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Lüneburg is a town in the German state of Lower Saxony. It is located about 45 km - a thirty-minute train ride - southeast of fellow Hanseatic city Hamburg. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, and one of Hamburg's inner suburbs. It is the capital of the district of Lüneburg. The urban area, which includes the surrounding communities like Adendorf, Bardowick, and Reppenstedt, has a population of around 103,000. Lüneburg has been allowed to use the title "Hansestadt" (Hanseatic Town) in its name since 2007, in recognition of its membership in the former Hanseatic League. The official name of the town is thus Hansestadt Lüneburg (Hanseatic Town of Lüneburg); the town is also a Universitätsstadt (university town). As of December 2007, the town was the 120th largest in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Country: Germany | State: Lower Saxony | District: Lüneburg | Area: 70.34 km˛ | Population: 72,500 (December 2008)


The first signs of human presence in the area of Lüneburg date back to the time of Neanderthal Man: 56 axes, estimated at 150,000 years old, were uncovered during the construction in the 1990s of the autobahn between Ochtmissen and Bardowick.

The site of the discovery at Ochtmissen was probably a Neanderthal hunting location where huntsmen skinned and cut up the animals they had caught.

The area was almost certainly not continuously inhabited at that time, however, due to the various glaciations that lasted for millennia. The first indication of a permanent, settled farming culture in the area was found not far from the site of the Neanderthal discovery in the river Ilmenau between Lüne and Bardowick. This was an axe that is described as a Schuhleistenkeil or "shoe last wedge" due to its shape. It dates to the 6th century BC and is now in the collection of the Lüneburg Museum.

Since the Bronze Age the Lüneburg hill known as the Zeltberg has concealed a wholerange of prehistoric and early historic graves, which were laid out by people living in the area of the present-day town of Lüneburg. One of the oldest finds from this site is a so-called Unetice flanged axe (Aunjetitzer Randleistenbeil) which dates to 1900 BC.

The land within the town itself has also yielded a number of ice age urns that were already being reported in the 18th century. These discoveries are, however, like those from the Lüneburger Kalkberg - went into the private collection of several 18th century scholars and - with a few exceptions - perished with them.

Fully worth mentioning in this regard are the Lombard Urnfield graves on the Lüneburg Zeltberg and Oedeme from the first few centuries AD. In the Middle Ages, too, there was a series of discoveries on the site of the subsequent town, form example on the site of the old village of Modestorpe not far from St. John's Church (Johanniskirche), the Lambertiplatz near the saltworks and in the old Waterside Quarter.

The ancient town may be that identified as Leufana or Leuphana (Greek: Λευφάνα), a town listed in Ptolemy (2.10) in the north of Germany on the west of the Elbe.

From village to commercial town
Lüneburg was first mentioned in medieval records in a deed signed on 13 August, 956 AD, in which Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor granted "the tax from Lüneburg to the monastery built there in honour of Saint Michael" (German den Zoll zu Lüneburg an das zu Ehren des heiligen Michaels errichtete Kloster, Latin: teloneum ad Luniburc ad monasterium sancti Michahelis sub honore constructum) . An older reference to the place in the Frankish imperial annals dated 795 fluvium Albim pervenit ad locum, qui dicitur Hliuni i.e. on the river Elbe, at the location, which is called "Hliuni") and refers to one of the three core settlements of Lüneburg; probably the castle on the Kalkburg which was the seat of the Billunger nobles from 951. The Elbe-Germanic name Hliuni corresponds to the Lombard word for "refuge site".

From archaeological finds it is clear that the area around Lüneburg had already been settled (in the museum of the Principality of Lüneburg, for example, there is a whole range of high-quality exhibits that were found here) and the saltworks had already started production.

According to tradition, the salt was first discovered by a hunter who observed a wild boar bathing in a pool of water, shot and killed it, and hung the coat up to dry. When it was dry, he discovered white crystals in the bristles - salt. Later he returned to the site of the kill and located the salt pool, the first production of salt on the site took place. In the town hall is a bone preserved in a glass case; legend has it that this is the preserved leg-bone of the boar. It was here that the Lüneburg Saltworks was subsequently established for many centuries.

In spite of its lucrative saltworks Lüneburg was originally subordinated to the town of Bardowick only a few miles to the north. Bardowick was older and was an important trading post for the Slavs. Bardowick's prosperity – it had seven churches – was based purely on the fact that no other trading centres were tolerated. Only when Bardowick refused to pay allegiance to Henry the Lion was it destroyed by him in 1189, whereupon Lüneburg was given town privileges (Stadtrechte) and developed into the central trading post in the region in place of Bardowick.

