Mainz (pron.: /ˈmaɪnts/) is the capital of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. It was the capital of the Electorate of Mainz at the time of the Holy Roman Empire. In antiquity Mainz was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire; it was founded as a military post by the Romans in the late 1st century BC. The city is located on the river Rhine at its confluence with the Main opposite Wiesbaden, in the western part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main; in the modern age, Frankfurt shares much of its regional importance.
The city is famous as the home of the invention of the movable-type printing press, as the first books printed using movable type were manufactured in Mainz by Gutenberg in the early 1450s. Until the twentieth century, Mainz was usually referred to in English as Mayence.
The Roman stronghold or castrum Mogontiacum, the precursor to Mainz, was founded by the Roman general Drusus perhaps as early as 13/12 BC. As related by Suetonius the existence of Mogontiacum is well established by four years later (the account of the death and funeral of Nero Claudius Drusus), though several other theories suggest the site may have been established earlier. Although the city is situated opposite the mouth of the Main river, the name of Mainz is not from Main, the similarity being perhaps due to diachronic analogy. Main is from Latin Menus, the name the Romans used for the river. Linguistic analysis of the many forms that the name «Mainz» has taken on make it clear that it is a simplification of Mogontiacum. The name appears to be Celtic and ultimately it is. However, it had also become Roman and was selected by them with a special significance. The Roman soldiers defending Gallia had adopted the Gallic god Mogons (Mogounus, Moguns, Mogonino), for the meaning of which etymology offers two basic options: «the great one», similar to Latin magnus, which was used in aggrandizing names such as Alexander magnus, «Alexander the Great» and Pompeius magnus, «Pompey the great», or the god of «might» personified as it appears in young servitors of any type whether of noble or ignoble birth..
Mogontiacum was an important military town throughout Roman times, probably due to its strategic position at the confluence of the Main and the Rhine. The town of Mogontiacum grew up between the fort and the river. The castrum was the base of Legio XIIII Gemina and XVI Gallica (AD 9–43), XXII Primigenia, IIII Macedonica (43–70), I Adiutrix (70–88), XXI Rapax (70–89), and XIIII Gemina (70–92), among others. Mainz was also a base of a Roman river fleet, the Classis Germanica. Remains of Roman troop ships (navis lusoria) and a patrol boat from the late 4th century were discovered in 1982/86 and may now be viewed in the Museum für Antike Schifffahrt. The city was the provincial capital of Germania Superior, and had an important funeral monument dedicated to Drusus, to which people made pilgrimages for an annual festival from as far away as Lyon. Among the famous buildings were the largest theatre north of the Alps and a bridge across the rhine.
Alamanni forces under Rando sacked the city in 368. From the last day of 405 or 406, the Siling and Asding Vandals, the Suebi, the Alans, and other Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine, possibly at Mainz. Christian chronicles relate that the bishop, Aureus, was put to death by the Alamannian Crocus. The way was open to the sack of Trier and the invasion of Gaul.
Throughout the changes of time, the Roman castrum never seems to have been permanently abandoned as a military installation, which is a testimony to Roman military judgement. Different structures were built there at different times. The current citadel originated in 1660, but it replaced previous forts. It was used in World War II. One of the sights at the citadel is still the cenotaph raised by legionaries to commemorate their Drusus.
Through a series of incursions during the 4th century Alsace gradually lost its Belgic ethnic character of formerly Germanic tribes among Celts ruled by Romans and became predominantly influenced by the Alamanni. The Romans repeatedly reasserted control; however, the troops stationed at Mainz became chiefly non-Italic and the emperors had only one or two Italian ancestors in a pedigree that included chiefly peoples of the northern frontier.
The last emperor to station troops serving the western empire at Mainz was Valentinian III, who relied heavily on his Magister militum per Gallias, Flavius Aëtius. By that time the army included large numbers of troops from the major Germanic confederacies along the Rhine, the Alamanni, the Saxons and the Franks. The Franks were an opponent that had risen to power and reputation among the Belgae of the lower Rhine during the 3rd century and repeatedly attempted to extend their influence upstream. In 358 the emperor Julian bought peace by giving them most of Germania Inferior, which they possessed anyway, and imposing service in the Roman army in exchange.
