Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt on the Main) (pron.: /ˈfræŋkfərt/; German pronunciation: [ˈfʁaŋkfʊɐ̯t am ˈmaɪ̯n] ( listen)), commonly known as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2012 population of 704,449. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010. The city is at the centre of the larger Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region which has a population of 5,600,000 and is Germany’s second-largest metropolitan region. Since the expansion of the European Union in 2007, the geographic midpoint of the European Union is about 40 kilometres east of Frankfurt am Main.
Frankfurt is the financial and transport centre of Germany and the largest financial centre in continental Europe. It is the seat of the European Central Bank, the German Federal Bank, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and the Frankfurt Trade Fair, as well as several large commercial banks, e.g. Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and DZ Bank. Frankfurt Airport is one of the world’s busiest international airports, Frankfurt Central Station is one of the largest terminal stations in Europe, the Frankfurter Kreuz is one of the most heavily used Autobahn interchanges in Europe. Additionally, Frankfurt’s DE-CIX is the world’s largest internet traffic exchange point.
Frankfurt is an international centre for finance, commerce, culture, transport, education, and tourism. It is therefore considered a global city (alpha world city) as listed by the Loughborough University group’s 2010 inventory. Among global cities it was ranked 10th by the Global Power City Index 2011 and 11th by the Global City Competitiveness Index 2012. Among financial centers it was ranked 7th by the International Financial Centers Development Index 2012 and 10th by the Global Financial Centres Index 2013.
In 2011, the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Frankfurt as seventh in its annual «Quality of Living» survey of cities around the world. According to The Economist cost of living survey, Frankfurt is Germany’s most expensive city, and the 10th most expensive in the world.
Reconstruction (1981–1984) of six houses at the east side of the Römerberg which were destroyed in World War II
Main article: History of Frankfurt am Main
In the area of the Römer, Roman settlements were established, probably in the 1st century; some artifacts from that era are found even to this day. The city district Bonames has a name probably dating back to Roman times—it is thought to be derived from bona me(n)sa. Nida (Heddernheim) was also a Roman civitas capital.
The name of Frankfurt on Main is derived from the Franconofurd of the Germanic tribe of the Franks; Furt (cf. English ford) where the river was shallow enough to be crossed by wading. Alemanni and Franks lived there and by 794 Charlemagne presided over an imperial assembly and church synod, at which Franconofurd (-furt -vurd) was first mentioned.
Frankfurt was one of the most important cities in the following Holy Roman Empire. From 855 the German kings and emperors were elected in Frankfurt and crowned in Aachen. From 1562 the kings/emperors were also crowned in Frankfurt, Maximilian II being the first. This tradition ended in 1792, when Franz II was elected. His coronation was deliberately held on Bastille Day, 14 July, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. The elections and coronations took place in St. Bartholomäus cathedral, known as the Kaiserdom (en: Emperor’s Cathedral), or in its predecessors.
The Frankfurter Messe (Frankfurt Trade Fair) was first mentioned in 1150. In 1240, Emperor Friedrich II granted an Imperial privilege to its visitors, meaning they would be protected by the Empire. The fair became particularly important when similar fairs in French Beaucaire lost attraction around 1380. Book trade fairs have been held in Frankfurt since 1478.
In 1372 Frankfurt became a Reichsstadt (en: Imperial city), i.e. directly subordinate to the Holy Roman Emperor and not to a regional ruler or a local nobleman.
Frankfurt managed to remain neutral during the Thirty Years’ War, but suffered from the bubonic plague that was brought to the city by refugees. After the end of the war, Frankfurt regained its wealth.
In the Napoleonic Wars Frankfurt was occupied or bombarded several times by French troops. It nevertheless still remained a free city until the total collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in 1805/6. In 1806 it become part of the principality of Aschaffenburg under the Fürstprimas (Prince-Primate), Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg. This also meant that Frankfurt was incorporated into the confederation of the Rhine. In 1810 Dalberg adopted the title of a Grand Duke of Frankfurt. Napoleon intended to make his adopted son Eugène de Beauharnais, already Prince de Venise («prince of Venice», a newly established primogeniture in Italy), Grand Duke of Frankfurt after Dalberg’s death (since the latter as a Catholic bishop had no legitimate heirs). The Grand Duchy remained a short episode lasting from 1810 to 1813, when the military tide turned in favour of the Anglo-Prussian lead allies, which overturned the Napoleonic order of central Europe. Dalberg abdicated in favour of Eugène de Beauharnais, which of course was only a symbolic action, as the latter effectively never did rule after the ruin of the French armies and Frankfurt being taken by the allies.