The Polabian name for Lüneburg is Glain (written as Chlein or Glein in older German sources), probably derived from glaino (Slavonic: glina) which means "clay". In the Latin texts Lüneburg surfaces not only as the Latinised Lunaburgum, but also as Selenopolis. In Plattdeutsch, the town is known as Lümborg.

Hanseatic period
As a consequence of the monopoly that Lüneburg had for many years as a supplier of salt within the North German region, a monopoly not challenged until much later by French imports, it very quickly became a member of the Hanseatic League. The League was formed in 1158 in Lübeck, initially as a union of individual merchants, but in 1356 it met as a federation of trading towns at the first general meeting of the Hansetag. Lüneburg's salt was needed in order to pickle the herring caught in the Baltic Sea and the waters around Norway so that it could be preserved for food inland during periods of fasting when fish (not meat) was permitted.

The Scania Market at Scania in Sweden was a major fish market for herring and became one of the most important trade events in Northern Europe in the Middle Ages. Lüneburg's salt was in great demand and the town quickly became one of the wealthiest and most important towns in the Hanseatic League, together with Bergen and Visby (the fish suppliers) and Lübeck (the central trading post between the Baltic and the interior). In the Middle Ages salt was initially conveyed overland up the Old Salt Road to Lübeck. With the opening of the Stecknitz Canal in 1398 salt could be transported by cog from the Lübeck salt warehouses, the Salzspeicher.

Around the year 1235, the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg emerged, ruled by a family whose aristocratic lines repeatedly divided and re-united. The smaller states that kept re-appearing as a result and which ranked as principalities, were usually named after the location of the ducal seat. Thus between 1267 and 1269 a Principality of Lüneburg was created for the first time, with Lüneburg as the seat of the royal Residenz. In 1371, in the wake of the Lüneburg War Succession, rebel citizens threw the princes out of the town and destroyed their royal castle on the Kalkberg along with the nearby monastery. The state peace treaty in 1392 granted their demand to become a free imperial town, a status they were able to defend until 1637. The money now stayed in the town, enabling fine houses and churches were built.

In 1392 Lüneburg was accorded the staple right. This forced travelling merchants, with their carts to frequent Lüneburg, unload their wares and offer them for sale for a certain period. So that the merchants could not bypass Lüneburg, in 1397 an impassable defensive barrier was built west of the town. This was followed in 1479 by a similar barrier east of Lüneburg.

The Lüneburg Prelates' War caused a crisis from 1446 to 1462. This not a war in the proper sense, but rather a bitter dispute between the town council and those members of the clergy who were also part-owners of the town's saltworks. It was not resolved until the intervention of the Danish King Christian I, the Bishop of Schwerin and the Lübeck Bishop, Arnold Westphal.

In 1454 the citizens demanded even more influence over public life.

Since the end of 2007 Lüneburg has once again held the title of a Hanseatic city.

Modern period to the end of the World War II
With the demise of the Hanseatic League – and the absence of herrings around 1560 around Falsterbo in Scania - the biggest customers of Lüneburg's salt broke away and the town rapidly became impoverished. Hardly any new houses were built which is why the historical appearance of the town has remained almost unchanged until the present day.

The town became part of the Electorate of Hanover in 1708, the Kingdom of Hanover in 1814, and the Prussian Province of Hanover in 1866.

In the centuries after the collapse of the League, it was as if Lüneburg had fallen into a Sleeping Beauty slumber. Heinrich Heine, whose parents lived in Lüneburg from 1822 to 1826, called it his "residence of boredom" (Residenz der Langeweile). Near the end of the 19th century Lüneburg evolved into a garrison town, and it remained so until the 1990's.

In 1945 Lüneburg surfaced once again in the history books when, south of the town on the hill known as the Timeloberg (near the village of Wendisch Evern) the German Instrument of Surrender was signed that brought the Second World War in Europe to an end. The location is presently inaccessible to the general public as it lies within a military out-of-bounds area. Only a small monument on a nearby track alludes to the event. On 23 May 1945 Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler took his own life in Lüneburg whilst in British Army custody by biting into a potassium cyanide capsule embedded in his teeth before he could be properly interrogated. His body was found in his cell and was subsequently buried in an unmarked location in a nearby forest.

