Osnabrück is a city in the Westphalian half of Lower Saxony, Germany, some 80km NNW of Dortmund, 45km NNW of Münster, and some 100km due West of Hanover. It lies in a valley penned between the Wiehengebirge and the northern tip of the Teutoburg Forest, which is a series of parallel ridges running SE towards Bielefeld and beyond to Detmold, that makes the generally pretty area attractive to bicycle riders, amongst others. As of June 30, 2002, its population was 163,919, making it the third largest city in Lower Saxony.
Osnabrück was founded in 780 by Charlemagne, king of the Franks, although the date is not entirely certain. Some time before 803, the city became a bishopric. This date is also uncertain, but it makes Osnabrück the oldest bishopric in Saxony. In 889 it was given merchant, customs, and coinage privileges by King Arnulf of Carinthia. It is first mentioned as a "city" in records in 1147. Shortly afterwards, in 1157, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa granted the city fortification privileges (Befestigungsrecht). Most of the towers that were part of the medieval fortification are still visible in the city. Osnabrück became a member of the Hanseatic League in the 12th century, as well as a member of the Westphalian Federation of Cities.
Still being a bishopric today, the city has a fairly sized cathedral in late romanesque style. While nothing is left of the original cathedral from the city's foundation, excavations have traced the oldest parts of today's building to the 10th century. Most of it stems from the 12th and 13th centuries though, with the choir being a later gothic addition. Quite curiously, the southwestern tower that was also added later in gothic style consumes four times the ground space of the older nothwestern one. The plan of reerecting the second tower also was never executed, making the two towers look very much out of proportion (see the external links below).
Since the citizens elected to follow the course of the Protestant reformation, this led to an ongoing conflict with the Catholic bishop that was not resolved until the 17th century. Probably the most significant event in the city's history was then the negotiations from 1643 to 1648 that led to the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years' War. Since the Catholic and the Protestant delegations refused to be negotiate in person, the Catholics were seated in Münster, while the Protestants resided in Osnabrück. The Friedenssaal where the negotiations took place can be seen in the city's impressive Town Hall building from 1517. For the city, the Westphalian Peace led to the unique regulation that it would be governed in alternation by a Catholic and a Protestant bishop. Still today, the population of the city is vaguely half-half between the two confessions.
In the course of secularization that preceded the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the bishopric of Osnabrück was appropriated into the Kingdom of Hanover in 1803. This was confirmed by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Not until 1858 was the diocese reerected as a church entity, while the city continued to belong to Hanover and thus also became part of Prussia with the annexation of Hanover in 1866.
Osnabrück suffered very much from the bombings at the end of World War II, but selected parts of the historic buildings were reerected. Today's Altstadt thus may not be entirely original, but still delivers the impression of a medieval city.
Famous people from Osnabrück
Personalities from Osnabrück include the writer Erich Maria Remarque and the painter Felix Nussbaum, for whom the city erected a very modern museum designed by Daniel Libeskind that opened in 1998. This looks like a scaled-down version of the same architect's well-known Jewish Museum in Berlin. British King George I was born and raised here, and the poet and scholar Johann Ernst Hanxleden was born in Osnabrück as well as the current Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Christian Wulff.
- osnabrueck.de, the city homepage on the Web (in German)
- City Panoramas – Panoramic Views of Osnabrück's Highlights
- Osnabrück picture gallery
- Photo of the historic Town Hall
- Felix-Nussbaum-Haus (project description with photos on the Libeskind homepage)
- Remarque centre (English, German, other languages)
- Remarque biography at LeMO (German)
- http://www.remarque.net/ (German)
- Link collection on Remarque (German)