Hanseatic city of Greifswald  germany
01 Ruins of the Eldena monastery 02 St. Nicholas’ Church 03 St. Mary’s Church
04 Markt 11 05 Wiecker wooden suspension bridge 06
Northern brightness

Greifswald, located at the coast of the Baltic Sea, is first and foremost a university town. The university, established in 1456, today has well over 9,000 students. The town originally grew around the Eldena monastery which became famous in its own right when the town’s most celebrated son, the romantic mysticist Caspar David Friedrich, painted its ruins in the 19th century. Until the 15th century, the development of Greifswald was inextricably linked with the town’s affiliation to the Hanseatic League. To this very day, the three brick churches which are dominating the old town’s skyline and the Gothic gabled roofs at the eastern end of the market square bear witness to Greifswald’s medieval glory.

The notable St. Nikolai Cathedral, often called "the slender Nikolaus", dominates the city skyline with its 99 m high tower cupola. The Gothic Hall with its three naves was altered to make a basilica.
The St. Marien Church, often called "the fat Marien", has three naves in a main hall without choir.
Inside there are massive brick shafts and the singularly attractive finely carved and inlaid Renaissance pulpit dating from 1587.
The imposing ruins of the Eldena Cistercian Monastery tower above the city gates.
The monastery was founded in 1199 by monks from the Dargun Monastery.
These stone relics are well known throughout the world, thanks to their romantic portrayal by the painter Caspar David Friedrich.


Rathaus Am Markt
17489 Greifswald
Phone: +49 (0)3834 521380
Fax: +49 (0)3834 521382
Email: Greifswald-Information@t-online.de
Internet: www.greifswald.de 
Painting by Caspar David Friedrich
Greifswald (from German Greif, "griffin", and Wald, "forest") is a town in northeastern Germany. The town is situated approximately 200 km to the north of Berlin in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, borders the Baltic Sea and is crossed by a small river called Ryck. The population is roughly 55,000, including about 11,500 students and some 5,000 employees of the University of Greifswald.

The city is officially known as Universitäts- und Hansestadt Greifswald, which means University and Hanseatic Town of Greifswald.


Ryck riverGreifswald is located near the Bay of Greifswald, which is the part of the Baltic Sea between the islands of Rügen and Usedom, in north German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The small river Ryck passes through the old town which is about 5 km away from the Dänische Wieck ("Danish Bay", on the Southern end of the Bay of Greifswald). The small nearby islands of Koos and Riems also are administered by the City of Greifswald. The area is fairly plain, the highest point reaching only as high as 36 metres.

The seaside part of Greifswald at the mouth of the Ryck river, named Greifswald-Wieck, evolved from a fishing village and today provides a small beach, a marina and the main port of Greifswald.


Ruins of Eldena monastery (founded in 1199)In medieval times, the Greifswald site was an unsettled woodland which marked the border between the Danish duchy of Rügen and the Pomeranian duchy of Gützkow, which at that time was also under Danish control. In 1199, Rugian duke Jaromar I allowed Danish Cistercian monks to build Hilda (now Eldena) abbey at the mouth of the Ryck River. Among the lands granted to the monks by Jaromar I, there was a saline a short way up the river, a site also crossed by the important via regia trade route. This site was named Gryp(he)swold(e), which is the Low German precursor of the city's modern name. A legend tells that the monks were shown the best site for the settlement by a mighty griffin, living in a tree that was supposed to have grown in Greifswald's oldest street Schuhagen. The town's erection followed a scheme of rectangular streets, with church and market sites reserved in central positions. It was settled primarily with Germans in the course of the Ostsiedlung, but settlers from other nations and Wends from nearby were attracted, too.

The salt trade helped Eldena abbey to grow to a monumental religious centre and Greifswald to become a known market. When the Danes had to surrender the Pomeranian lands south of the Ryck River after the 1227 Bornhöved battle, the town became of particular interest to Pomeranian dukes. In 1241, Rugian duke Wizlaw I and Pomeranian duke Wartislaw III both granted her market rights. In 1250, the latter granted Lübeck law to her, after he was admitted to take the town site as a fief from Eldena abbey in 1248. Gützkow's Jazco of Salzwedel had a Franciscan abbey founded within Greifswald's walls; Eldena lost much of her influence on the city's further fate. Just beyond Greifswald's western limits, a town-like suburb (Neustadt) arose, just separated from Greifswald by a ditch. In 1264, Neustadt was incorporated and the ditch was filled up.

Eldena abbey as well as Greifswald's major buildings were erected in Brick Gothic style.

Enjoying a steady increase in population, Greifswald also became one of the earliest members of the Hanseatic League at the end of the 13th century, which further increased trade and wealth. After 1296, Greifswald's citizens did not need to serve in the Pomeranian army, and Pomeranian dukes would not reside in the city.

In 1456, Greifswald's mayor Heinrich Rubenow laid the foundations of one of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Greifswald, which was one of the first in Germany, and was, periodically, the single oldest in Sweden and Prussia respectively.

In the course of Reformation, Eldena abbey ceased to function as a monastery. Her possessions fell to the Pomeranian dukes, the bricks of her Gothic buildings were used by locals as a quarry. Eldena lost its status and later became enclosed by Greifswald's city limits. Also, the monasteries within the town walls, the "Black abbey" of the Dominican Order in the Northwest and the "Grey abbey" of the Franciscan order in the Southeast, were secularized. The Black abbey was turned over to the university, the site is still used as part of her medical campus. The Grey abbey and its succeeding buildings now are the Pomeranian State Museum.

As a result of the Thirty Years' War Greifswald became part of the Kingdom of Sweden in 1631 and remained in Swedish Pomerania until 1815, when it became part of Prussia's Province of Pomerania.

Around the 1900s, the city for the first time since the Middle Ages expanded significantly beyond the old city walls. Also, a major railway connected Greifswald to Stralsund and Berlin, a local railway further connected Greifswald to Wolgast.

The city survived World War II without much destruction although it housed a larger army garrison. In April 1945, Oberst Rudolf Petershagen surrendered the city to the Red Army without combat. From 1949 to 1989, Greifswald was part of the German Democratic Republic. During this time, most historical buildings in the city's medieval parts where neglected and a number of buildings were torn down. The population rose significantly, because of the construction of a power plant in Lubmin, which was closed down in the early 1990s. New suburbs were erected in uniform, industrial socialist style (see Plattenbau), that until now house most of the city's population. These new suburbs were all placed east and southeast of downtown Greifswald, shifting the former town center to the northwest edge of the today's city.

Reconstruction of the old town began an the late 1980s and at present nearly all of it has been restored. However, in the 1980s almost all of the old northern town adjactend to the former port was torn down and thereafter build up completely new. The historic marketplace is especially worth mentioning which is considered one of the most beautiful in northern Germany. The city attracts many tourists, also due to its proximity to the Baltic Sea.

The highest number of inhabitants was reached in 1988 with about 68,000 inhabitants, but the population decreased to roughly 55,000 where it has now stabilised. The reasons included migration to western states as well as suburbanisation. However, the number of students quadrupled from 3,000 in 1990 to more than 11,000 in 2007 and the university employs 5,000 people - so that nearly one in three people is linked to higher education.

one of the courts

Despite its rather small population, Greifswald retains a certain supraregional relevance which can be linked to its intellectual role as a university town and to the take-over of central functions of the former Prussian Province of Pomerania after World War II, for instance the Bishop's see of the Pomeranian Protestant Church, the state archives (Landesarchiv) and the Pomeranian Museum (Pommersches Landesmuseum). Three courts of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are also based at Greifswald:

University of Greifswald

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