Post-war period
Even before the Nuremberg Trials took place, the first war crimes trial, the so-called Belsen Trial (Bergen-Belsen-Prozess), began in Lüneburg on September 17, 1945 conducted against 45 former SS men, women and kapos (prisoner functionaries) from the Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps.

After World War II, Lüneburg became part of the new state of Lower Saxony. But the dilapidated state of its buildings led to various plans to try and improve living conditions. One proposition that was seriously discussed was to tear down the entire Altstadt and replace it with modern buildings. The ensuing public protest resulted in Lüneburg becoming the focal point for a new concept: cultural heritage conservation. Since the early 1970's the town has been systematically restored. A leading figure in this initiative since the late 1960's has been Curt Pomp: against much opposition from politicians and councillors he founded and championed the Lüneburg Altstadt Working Group (Arbeitskreis Lüneburger Altstadt) for the preservation of historic buildings. His engagement was rewarded with the German Prize for Cultural Heritage Conservation and the German Order of Merit. Today Lüneburg is a tourist attraction as a result of the restoration and important sectors of the town's economy also depend on tourism.

The salt mine was closed in 1980, ending the thousand-year tradition of salt mining, although small amounts are still mined for ceremonial purposes. Small bags of salt may be purchased in the town hall, and bags are given as a gift from the town to all couples married in the town. After the closing of the salt mines, the town gained new relevance from its university, which was founded in 1989.

As part of the restructuring of Defence in 1990 two of the three Bundeswehr barracks in the town were closed and the remaining one reduced in size. The Bundesgrenzschutz barracks was also closed. Lüneburg University moved to the site of the old Scharnhorst barracks. The university grew out of the new economics and cultural studies departments set up in the 1980s and their amalgamation with the College of Education (Pädagogischen Hochschule or PH) that took place in 1989. Since its move to the former barracks site the university has enrolled increasing numbers of students. The expansion of the university is an important contribution to the restructuring of the town into a service centre.

Today an industrial estate, the Lünepark, has been built on the terrain of the old Bundesgrenzschutz barracks with its new industrial premises for entrepreneurs. The promotion of trade and industry has resulted in many firms from the ICT area locating themselves there. In May 2006 the nearby Johannes Westphal Bridge was opened to traffic. This links the newly created Lünepark with the suburb of Goseburg on the far side of the Ilmenau. Since October 5, 2007 Lüneburg has been able to call itself a Hanseatic Town; together with Stade it is one of only two towns in Lower Saxony to bear the title.

Lüneburg is also a popular tourist destination within Germany because of the Lüneburg Heath.

Notable Persons

Willer Crowell (??? 1401), head of the Lüneburg chancery
Heinrich Brömse (1440-1502), Mayor of Lübeck
Lutke von Dassel (1474-1537), Mayor of Lüneburg
Nikolaus Bardewik (1506-1560), Mayor of Lübeck
Lucas Bacmeister the Elder (1530-1608), theologian and composer of hymns
Andreas Crappius (1542-1623), hymn composer
Christian Hoburg (1607-1675), theologian and mystic
Johann Bacmeister the Younger (1624-1686) professor of medicine and mathematics, and private physician
Johann Georg Ebeling (1637-1676), , hymn composer (Die güldne Sonne voll Freud and Wonne, text by Paul Gerhardt)
Johann Caspar von Völcker (1655-1730), engineer, architect, chief engineer for the Brunswick fortifications and major general
Georg Böhm (1661-1733), chanter at St John's
Franz Joachim Burmeister (1633-1672), theologian and poet
Johann Christopher Jauch (1669-1725), dean of Lüneburg, author
Johann Abraham Peter Schulz (1747-1800), Knight of St John, composer and conductor (Der Mond ist aufgegangen, Alle Jahre wieder etc.)
Johanna Stegen (1793-1842), German patriot: "The Heroine of Lüneburg" (Heldenmädchen von Lüneburg)
Wilhelm Volger (1794-1879), rector of the Johanneum, archivist, librarian and historian
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), a journalist, essayist, literary critic, and one of the most significant German romantic poets'visited his parents in the town several times and is believed to have composed his poem Die Lore-Ley here
G. Theodor Meyer (1797-1870), Knight of St John, jurist, MP in St. Paul's Church in 1848, in 1850/51 cultural minister in the Kingdom of Hanover
Otto Volger (1822-1897), geologist, mineralogist
Rudolf von Bennigsen (1824-1902), Knight of St John, politician, co-founder of the Deutscher Nationalverein, leader of the National Liberal party in the Reichstag
Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866), mathematician (Riemann integral) - studied for his Abitur at the Johanneum Lüneburg
Georg Dietrich August Ritter (1826-1908), mathematician and astrophysicist
Karl Gravenhorst (1837-1913), King's Council and lawye, born in Carrenzien/Krs. Bleckede - Amt Neuhaus, Knight of St. John, honorary citizen of Lüneburg in 1900; served the Bürgervorsteherkollegium for 46 years, 38 as its spokesman (Wortführer)
Gustav von Hoppenstedt (1847-1918), German General (field artillery)
Hans Görges (1859-1946), electrical engineer, college lecturer in Dresden
Hermann Jacobsohn (1879-1933), Knight of St John, linguist (University of Marburg)
Fritz Heinemann (1889-1970) Knight of St John, philosopher (Frankfurt), after emigration in 1937 to Oxford
Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998), Knight of St John, sociologist (University of Bielefeld), inventor of sociological system theory ('Theorie der Gesellschaft etc.)
Detlev Ganten (b 1941), physician, member of the Nationaler Ethikrat, CEO of the Charité Berlin since 2004
Dirk Hansen (b 1942), former Bundestag MP with the FDP and vice-president of the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
Henning J. Claassen (b 1944), founder and CEO of Impreglon AG
Ina Barfuss (b 1949), artist
Ulrich Fischer (b 1949), theologian and state bishop in the Evangelical State Church in Baden
Ingeborg Harms (b 1956), journalist, literary scholar and writer
Heinrich Schlange-Schöningen (b 1960), German ancient historian, professor in Saarbrücken (Saarland)
Jan Böttcher (b 1973), writer and musician


