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History

From 58 BC to 750 AD

The story of Alsace begins in 58 BC, the year in which Alsace first enters the history books thanks to the Romans.

During the fifth century, the Alamanni invaded Alsace. They were soon replaced by the Merovingians who reorganised the region with the support of the church.

The name "Alsace" first appeared around 625-630. Back then, Alsace was a duchy, which was dissolved around 740-750. Its separation into two separate areas roughly corresponds to the two départements of present-day Alsace.

 

From the 9th to the 15th centuries

In 842, the Oaths of Strasbourg, which were written in old high German and in the Romance language (old French), formed the basis for the division of Charlemagne's Europe.

During the 11th century, the Ottonian emperors created the German Empire, of which Alsace was a major region.

From 1048 to 1054: the church was modernised by the "Alsatian Pope" Leo IX.

During the 12th century, the Hohenstaufens asserted their imperial power from Alsace, founding a number of towns here, of which Haguenau was a capital.

During the 15th century, the towns became independent and 10 of them founded a union in 1354 known as the Décapole. The prosperity of this region was reflected in its Gothic art (with Strasbourg Cathedral being the finest example). Agriculture and trade benefited greatly from the region's links with the other side of the Rhine and with Italy (St Gothard).

In the 15th century, Alsace became a hotbed for intellectual activity, spurred on by the development of printing, which got underway here.

 

From the 16th to the 19th centuries

The region was the cradle of Humanism and of the Reformation. Luther's theses encountered great success here, leading to a peasant revolt in 1525 which was quashed with the utmost severity.

The Renaissance in Alsace continues to shape the region, in particular thanks to the impressive architecture of the individual towns with their magnificent public buildings and private mansions. The Isenheim altarpiece by Grunewald remains a remarkable visual symbol of the transition to the Renaissance.

The area's prosperity was brutally interrupted by the Thirty Years War, during which Alsace was ravaged. The peace agreement in 1648 saw the gradual integration of the province into the Kingdom of France.

Strasbourg was taken by Louis XIV in 1681, with the Rhine becoming the new border. The reconstruction process and religious reconquest by the Catholic Church brought new momentum. It was around this time that baroque and classicism flourished, with both French and German influences combining in both religious and nonreligious buildings. This was the golden age of organ building, which left Alsace with a unique and lasting heritage.

The Revolution of 1789 saw Alsace being finally integrated into the French nation. During the Napoleonic period, Alsace was a major supplier of both men and supplies to the Napoleonic armies. After 1815 and a period of occupation, the region endured a serious economic crisis. The merchant classes modernised, and adapted the area's economy to help it get out of recession around the 1850s thanks to industrial growth. The modernisation of the region's economy and towns continued.

From 1871 onwards, Alsace and Northern Lorraine became regions of the German Empire. Returned to France in 1918, Alsace was granted a special status, and in particular was allowed to retain German social laws. Though initially flourishing, industry later suffered from the economic crisis of 1930 and during the early stages of the Second World War.

Between 1940 and 1944/45, the region suffered the hardships of Nazi occupation.

 

Since 1949

In 1949, the Council of Europe took its place alongside the very first European organisation, the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, in Strasbourg. The European Parliament holds its meetings here and the European Court of Human Rights also has its headquarters here. Along with Geneva and New York, Strasbourg is the only town to host international institutions without being a national capital.

1979: Elected by universal suffrage, the European Parliament is based in Strasbourg, where it joins the European Court of Human Rights, the European Youth Centre, the ARTE television channel, the Eurocorps and the Assembly of European Regions, placing Alsace firmly at the very heart of Europe.

1994 - 1999: Construction of the new European Parliament building.