Speyer (older spelling Speier, known as Spire in French and formerly as Spires in English) is a town in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. Located beside the river Rhine, Speyer is 25 km south of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim. Founded by the Romans, it is one of Germany's oldest cities. The first known names were Noviomagus and Civitas Nemetum, after the Teutonic tribe, Nemetes, settled in the area. Around the year 500 the name Spira first appeared in written documents and, as well as the French, this is still reflected in the names Spira and Espira used in Italian and Spanish. The city's name may be the origin of the Ashkenazi Jewish name, Shapiro, and its variants.
Speyer is dominated by the Speyer Cathedral, a number of churches and the Altpörtel (old gate). In the cathedral, beneath the high altar, are the tombs of eight Holy Roman emperors and German kings.
- In 10 BC, the first Roman military camp is established (situated between the town hall and the episcopal palace).
- In 150, the town appears as Noviomagus on the world map of the Greek geographer Ptolemy.
- In 346, a bishop for the town is mentioned for the first time.
- In 1030, emperor Conrad II starts the construction of Speyer Cathedral, today one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- In 1076, emperor Henry IV embarks from Speyer, his favourite town, for Canossa.
- In 1084, establishment of the first Jewish community in Speyer.
- In 1294, the bishop loses most of his previous rights, and from now on Speyer is a Free Imperial Town of the Holy Roman Empire.
- In 1349, the Jewish community of Speyer is wiped out.
- Between 1527 and 1689, Speyer is the seat of the Imperial Chamber Court.
- In 1526, at the Diet of Speyer (1526) interim toleration of Lutheran teaching and worship is decreed.
- In 1529, at the Diet of Speyer (1529) the Lutheran states of the empire protest against the anti-Reformation resolutions (19 April 1529 Protestation at Speyer, hence the term Protestantism).
- In 1635, Marshal of France Urbain de Maillé-Brézé, together with Jacques Nompar de Caumont, duc de La Force, conquers Heidelberg and Speyer at the head of the Army of Germany.
- In 1689, the town is heavily damaged by French troops.
- Between 1792 and 1814, Speyer is under French jurisdiction.
- In 1816, Speyer becomes the seat of administration of the Palatinate and of the government of the Rhine District of Bavaria (later called the Bavarian Palatinate), and remains so until the end of World War II.
- Between 1883 and 1904, the Memorial Church is built in remembrance of the Protestation of 1529.
- In 1947, the State Academy of Administrative Science is founded (later renamed German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer).
- In 1990, Speyer celebrates its 2000th anniversary.
Twin towns – sister cities
Speyer is twinned with:
- Spalding, United Kingdom, since 1956
- Chartres, France, since 1959
- Kursk, Russia, since 1989
- Ravenna, Italy, since 1989
- Gniezno, Poland, since 1992
- Yavne, Israel, since 1998
- Rusizi, Rwanda, since 1982/2001
- Ningde, China, since October 2013 together with:
- Worms, Germany, since October 2014
- Simha of Speyer (13th century) was a German rabbi and tosafist. He was one of the leading signatories of the Takkanot Shum.
- Johann Joachim Becher (1635–1682), German physician, alchemist, precursor of chemistry, scholar and adventurer
- Anselm Feuerbach (1829–1880), German painter
- Carl Jakob Adolf Christian Gerhardt (1832–1902), German physician
- Henry Villard (1835–1900), German-American journalist
- Hans Purrmann (1880–1966), German visual artist
- George Waldbott (1898–1982), German-American physician
- Karl Haas (1913–2005), German-American music educator
- Alfred Cahn (born 1922), German musician
- Edgar E. Stern (born 1926), clinical social worker and author of The Peppermint Train: Journey to a German-Jewish Childhood
- Gabriel Kney (born 1929), Canadian organ builder
- Christoph Bechmann (born 1971), German field-hockey player
- Lars Stindl (born 1988),German footballer
- Elias Harris (born 1989), German international basketball player
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