European factions in the time of master Aëtius included Celts, Goths, Franks, Saxons, Alamanni, Huns, Italians, and Alans as well as numerous other minor peoples. Aëtius played them all off against one another in a masterly effort to keep the peace under Roman sovereignty. He used Hunnic troops a number of times. At last a day of reckoning arrived between Aëtius and Attila, both commanding polyglot, multi-ethnic troops. Attila went through Alsace in 451, devastating the country and destroying Mainz and Triers with their Roman garrisons. Shortly after he was thwarted by Flavius Aëtius at the Battle of Châlons, the largest of the ancient world.
Aëtius was not to enjoy the victory long. He was assassinated in 454 by the hand of his employer, who in turn was stabbed to death by friends of Aëtius in 455. As far as the north was concerned this was the effective end of the Roman empire there. After some sanguinary but relatively brief contention a former subordinate of Aëtius, Ricimer, became emperor, taking the name Patrician. His father was a Suebian; his mother, a princess of the Visigoths. Patrician did not rule the north directly but set up a client province there, which functioned independently. The capital was at Soissons. Even then its status was equivocal. Many insisted it was the Kingdom of Soissons.
Previously the first of the Merovingians, Clodio, had been defeated by Aëtius at about 430. His son, Merovaeus, fought on the Roman side against Attila, and his son, Childeric, served in the domain of Soissons. Meanwhile the Franks were gradually infiltrating and assuming power in this domain. They also moved up the Rhine and created a domain in the region of the former Germania Superior with capital at Cologne. They became known as the Ripuarian Franks as opposed to the Salian Franks. It is unlikely that much of a population transfer or displacement occurred. The former Belgae simply became Franks.
Events moved rapidly in the late 5th century. Clovis, son of Childeric, became king of the Salians in 481, ruling from Tournai. In 486 he defeated Syagrius, last governor of the Soissons domain, and took northern France. He extended his reign to Cambrai and Tongeren in 490–491, and repelled the Alamanni is 496. Also in that year he converted to non-Arian Christianity.
After the Fall of the Roman Empire in 476, the Franks under the rule of Clovis I gained control over western Europe by the year 496. Clovis annexed the kingdom of Cologne in 508. Thereafter, Mainz, in its strategic position, became one of the bases of the Frankish kingdom. Mainz had sheltered a Christian community long before the conversion of Clovis. His successor Dagobert I reinforced the walls of Mainz and made it one of his seats. A solidus of Theodebert I (534–548) was minted at Mainz.
The Franks united the Celtic and Germanic tribes of Europe. The greatest Frank of all was Charlemagne (768–814), who built a new empire in Europe, the Holy Roman Empire. Mainz from its central location became important to the empire and to Christianity. Meanwhile language change was gradually working to divide the Franks. Mainz spoke a dialect termed Ripuarian. On the death of Charlemagne, distinctions between France and Germany began to be made. Mainz was not central any longer but was on the border, creating a question of the nationality to which it belonged, which descended into modern times as the question of Alsace-Lorraine.
In the early Middle Ages, Mainz was a centre for the Christianisation of the German and Slavic peoples. The first Archbishop in Mainz, Boniface, was killed in 754 while trying to convert the Frisians to Christianity and is buried in Fulda. Other early archbishops of Mainz include Rabanus Maurus, the scholar and author, and Willigis (975–1011), who began construction on the current building of the Mainz Cathedral and founded the monastery of St. Stephan.
From the time of Willigis until the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Archbishops of Mainz were archchancellors of the Empire and the most important of the seven Electors of the German emperor. Besides Rome, the diocese of Mainz today is the only diocese in the world with an episcopal see that is called a Holy See (sancta sedes). The Archbishops of Mainz traditionally were primas germaniae, the substitutes of the Pope north of the Alps.
