1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lüneburg

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LÜNEBURG, a town of Germany, in the Prussian province of Hanover, situated near the foot of a small hill named the Kalkberg, on the navigable Ilmenau, 14 m. above its confluence with the Elbe and 30 m. by rail S.E. of Hamburg by the main line to Hanover. Pop. (1905) 26,751. Numerous handsome medieval buildings testify to its former prosperity as a prominent member of the Hanseatic league, and its many quaint houses with high gables and overhanging eaves have gained for it the appellation “the Nuremberg of the North.” Portions of the old walls survive, but the greater part of the former circumvallation has been converted into promenades and gardens, outside which a modern town has sprung up. The finest of its squares are the market-place and the so-called Sand. The churches of St John, with five aisles and a spire 375 ft. in height; of St Michael, containing the tombs of the former princes of Lüneburg, and of St Nicolas, with a huge nave and a lofty spire, are fine Gothic edifices of the 14th and 15th centuries. The old town-hall in the market square is a huge pile, dating originally from the 13th century, but with numerous additions. It has an arcade with frescoes, restored by modern Munich artists, and contains a magnificent hall — the Fürstensaal — richly decorated with wood-carving and stained-glass windows. Galvanoplastic casts of the famous Lüneburg silver plate, consisting of 36 pieces which were acquired in 1874 by the Prussian government for £33,000 and are now housed in the art museum in Berlin, are exhibited here. Among other public edifices are the old palace; the convent of St Michael (now converted into a school and law court), and the Kaufhaus (merchants' hall). There are a museum, a library of 36,000 volumes, classical and commercial schools, and a teachers' seminary. Lüneburg owes its importance chiefly to the gypsum and lime quarries of the Kalkberg, which afford the materials for its cement works, and to the productive salt-spring at its base which has been known and used since the 10th century. Hence the ancient saying which, grouping with these the commercial facilities afforded by the bridge over the Ilmenau, ascribes the prosperity of Lüneburg to its mons, fons, pons. Other industries are the making of chemicals, ironware, soda and haircloth. There is a considerable trade in French wines, for which Lüneburg has for centuries been one of the chief emporia in north Germany, and also in grain and wool. Celebrated are its lampreys, Lüneburger Bricken.

Lüneburg existed in the days of Charlemagne, but it did not gain importance until after the erection of a convent and a castle on the Kalkberg in the 10th century. After the destruction of Bardowiek, then the chief commercial centre of North Germany, by Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, in 1189, Lüneburg inherited much of its trade and subsequently became one of the principal towns of the Hanseatic league. Having belonged to the extensive duchy of Saxony it was the capital of the duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg from 1235 to 1369; later it belonged to one or other of the branches of the family of Brunswick, being involved in the quarrels, and giving its name to cadet lines, of this house. From the junior line of Brunswick-Lüneburg the reigning family of Great Britain is descended. The reformed doctrines were introduced into the town in 1530 and it suffered heavily during the Thirty Years' War. It reached the height of its prosperity in the 15th century, and in the 17th century it was the depot for much of the merchandise exported from Saxony and Bavaria to the mouth of the Elbe; then after a period of decay the 19th century witnessed a revival of its prosperity. In 1813 the German war of liberation was begun by an engagement with the French near Lüneburg.

See W. F. Volger, Urkundenbuch der Stadt Lüneburg (3 vols., Lüneburg, 1872-1877); E. Bodemann, Die älteren Zunfturkunden der Stadt Lüneburg (Hanover, 1883); O. Jurgens, Geschichte der Stadt Lüneburg (Lüneburg, 1891); Des Propstes Jakob Schomaker Lüneburger Chronik, edited by T. Meyer (Hanover, 1904); A. Wrede, Die Einführung der Reformation in Lüneburg (Göttingen, 1887), and W. Remecke, Lüneburgs ältestes Stadtbuch und Verfasstungsregister (Hanover, 1903). For the history of the principality see von Leuthe, Archiv für Geschichte und Verfassung des Fürstentums Lüneburg (Celle, 1854-1863).