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Nürnberg, English conventional Nuremberg, city, Bavaria Land (state), southern Germany. Bavaria’s second largest city (after Munich), Nürnberg is located on the Pegnitz River where it emerges from the uplands of Franconia (Franken), south of Erlangen.
The city was first mentioned in 1050 in official records as Noremberg, but it had its origin in a castle (now known as Kaiserburg [imperial castle]) built about 10 years earlier by the German king Henry III, duke of Bavaria, who became in 1046 Holy Roman emperor. A settlement developed around the castle, and in 1219 the city was granted its first charter. The city soon gained full independence, becoming a free imperial city. By the latter part of the 13th century, Nürnberg was no longer solely a fortified settlement. It had developed into a city of craftsmen and patricians, and manufacturing and commerce had become the foremost sources of income.
In 1471 the painter Albrecht Dürer was born in Nürnberg. During the period of Dürer and his contemporaries—the painter Michael Wohlgemuth (his teacher), the wood sculptor Veit Stoss, the brass founder Peter Vischer, the stonecutter and sculptor Adam Kraft, as well as the cobbler-poet Hans Sachs—the arts flourished in Nürnberg as never before or since. In 1525 the tenets of the Reformation were adopted by the city, and in 1526 the scholar and Protestant leader Philipp Melanchthon founded a Gymnasium there—one of Germany’s first—which continues to bear his name. Together with the humanist Willibald Pirkheimer, the astronomer Regiomontanus, and the cosmographer Martin Behaim, the designer of the first globe, Melanchthon laid the foundation for Nürnberg’s reputation as a centre of learning in the developing Western world.
In the early 17th century, Nürnberg was at the height of its economic and cultural development, yet by 1806 it had lost its status as a free imperial city and, much indebted, became part of the kingdom of Bavaria. The shift of world trade routes from the land to the sea, following the exploration of America and the discovery of the seaway to India, and the devastations of the Thirty Years’ War were the initial causes of this decline. Not until the beginning of the industrial age, when the first German railway was opened (December 7, 1835), linking Nürnberg and Fürth, did the city begin to flourish again as an industrial centre.
In the 1930s Nürnberg became a centre of the Nazi Party and in 1935 gave its name to the anti-Semitic Nürnberg decrees (see Nürnberg Laws; Nürnberg Rally). The city was severely damaged during World War II. It was captured by U.S. troops and was the scene of the Nürnberg trials, the Allied trials of German war criminals. After World War II much of the city was redeveloped.
Nürnberg is a major administrative and commercial centre, with specialized services. It is also a major producer of fine mechanical and optical goods and electrical apparatuses. The motor vehicle, printing, chemical, wood and paper, and textile industries are also important. The city has been a centre for the toy industry since the establishment of the International Toy Fair there after World War II. Nürnberg is a focal point for numerous highways and is connected to the Munich-Berlin and Frankfurt–Cologne autobahns. The city is also connected to the German high-speed passenger rail system. It is situated on the old Ludwigs-Danube-Main Canal, and there is a modern harbour linked with the Main-Danube Canal, which joins the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers. Nürnberg’s airport, north of the city, provides connections particularly to the international airport in Frankfurt am Main.
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The inner city, divided into two parts by the Pegnitz, is encircled by a wall completed in 1452, and the older, inner line of fortifications, dating from 1140 and 1320, can still be traced. Only a few historic buildings survived the massive bomb damage wrought toward the end of World War II, although some have been restored. The most important are the Gothic churches of St. Sebald and St. Lorenz and, adjoining the marketplace, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). The Heilig Geist Spital (Hospital Church of the Holy Ghost), rising above the Pegnitz, is now a home for the elderly. In addition, there are the Mauthalle (customs house) on the Königstrasse, the Weinstadel (wine storage house), the Renaissance city hall, the Schöne Brunnen (a fountain), the Fembohaus (museum of the old city), and, towering above them all, the imperial castle (which now includes a museum on the castle’s history) and its stables and granary, now a youth hostel.
There are a number of institutions of higher learning in and around the city, including the Ohm Polytechnic Institute for Applied Technology and part of the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. The Academy of Arts, founded in 1662, is the oldest in Germany. Other institutions include the Pegnesische Blumenorden, a literary society founded in 1644, and the city’s public library, which is more than 600 years old. The city is the home of the unique National Germanic Museum, chartered in 1852; it features a complete collection of Dürer’s printed graphic works and is the largest museum of German art and culture. There are also museums of toys, transport, and art and design. Popular local events include a festival held in the historic city centre in September and a Christmas market (Christkindlesmarkt). Pop. (2011) 486,314; (2021 est.) 510,632.