Flensburg - a city with a story
It could be that dinosaurs once played here and that Harald Bluetooth's Viking ship plowed through the waters of the Flensburg Fjord. We are not really sure - however we do know that the Oxen Trail connected Jutland with the heartland of Europe in a north-south direction and crossed the trade route from Angeln to Frisia just outside the city. Where roads and water meet is an ideal place for settlement. Thus a trading settlement arose around the oldest church in Flensburg, St. Johannis, in the innermost corner of the Flensburg Fjord. Legend has it that the knight Fleno built a waystation there to demand payment from merchants passing through.
Duke Waldemar IV granted Flensburg a city charter in 1284. At the same time, building of the present-day St. Marien church and laying out of the Nordermarkt (Northern Market) were begun. A hundred years later came the Südermarkt (Southern Market) and the St. Nikolai church. Between these two points, where the city theater stands today, was the Thingplatz, where the burghers discussed civic matters in the open air. A city wall was built around 1345; the main gates were the old Nordertor (Northern Gate), the Friesische Tor (Frisian Gate) and the Johannistor (Johannis Gate) at the entrance to the streets leading to the trade routes.
Beginning in the 13th century, continuing conflicts over ownership of the Duchy of Schleswig led to the construction of the Duburg fortress by Queen Margarethe I of Denmark. When the Schleswig-Holstein councils met in Ribe and elected King Christian I of Denmark Duke of Schleswig and Count of Holstein, the fate of Schleswig-Holstein was sealed for centuries... The King of Denmark was ruler of Flensburg in his capacity as the elected Duke of Schleswig.
With the support of the Danish crown, Flensburg acquired the inheritance of the Hansa League in Denmark and Norway. In the 16th century, Flensburg bloomed and became a rich and important trading city; with 5000 residents and 200 ships the largest trading city under the Danish crown and at the time larger and more important than either Copenhagen or Hamburg. Rich residents donated treasures to both the St. Nicholai and St. Marien churches. The Nordertor, Schrangen (market stalls) and the Kompagnietor (Company Gate), meeting house of the Mariners' Guild, date from this period. The Thirty Years' War from 1618 to 1648 and the Nordic Wars from 1712 to 1721 caused a rapid decline. Wallenstein's troops occupied the city in 1627, followed by the Swedes in 1657 and 1713 and the Grand Elector in 1658. By the time the rebuilding of the pillaged city was considered in 1721, it had been overtaken by Copenhagen and Hamburg. There were only 9 ships left and the harbor was silted up.
Trade with Norway provided the basis for new development.
Flensburg ships transported agricultural products to Norway, and took on fish and blubber for other Baltic ports as far away as St. Petersburg. Trade was extended to France and Spain. At the end of the 18th century, invested with the privileges of the Danish King Christian VII, ships sailed to the West Indies. They returned with raw sugar, tobacco and rum which had their final processing here. By 1795, the Flensburg merchant fleet again numbered 295 ships. Following Denmark's fateful decision to side with Napoleon and the subsequent loss of Norway, Flensburg lost not only its trading partner but, because of the Continental Blockade, almost its entire fleet.
Nationalism at the beginning of the 19th century led to heated arguments between those with leanings toward Schleswig-Holstein and those wishing to remain in the Danish Commonwealth. This resulted in the Schleswig-Holstein uprising (1848-51) and the German-Danish War (1864), which was decided on the battlefields of Oeversee and Dybbøl. Schleswig-Holstein became a Prussian province and in 1871 part of the German Empire. Flensburg was badly effected by Germany's defeat in World War I. The present-day border, determined by a referendum in 1920, resulted in North Schleswig going to Denmark and Flensburg becoming a border town. Few bombs fell here during World War II and for the most part the city escaped unscathed. But towards the end and following the war, the lot of the refugees was wretched... The post-war years were marked by economic reconstruction and the development of neighbourly relations with Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia. The coexistence of the German and Danish minorities on both sides of the border became a model for the Europe of the future.*
*Source: Flensburg, High Spot in the North, Information in Brief. Published by the Tourist Information & Service, 24937 Flensburg