After Napoleon’s final defeat and abdication, the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815, redrawing the map of Europe) dissolved the grand-duchy, and Frankfurt entered the newly founded German Confederation (till 1866) as a free city, becoming the seat of its Bundestag, the confederal parliament where the nominally presiding Habsburg Emperor of Austria was represented by an Austrian «presidential envoy».
After the ill-fated revolution of 1848, Frankfurt was the seat of the first democratically elected German parliament, the Frankfurt Parliament, which met in the Frankfurter Paulskirche (St. Paul’s Church) and was opened on 18 May 1848. The institution failed in 1849 when the Prussian king declared that he would not accept «a crown from the gutter». In the year of its existence, the assembly developed a common constitution for a unified Germany, with the Prussian king as its monarch.
Frankfurt lost its independence after the Austro-Prussian War as Prussia in 1866 annexed several smaller states, among them the Free City of Frankfurt. The Prussian administration incorporated Frankfurt into its province of Hesse-Nassau. The formerly independent towns of Bornheim and Bockenheim were incorporated in 1890.
In 1914 the citizens of Frankfurt founded the University of Frankfurt, later called Johann Wolfgang Goethe University. This is the only civic foundation of a university in Germany; today it is one of Germany’s largest universities.
From 6 April to 17 May 1920, following military intervention to put down the Ruhr Uprising, Frankfurt was occupied by French troops. The French claimed that Articles 42 to 44 of the peace treaty of Versailles concerning the demilitarisation of the Rhineland had been broken. In 1924 Ludwig Landmann became the first Jewish Mayor of the city, and led a significant expansion during the following years. However, during the Nazi era, the synagogues of Frankfurt were destroyed.
The city of Frankfurt was severely bombed in World War II (1939–1945). About 5,500 residents were killed during the raids, and the once famous medieval city centre, by that time the largest in Germany, was destroyed. Post-war reconstruction took place in a sometimes simple modern style, thus irrevocably changing the architectural face of Frankfurt. Only very few landmark buildings have been reconstructed historically, albeit in a simplified manner. The collection of historically significant Cairo Genizah documents of the Municipal Library was destroyed when the city was bombed. According to Arabist and Genizah scholar S.D. Goitein, «not even handlists indicating its contents have survived.»
Frankfurt became a ground battlefield commencing 26 March 1945, when the Allied advance into Germany was forced to take the city in contested urban combat that included a river assault. The US 5th Infantry Division and US 6th Armored Division captured Frankfurt after several days of intense fighting, and it was declared largely secure on 29 March 1945. More details of this battle are provided at History of Frankfurt am Main.
After the end of the war, Frankfurt became a part of the newly founded state of Hesse, consisting of the old Hesse-(Darmstadt) and the Prussian Hesse provinces. The city was part of the American Zone of Occupation of Germany. The Military Governor for the United States Zone (1945–1949) and the United States High Commissioner for Germany (HICOG) (1949–1952) had their headquarters in the IG Farben Building, intentionally left undamaged by the Allies’ wartime bombardment. Frankfurt was the original choice for the provisional capital of West Germany—they even went as far as constructing a new parliament building that has never been used for its intended purpose. Since 1949 it is used to house the radio studios of Hessischer Rundfunk. In the end, Konrad Adenauer (the first post-war Chancellor) preferred the tiny city of Bonn, for the most part because it was close to his hometown, but also for another reason; many other prominent politicians opposed the choice of Frankfurt out of concern that Frankfurt, one of the largest German cities and a former centre of the old German-dominated Holy Roman Empire, would be accepted as a «permanent» capital of Germany, thereby weakening the West German population’s support for reunification and the eventual return of the Government to Berlin.
During the 1970s, the city created one of Europe’s most efficient underground transportation systems. That system includes a suburban rail system (S-Bahn) capable of reaching outlying communities as well as the city centre, and a deep underground light rail system with smaller coaches (U-Bahn) also capable of travelling above ground on street rails.
Since the postwar period Frankfurt has emerged once again as the financial and transportation centre of Germany.