In 1244, Archbishop Siegfried III granted Mainz a city charter, which included the right of the citizens to establish and elect a city council. The city saw a feud between two archbishops in 1461, namely Diether von Isenburg, who was elected Archbishop by the cathedral chapter and supported by the citizens, and Adolf II von Nassau, who had been named Archbishop for Mainz by the pope. In 1462, the Archbishop Adolf II raided the city of Mainz, plundering and killing 400 inhabitants. At a tribunal, those who had survived lost all their property, which was then divided between those who promised to follow Adolf II. Those who would not promise to follow Adolf II (amongst them Johannes Gutenberg) were driven out of the town or thrown into prison. The new Archbishop revoked the city charter of Mainz and put the city under his direct rule. Ironically, after the death of Adolf II his successor was again Diether von Isenburg, now legally elected by the chapter and named by the Pope.
Early Jewish community
The Jewish community of Mainz dates to the 10th century AD. It is noted for its religious education. Rabbi Gershom ben Judah (960–1040) taught there, among others. He concentrated on the study of the Talmud, creating a German Jewish tradition. The Jews of Mainz, Speyer and Worms created a supreme council to set standards in Jewish law and education in the 12th century.
The city of Mainz responded to the Jewish population in a variety of ways, behaving, in a sense, in a bipolar fashion towards them. Sometimes they were allowed freedom and were protected; at other times, they were persecuted. The Jews were expelled in 1012, 1462 (after which they were invited to return), and in 1474. Jews were attacked by mobs in 1283. Outbreaks of the Black Death were usually blamed on the Jews, at which times they were massacred, such as the burning of about 6,000 Jews alive in 1349. This unstable pattern, which was not typical for Mainz only, but for whole Europe at that time, went on until World War II.
Nowadays the Jewish community is growing rapidly, and a new synagogue by the architect Manuel Herz was constructed in 2010 on the site of the one destroyed under the Third Reich. The community itself has 1,034 members, according to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and at least twice as many Jews altogether since many are unaffiliated with Judaism.
During the French Revolution, the French Revolutionary army occupied Mainz in 1792; the Archbishop of Mainz, Friedrich Karl Josef von Erthal, had already fled to Aschaffenburg by the time the French marched in. On 18 March 1793, the Jacobins of Mainz, with other German democrats from about 130 towns in the Rhenish Palatinate, proclaimed the ‘Republic of Mainz’. Led by Georg Forster, representatives of the Mainz Republic in Paris requested political affiliation of the Mainz Republic with France, but too late: As Prussia was not entirely happy with the idea of a democratic free state on German soil, Prussian troops had already occupied the area and besieged Mainz by the end of March, 1793. After a siege of 18 weeks, the French troops in Mainz surrendered on 23 July 1793; Prussians occupied the city and ended the Republic of Mainz. It came to the Battle of Mainz in 1795 between Austria and France. Members of the Mainz Jacobin Club were mistreated or imprisoned and punished for treason.
Tombstone of Jeanbon Baron de St. André, Prefect of Napoleonic Mainz.
In 1797, the French returned. The army of Napoléon Bonaparte occupied the German territory to the west of the Rhine river, and the Treaty of Campo Formio awarded France this entire area. On 17 February 1800, the French Département du Mont-Tonnerre was founded here, with Mainz as its capital, the Rhine river being the new eastern frontier of la Grande Nation. Austria and Prussia could not but approve this new border with France in 1801. However, after several defeats in Europe during the next years, the weakened Napoléon and his troops had to leave Mainz in May 1814.
In 1816, the part of the former French Département which is known today as Rhenish Hesse (German: Rheinhessen) was awarded to the Hesse-Darmstadt, Mainz being the capital of the new Hessian province of Rhenish Hesse. From 1816 to 1866, to the German Confederation Mainz was the most important fortress in the defence against France, and had a strong garrison of Austrian and Prussian troops.
In the afternoon of 18 November 1857, a huge explosion rocked Mainz when the city’s powder magazine, the Pulverturm, exploded. Approximately 150 people were killed and at least 500 injured; 57 buildings were destroyed and a similar number severely damaged in what was to be known as the Powder Tower Explosion or Powder Explosion.
