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Worms (Latin Wormatia, Borbetomagus or Civitas Vangionum) is a
city in the south-east of Rhineland-Palatinate and is located
directly on the left bank of the Rhine. The middle center with
partial function of a regional center is located on the edge of the
metropolitan regions Rhine-Neckar and Rhine-Main. Due to this
location, it is simultaneously assigned to the Rheinhessen-Nahe
planning region and the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region (in which
the Rheinpfalz planning region is incorporated).
Today's residents of the city founded by the Celts vie with Augsburg, Trier and Kempten residents for the title of the oldest city in Germany. Worms is the German representative in the Most Ancient European Towns Network (working group of the oldest cities in Europe).
Worms is known as the Nibelungen and Luther City and for its cathedral, which is one of the three Romanesque imperial cathedrals alongside the Mainz and Speyer cathedral. Worms (Yiddish ווירמייזא Wermajze), one of the three ShUM cities, was also a center of Ashkenazi-Jewish culture in Germany.
The oldest traditional form of the place name
(Borbetomagus or Bormetomagus) is of Celtic origin and is traced
back to a term for water or spring or the name of a god Bormo or a
river derived from it. In the Latinized ending -magus, the Celtic
word for field, meadow, plain has been preserved. The name would
mean Quellenfeld, Feld des Bormo or Feld an der Bormita. The later
Worms became the capital of the semi-autonomous administrative
district (lat. Civitas) Civitas Vangionum. This was named after the
Vangionen tribe, who had lived here since the first century AD. The
Worms called themselves vangions until the 16th century. The name
Wangengau for the area around Worms is derived from this name, which
was then translated into the more understandable Wonnegau. The
German name Worms, like the city since 6/7. Century is called, but
goes back to the Gallo-Celtic Borbetomagus / Bormetomagus. Due to a
later sound change, the initial B became W. So Borbetomagus in the
language of the Germanic settlers in the early Middle Ages finally
changed to Warmazfeld, Warmazia / Varmacia, Wormazia / Wormatia and
finally to Worms. The Latin form Wormatia is in the old Hebrew name
of the city, which had a significant Jewish community in the Middle
Ages, as Warmaisa (Hebrew וורמש).
City development up to the 9th century
The urban area of Worms was first discovered in the Neolithic (Neolithic) around 5000 BC. Populated by farmers and cattle breeders. While older research postulated a very high settlement continuity for the area of Worms since that time, which was also reflected in an early functioning market and transport system, more recent publications assume a change between settled and settlement-free phases. The last time is for the middle of the 1st century BC For Worms and Rheinhessen an extensive settlement vacancy for at least 60 years was assumed.
On the inconspicuous hill Adlerberg am Rhein in the south of Worms, a total of 25 graves from different times were discovered between 1896 and 1951. As far as we know today, eight of these graves date from the Adlerberg culture (around 2300/2200–1800 BC) from the Early Bronze Age. The Worms doctor Karl Koehl, to whom the term “Adlerbergkultur” can be traced back, did a great job researching these finds.
Since Augustan times (31 BC to 14 AD), Worms and the surrounding area belonged to Roman rule. From the beginning of the 1st century AD until around 85 AD, a Roman military base existed on the soil of today's Worms. The associated civil settlement with the Celtic name Borbetomagus became the capital of the Civitas Vangionum and developed urban structures.
In Franconian times, the secure list of Worms bishops begins with Bishop Berchtulf, who attended the Paris Synod in 614. The early bishops Amandus von Worms († 7th century) and Rupert von Salzburg († 718) are among the saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Amandus became the patron saint of the diocese and the city of Worms. Under the Carolingians, Worms was one of the centers of power, so that its bishops were close to the royal court in the 8th and 9th centuries.
In 829 and 926 the Reichstag of the Franconian and Eastern Franconian Empire took place in Worms. At that time, Worms, which was still one of the Carolingian centers of power in the 9th century, had already moved to a peripheral position due to the division of the Frankish empire. At the court day in Worms in May 961, Otto the Great raised his seven-year-old son Otto II to be co-king. On February 2, 965 Otto I celebrated the anniversary of his coronation as emperor after his return from Italy in Worms and in August 966 he arranged for representation in Worms for the time of his recent absence. In 976 Otto von Worms received the newly created Duchy of Carinthia, which had previously been part of Bavaria.
