Mainz/Mayence was founded by the Romans 2000 years ago. In the Middle Ages, it became one of the cornerstones of the Frankish kingdom as well as a centre of Christian and Jewish spirituality. For more than 800 years, the Archbishops of Mainz were amongst the most powerful men of the realm. As Archchancellors of the Holy Roman Empire, they presided over the electoral college that appointed the Emperor. Two of these electors - Adolf II von Nassau and his successor Diether von Isenburg - established the University of Mainz in the late 1400s.
In 1793, local Jacobins proclaimed the first republic on German soil and strived to merge their free state with revolutionary France, but Prussian soldiers quickly put a stop to the democratic experiment. France, however, took Mainz in 1797, and the city remained part of Naponleon's empire until the French troops were forced to leave in 1814, soon to be replaced by Austrian and Prussian garrisons. During the 19th century, the university declined, and only the faculty of theology and some smaller units survived. In a neat historical twist, it was the French military government that re-opened the university in 1946. Nowadays, the university counts amongst the largest in Germany.
The Romans, Franks, French, Prussians and many other peoples all left their mark on the city. Although Mainz was destroyed and rebuild time and again over the centuries, many historical buildings remain.Today, the city is a charming mix of old and new: ancient churches, modern buildings, lofty palaces, narrow lanes and countless pubs, wine bars and clubs. It's seat of the state government and parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate, a popular conference venue and one of the world's nine "Great Wine Capitals".
Mainz is home to several publishers and radio stations and to Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen (ZDF), one of the largest public television broadcasters in Europe. In 2011, it was named German City of Science. Its university, polytechnics, academies, research institutes and art schools boast more than 40,000 students, who make the city a young and lively place. Together with its close neighbour (and perpetual rival) Wiesbaden, it forms a conurbation of just under half a million people that is in turn part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main area, Germany's second largest metropolitan region.
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