Rostock - Encyclopedia


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ROSTOCK, a town of Germany, in the grand duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, one of the most important commercial cities on the Baltic. It is situated on the left bank of the estuary of the Warnow, 8 m. from the port of Warnemunde on the Baltic. 177 m. N.W. of Berlin by rail, 80 m. N.E. of Lubeck, and r06 m.

S. of Copenhagen. Pop. (1905) 60,790. It consists of three parts - the old town to the east, and the middle and new towns to the west - of which the first retains some of the antique features of a Hanse town, while the last two are for the most part regularly and handsomely built. There are also several suburbs. The town has four gates, one of them dating from the 14th century, and some fine squares, among them the Blucher Platz, with a statue of Blucher, who was born here, and the Neue Markt. Rostock was a fortress of some strength, but the old fortifications have been razed, and their site is occupied by promenades. Rostock has five old churches: St Mary's, dating from 1398 to 1472, one of the most imposing Gothic buildings in Mecklenburg, with two Romanesque towers and containing a magnificent bronze font and a curious clock; St Nicholas's, begun about 1250 and restored in 1450, and again in 1890-94; St Peter's, with a lofty tower over 4 00 ft. high, built in 1400, which serves as a landmark to ships at sea; St James's, completed in 1588, and the church of the Holy Rood, begun in 1270. St Mary's church contains a monument marking the original tomb of Hugo Grotius, who died in Rostock in 1645, though his remains were afterwards removed to Delft. Among other interesting buildings are the curious 14th-century Gothic town hall, the façade of which is concealed by a Renaissance addition; the palace of the grand duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, built in 1702; the law courts, built in 1878-79; the university buildings, erected in 1867-70; and an assembly hall of the estates of Mecklenburg (Standehaus), a handsome Gothic building erected in 1889-93.

The university of Rostock was founded in 1418 by Dukes Johann III. and Albrecht V. of Mecklenburg. From 1437 till 1443 it had its seat at Greifswald in consequence of commotions at Rostock; and in 1760 it was again removed, on this occasion to Butzow. The professors appointed by the city, however, still taught at Rostock, so that there were practically two universities in the duchy until 1789, when they were reunited at the original. seat. Rostock is the seat of the supreme court for both the duchies of Mecklenburg, and is well equipped with schools, hospitals, and other institutions.

Although the population, commerce and wealth of Rostock have declined since Hanse days, it has a considerable trade, being the chief commercial town of Mecklenburg and owning a considerable fleet. Vessels drawing 16 f t. of water are able to get up to the wharves. By far the most important export is grain, which goes almost entirely to British ports; but wool, flax and cattle are also shipped. The chief imports are coal from Great Britain, herrings from Sweden, petroleum from America, timber, wine and colonial goods. Rostock has an important fair at Whitsuntide, lasting for fourteen days, and also a frequented wool and cattle market. The industries of the town are varied. One of the chief is shipbuilding. Machinery, chemicals, sugar, malt, paper, musical instruments, cotton, straw hats, tobacco, carpets, soap, playing cards, chocolate and dye-stuffs are among the manufactures. The town also contains distilleries, saw-mills, oil-mills, tanneries, breweries and electrical works.

Local historians assert that a village existed on the site of Rostock as early as A.D. 329, but no certain proofs have been traced of any earlier community than that founded here in the 12th century, which is said to have received municipal rights in 1218. The earliest signs of commercial prosperity date from about 1260. For a time Rostock was under the dominion of the kings of Denmark. Soon after returning under the protection of Mecklenburg in the 14th century it joined the Hanseatic League; and was one of the original members of the powerful Wendish Hansa, in which it exercised an influence second only to that of Lubeck. The most prosperous epoch of its commercial history began in the latter half of the 15th century, precisely at the period when its political power began to wane. Rostock, however, never entirely lost the independence which it enjoyed as a Hanse town; and in 1788, as the result of long contentions with the rulers of Mecklenburg, it secured for itself a peculiar and liberal municipal constitution, administered by three burgomasters and three chambers. In 1880 this constitution was somewhat modified, and the city became less like a state within a state. It has belonged to Mecklenburg-Schwerin since 1695; in 1712 it was taken by the Swedes, in 1715 by the Danes and in 1716 by the Russians. The badge of Rostock is the figure 7; and a local rhyme explains that there are 7 doors to St Mary's church, 7 streets from the market-place, 7 gates on the landward side and 7 wharves on the seaward side of the town, 7 turrets on the town-hall, which has 7 bells, and 7 linden trees in the park.

See Reinhold, Chronik der Stadt Rostock (Rostock, 1836); Krabbe, Die Universitat Rostock im 15 and 16 Jahrhundert (2 vols., Rostock, 1854), Koppmann, Geschichte der Stadt Rostock (Rostock, 1887); Volckmann, Fiihrer durch Rostock (3rd ed., 1896); the Geschichtsquellen der Stadt Rostock (Rostock, 1885); and the Beitrdge zur Geschichte der Stadt Rostock (Rostock, 1890).

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