With the Salians, the city began to flourish. In 1074 it was exempt from customs duties. Another court day took place here in 1076, on which King Henry IV declared Pope Gregory VII deposed and was immediately banned from church - one of the consequences of these events was the trip to Canossa.
In 1122, the Worms Concordat named after the city was concluded
in Worms. During this time, the city constitution was formed with an
independently operating city council representing the citizens.
After the fall of the Salians in 1125, the Hohenstaufens also became
closely associated with the city. In 1184, Emperor Friedrich
Barbarossa granted the city extensive freedoms, which can be seen as
the foundation of the imperial city. The 12th century was marked by
the beginning of the dispute between the bishop and the city council
over de facto rule over the city - a conflict that would last into
the 16th century.
Early modern age
In 1495 another Reichstag took place under King Maximilian, at which the imperial tax, the imperial chamber court and the ban on feuding of the eternal peace were introduced. At this point the city had already passed the height of its economic boom. The civil uprising in 1512/13 and the feud with Franz von Sickingen between 1515 and 1519 further shattered the city's finances. In fact, the city was a free imperial city, but the bishop and the clergy, who according to various estimates made up between 30 and 50% of the city's population (including servants and servants), succeeded in tough negotiations in enforcing so many special rights that the city council's room for maneuver was limited. In addition, the influence of the Palatinate Rhine Counts on the city had increased significantly in the course of the 15th century. At times the Worms and Speyer bishops were occupied by the Count Palatine brothers.
As in many other cities, the new ideas of the Reformation spread early and quickly in Worms, especially in the spiritually free urban climate. In this context, the Diet of Worms, held in 1521, was important, at which Martin Luther defended his writings and Reformation knowledge against Emperor Charles V. Worms became a center and field of experimentation for the Reformation: in 1524 a German Protestant mass was printed here for the first time, and in 1526 William Tyndale published the first English version of the New Testament in Worms. The attempt by the Worms city council to remove all episcopal privileges during the Peasants' War in 1525 failed. But Worms became Protestant; the bishop and the clergy retained their special rights and the cathedral, but Roman Catholic believers could not become members of the city council.
In 1659, Elector Karl I Ludwig von der Pfalz offered the city to make it the capital of the Electoral Palatinate and to relocate Heidelberg University to Worms. The city refused. Heidelberg, Mannheim and Frankenthal already had the title “Capital of the Electoral Palatinate”. The proposal was an attempt by the elector to gain greater influence in the city, which those traditionally entitled there, in particular the city council and the bishop, could not approve.
In 1689 the city was destroyed in the Palatinate War of Succession by the troops of King Louis XIV. A contemporary report on this comes from Elieser Liebermann, son of Juspa Schammes, which he added as a final chapter when his father published his work Ma’asseh nissim. The population was displaced and it took about ten years for urban life to resume.
19th and 20th centuries
From 1792 to 1814 Worms belonged to the First French Republic and the First Empire, from 1815 to the Grand Duchy of Hesse as part of the province of Rheinhessen. The geometer Konrad Schredelseker worked out the first cadastral plan of Worms "Atlas géometrique de la ville de Worms" from 1809 to 1810. In 1835 the four districts of Mainz, Bingen, Alzey and Worms were established as state administrative districts in Rheinhessen.
In the course of the reform of the district constitution in the Grand Duchy of Hesse based on the Prussian model in 1874, there was also a new district division. The division of the province of Rheinhessen into five districts (Alzey, Bingen, Mainz, Worms, Oppenheim) created at that time lasted for more than six decades.
After the three provinces of Starkenburg, Upper Hesse and Rheinhessen were abolished in 1937, a radical regional reform was carried out in Hesse on November 1, 1938. In the vicinity of Worms, the Oppenheim and Bensheim districts were dissolved. The communities on the right bank of the Rhine, Lampertheim, Bürstadt, Hofheim and Biblis, were incorporated into the newly created district of Worms, which emerged from the district of Worms. The cities of Mainz and Worms were made independent as urban districts. This administrative structure was created until the end of the war in 1945.
The city was largely destroyed by two Allied bombing raids on
February 21 and March 18, 1945. The British air raid of February 21,
1945 targeted the main station located on the edge of the city
center and the chemical plants southwest of the city center, but
also destroyed large parts of the city center, including the Trinity
Church, which was built 1709–1725 as the “Reformation Memorial
Church”, except for the Outer walls and parts of the tower burned
out completely. The Worms Cathedral was also set on fire. 239
residents died. 141 people were killed in the US attack on March 18,
1945. The attacks left around 15,000 people homeless. 35% of the
building stock was completely destroyed, another 29% damaged to
varying degrees. The city center was rebuilt in a largely modern
style after the war.