Bach Connection

Lüneburg is a North German town where J.S. Bach attended school in 1700-1702. Lüneburg is an old trading centre in Lower Saxony, especially famous for its salt mines. Around 1700 it was one of the principal towns in the duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg; the duke, Georg Wilhelm, then reigned at Celle.

Lüneburg has three important old churches grouped around the town centre: the Nicolaikirche in the north, the Michaellskirche in the west, and the Johanniskirche in the south-east. Important schools were attached to the last two, and the Michaelisschule also had as a neighbour the Ritterakademie, a school for the nobility. J.S. Bach entered the highest class of the Michaelisschule around Easter 1700, at the beginning of the summer term.

Both schools had choirs, a small specialist choir (at the Michaelisschule this was the Mettenchor, or 'Mattins Choir') and a larger chorus symphoniacus which was allowed to sing in the streets. At the Michaelisschule members of the Mettenchor were exempted from paying school fees and earned a small sum of money (between 8 groschen and 1 thaler a month. The total monthly sum to be divided was about 8 thaler, and eight singers was the minimum composition of the choir (two per voice type). The actual number of singers was from 13 to 15. Only poor schoolboys with good soprano voices were normally accepted as new members of the Mettenchor. The monthly records of payments are extant only until May 1700; they give the names of the singers and the fees, but do not specify the voices. Twice a year the fees for the members of the chorus symphoniacus were recorded as well (grouped according to the voices), the last list being from Easter 1700; since this choir included the members of the Mettenchor, it is possible to reconstruct the latter's actual make-up at the time immediately preceding J.S. Bach's arrival.

The 15-year-old J.S. Bach is said in the Obituary (1754) to have been accepted in Lüneburg because of his treble voice, and the same would go for his 18-year-old schoolfellow Georg Erdmann. It is doubtful, however, that they still had treble voices, and in any case when they went to Lüneburg the treble section of the Mettenchor was almost overcrowded. On the other hand, only one bass singer (acting at the same time as prefect) was available, and the possibility that J.S. Bach and Erdmann entered the choir as basses is supported by documents which show that the Lüneburg schools often filled gaps in the tenor and bass sections with singers from central Germany. Philipp Spitta's supposition that J.S. Bach, after his change of voice, served the Mettenchor as an instrumentalist can therefore be rejected; the money was simply not there to pay a non-singer.

The Kantor of the Michaelisschule while J.S. Bach was there was August Braun (d. 1713); he had a wide-ranging repertory of church music at hand. J.S. Bach might also have had lessons from the organist of the Johanniskirche, Georg Böhm, a native of Thuringia, who, after studies in Hamburg, had gone to Lüneburg in 1698. Anecdotes refer to journeys that J.S. Bach might have made to Hamburg, and these were perhaps recommended by Georg Böhm.

