charter in 1170. The city enjoyed its economic heyday in the 14th and 15th centuries as an outpost of the Hanseatic League, Europe’s most influential trade network at the beginning of the modern age. The Prinzipalmarkt with the historic Town Hall, which was completed around 1350, continues to testify to the success and self-assurance of the merchant community.
Two events which took place in Münster are destined to remain forever etched on the world’s historic memory. John of Leiden founded the Anabaptist theocracy in Münster in 1534, and declared himself king. The reign of the Anabaptists, a radical Christian reform movement, met a bloody end when soldiers in the employ of Prince-Bishop Franz von Waldeck suppressed the faction's adherents. Three wrought-iron cages, in which the bodies of the publicly executed Anabaptists were displayed as a warning to the crowds, hang in the tower of St. Lambert’s Church to this day. In 1648, Münster (and its neighbouring city Osnabrück) was the site of the Peace of Westphalia. This effectively ended the Thirty Years’ War and resulted in state sovereignty for the Netherlands and Switzerland.
In 1773, the foundation stone of one of Germany’s most significant university cities was laid with the establishment of the Regional University. Today, the city is home to around 55,000 students who study at its eight universities.
In 1816, Münster was declared the capital of the new province of Westphalia in the kingdom of Prussia. The provincial capital became the “desk of Westphalia“ and with it the seat of many authorities and institutions. After the Second World War, the Prussian provinces of Westphalia and Rhineland were included in the new Federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. However, the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe, with headquarters in Münster, continues to be responsible for many cultural and social duties in the Westphalian province. Münster is also the seat of a regional district authority.
The Old Town, which was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, was the subject of an extensive historical reconstruction after 1945. It was enhanced by new buildings which made international headlines: the municipal theatre (1956), the municipal library (1993), the diocesan library (2005) and the Stubengasse shopping mall (adorned with the German Urban Development Award 2010 and the National Award for Integrated Urban Development 2012). Münster has developed from an administrative city to the economic, scientific and service industry hub of a region with 1.5 million inhabitants.