The former Hessian province of Rheinhessen became in 1946 the administrative district of Rheinhessen of the then newly founded state of Rhineland-Palatinate. From 1968 until the dissolution of the Rhineland-Palatinate administrative districts in 2000, Worms belonged to the administrative district of Rheinhessen-Pfalz.
Jews in Worms
The Jewish community held a prominent position, which was one of the most important in the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages and early modern times and together with the Jewish community of Mainz and Speyer formed the so-called ShUM cities. Occupied in Worms from around 960 onwards, the Jewish merchants in Worms, who were particularly active in long-distance trade, enjoyed imperial duty exemptions from the 11th century and, like the Jews in Speyer, enjoyed freedom of trade throughout the Reich. A famous Talmud school was established in Worms and was also attended by the important French Jewish scholar Rashi. A synagogue was inaugurated in 1034, the surviving Jewish cemetery, the oldest in Europe, has existed at least since 1058/59. Despite their privileged position, when the crusader army of the First Crusade reached Worms in 1096, all Jews who did not undergo compulsory baptism or who instead committed suicide were murdered. After the imperial protection was restored, Jews settled again in Worms and the forced baptized were allowed to return to Judaism. During the second crusade, the Jews of Worms were able to get to safety in good time.
In the later 12th century a new synagogue was built and expanded. In the 13th century, the importance of Worms ’Jewish scholars began to decline. What has been preserved is a prayer book, the Wormser Machsor from 1272, which also contains the oldest written testimony in Yiddish. During the persecution of the Jews at the time of the Black Death, the Jewish community in Worms was destroyed in 1349. In May 1353, Jews were again allowed to settle in Worms in the interests of the “city welfare”; they were no longer allowed to acquire property outside the ghetto, the now established Judengasse around the synagogue. The Jewish community never regained its former importance. In 1615 the Jews were again expelled from the city, but were able to return the following year. Even with the destruction of the city by the French in 1689, the Jewish community had to flee Worms again and it took more than a decade before they could return.
In the 19th century, around 800 Jews lived in Worms, who achieved civil equality with the Christians in 1848, and in the following year Ferdinand Eberstadt was the first Jew to be elected mayor of the city after his predecessor Georg Friedrich Renz had resigned. Eberstadt ran for the office of mayor with two other candidates, but the government in Darmstadt found the wine merchant Johann Philipp Bandel to be too radical and the civil servant Ludwig Blenker too cocky without political foresight; whereupon the merchant Eberstadt was appointed as mayor of the city of Worms by the Grand Duke at the beginning of 1849.
In 1933 the city had a good 1,000 Jews, the majority of whom
moved away after the Nazis came to power and some of them emigrated.
The old synagogue was largely destroyed during the November pogroms
in 1938, but the old Jewish cemetery Heiliger Sand was preserved.
The 300 or so Jews remaining in Worms were deported to concentration
camps, which only a few of them survived. The Levy‘sche Synagogue
(also known as the New Synagogue) from 1875, opposite the old
synagogue, survived the pogroms of 1938 largely undamaged, but was
badly damaged in one of the air raids in 1945 and demolished in
1947. After the end of the Second World War, there were isolated
Jews again in the city, but there was no longer any Jewish community
life. The old synagogue was rebuilt by the state from 1958 to 1961,
and in 1982 the Jewish Museum was opened in the Rashi House, whose
vaulted cellars date from the 14th century. At the beginning of the
21st century, more than a hundred Jews live in Worms, mostly
immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who are members of the
Jewish community in Mainz.
April 1, 1898: Neuhausen
October 1, 1898: Hochheim, Pfiffligheim
April 1, 1942: Herrnsheim, Horchheim, Leiselheim, Weinsheim
June 7, 1969: Abenheim, Heppenheim an der Wiese, Ibersheim, Pfeddersheim (city), Rheindürkheim, Wiesoppenheim; Reconstruction of a part of the city of Osthofen with 181 inhabitants to Worms
In October 1937, the Rosengarten heritage farmhouse on the right bank of the Rhine was formed from parts of the Bürstadt, Hofheim and Lampertheim districts and incorporated into the city of Worms. In the course of the demarcation between the French and American occupation zones, it fell to the state of Greater Hesse in 1945.