During the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, Mainz was declared a neutral zone. After the founding of the German Empire in 1871, Mainz no longer was as important a stronghold, because in the war of 1870/71 France had lost the territory of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany, and this defined the new border between the two countries.
For centuries the inhabitants of the fortress of Mainz had suffered from a severe shortage of space which led to disease and other inconveniences. In 1872 Mayor Carl Wallau and the council of Mainz persuaded the military government to sign a contract to expand the city. Beginning in 1874, the city of Mainz assimilated the Gartenfeld, an idyllic area of meadows and fields along the banks of the Rhine River to the north of the rampart. The city expansion more than doubled the urban area which allowed Mainz to participate in the industrial revolution which had previously avoided the city for decades.
Eduard Kreyßig was the man who made this happen. Having been the master builder of the city of Mainz since 1865, Kreyßig had the vision for the new part of town, the Neustadt. He also planned the first sewer system for the old part of town since Roman times and persuaded the city government to relocate the railway line from the Rhine side to the west end of the town. The main station was built from 1882 to 1884 according to the plans of Philipp Johann Berdellé.
The Mainz master builder constructed a number of state-of-the-art public buildings, including the Mainz town hall — which was the largest of its kind in Germany at that time — as well a synagogue, the Rhine harbour and a number of public baths and school buildings. Kreyßig’s last work was Christ Church (Christuskirche), the largest Protestant church in the city and the first building constructed solely for the use of a Protestant congregation. In 1905 the demolition of the entire circumvallation and the Rheingauwall was taken in hand, according to imperial order of Wilhelm II.
After World War I the French occupied Mainz between 1919 and 1930 according to the Treaty of Versailles which went into effect 28 June 1919. The Rhineland (in which Mainz is located) was to be a demilitarized zone until 1935 and the French garrison, representing the Triple Entente, was to stay until reparations were paid.
In 1923 Mainz participated in the Rhineland separatist movement that proclaimed a republic in the Rhineland. It collapsed in 1924. The French withdrew on 30 June 1930. Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January, 1933 and his political opponents, especially those of the Social Democratic Party, were either incarcerated or murdered. Some were able to move away from Mainz in time. One was the political organizer for the SPD, Friedrich Kellner, who went to Laubach, where as the chief justice inspector of the district court he continued his opposition against the Nazis by recording their misdeeds in a 900-page diary.
In March, 1933, a detachment from the National Socialist Party in Worms brought the party to Mainz. They hoisted the swastika on all public buildings and began to denounce the Jewish population in the newspapers. In 1936 the forces of the Third Reich reentered the Rhineland with a great fanfare, the first move of the Third Reich’s meteoric expansion. The former Triple Entente took no action.
During World War II, more than 30 air raids destroyed about 80 percent of the city’s center, including most of the historic buildings. Mainz was captured on 22 March 1945 against uneven German resistance (staunch in some sectors and weak in other parts of the city) by the 90th Infantry Division, a formation of the XII Corps under Third Army commanded by General George S. Patton, Jr. Patton used the ancient strategic gateway through Germania Superior to cross the Rhine south of Mainz, drive down the Danube towards Czechoslovakia and end the possibility of a Bavarian redoubt crossing the Alps in Austria when the war ended. With regard to the Roman road over which Patton attacked Trier, he said:
one could almost smell the coppery sweat and see the low dust clouds where those stark fighters moved forward into battle.
From 1945 to 1949, the city was part of the French zone of occupation. When the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate was founded on 30 August 1946 by the commander of the French army on the French occupation zone Marie Pierre Kœnig, Mainz became capital of the new state. In 1962, the diarist, Friedrich Kellner, returned to spend his last years in Mainz. His life in Mainz, and the impact of his writings, is the subject of the Canadian documentary My Opposition: The Diaries of Friedrich Kellner.
Following the withdrawal of French forces from Mainz, the United States Army Europe occupied the military bases in Mainz. Today USAREUR only occupies McCulley Barracks in Wackernheim and the Mainz Sand Dunes for training area. Mainz is home to the headquarters of the Bundeswehr’s Wehrbereichskommando II and other units.