Thus, J.S. Bach's training, which had been based mainly on Thuringian practices, was developed to include styles typical of north German music. He might have drawn additional experience from performances at the court of Duchess Eleonore Desmier d'Olbreuse, in which he is said to have taken part. They apparently took place not in Celle, but in the castle in Lüneburg itself.

J.S. Bach probably stayed at the Michaelisschule until Easter 1702, thus completing the final class of the Lateinschule. In Ohrdruf he had already acquired a more advanced education than earlier members of his family, which suggests that he might have been interested in the specific education he received at Lüneburg rather than entering a purely musical career at a younger age. What he did between spring and summer 1702, when he was elected town organist in Sangerhausen, is not known. What we do know is that the Duke of Saxe-Weißenfels intervened to have J.S. Bach 's appointment nullified. The next we hear about him is at Weimar in March 1703.

Article by Konrad Küster in Malcolm Boyd (Editor): Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach (Oxford University Press, 1999)
BDok iii, no. 666
G. Fock: Der junge Bach in Luneburg, 1700-1702 (
Hamburg, 1950)
Konrad Küster: Der junge Bach (Stuttgart, 1996), 82-117
M Martin Petzoldt: Bachstäten Ein Reiseführer zu Johann Sebastian Bach (Insel Verlag, 2000)
Christoph Wolff: 'Johann Adarn Reinken und Johann Sebastian Bach: zum Kontext des Bachschen Frilhwerks', BJb 71 (1985), 99-118

Events in Life History of J.S. Bach



Lüneburg & Weimar (1700-1703)

Mar 15, 1700

Leaves Ohrdruf for Lüneburg, St. Midrad’s School


Enrolment in the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg, where he receives a comprehensive musical education


Contact with Georg Böhm in Lüneburg

Apr (Easter) 1702

Graduation from Michaelisschule and return to Thuringia (probably Ohrdruf)


Performance Dates of J.S. Bach’s Vocal Works: None.

Bach Festivals & Cantata Series

Festival (Link to Website)

Artistic Director





Lüneburger Bachwoche

Claus Hartmann



Lüneburg, Upper Saxony, Germany


Features of Interest

The largest preserved medieval town hall in Germany
St. Michael Monastery: dating from the 14th century
Lüneburg Town Hall: with 13-18th century architectural elements.
German Salt Museum.
13/14th century Church of St. John with its notable organ and high altar.
St. Michael Church, consecrated in 1418.
The 12th century Lüne Monastery with its collection of art treasures and exhibition of medieval textiles.
Old harbour area: with the crane, rustic bars.


L?neburg US

Information & Links

Verkehrsverein Lüneburg e.V.
Rathaus-Am Markt
D-21335 Lüneburg
Tel.: +49-4131/207-6620
Fax: +49-4131/207-6644
E-Mail: |
Website: Lüneburg (Official Website) [German]

Lüneburg (Wikipedia) [various languages]
Lüneburg (Meinestadt) [German]

Lüneburg 1700-1702 (Koster)
The J.S. Bach Tourist 4: Lüneburg Heath (Koster)
The J.S. Bach Tourist 5: Lüneburg (Koster)
On the Traces of J.S. Bach: Lüneburg (Germany Tourism) [German/English]
J.S. Bach Biographie: Lüneburg 1700-1702 (Schlu) [German]
J.S. Bach Education & Career: Lüneburg 1700-1703 (T.A. Smith)
J.S. Bach Biography: Lüneburg (Carolina Classical)


Prepared by Aryeh Oron (March 2004 - December 2009)

Guide to Bach Tour: Main Page | Life History of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works | Maps | Route Suggestions | Discussions
Maps of Bach Places | Videos of Bach Places | Symbols (Coats of Arms) of Bach Places | Organs in Bach Places
Places: Altenburg | Ammern | Arnstadt | Bad Berka | Berlin | Brandenburg | Bückeburg | Celle | Collmen | Dörna | Dornheim | Dresden | Eisenach | Erfurt | Gehren | Gera | Gotha | Halle | Hamburg | Heiligengrabe | Jena | Karlsbad | Kassel | Kleinzschocher | Köthen | Langewiesen | Leipzig | Lübeck | Lüneburg | Meiningen | Merseburg | Mühlhausen | Naumburg | Ohrdruf | Pomßen | Potsdam | Ronneburg | Sangerhausen | Schleiz | Stöntzsch | Störmthal | Taubach | Wechmar | Weimar | Weißenfels | Weißensee | Wiederau | Zeitz | Zerbst | Zschortau


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Last update: Friday, June 02, 2017 13:33