Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu lebe.
(A magic dwells in each beginning,
protecting us, telling us how to live.)
Hermann Hesse, Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game), 1943
Bremen traces its founding back to 787, when Charlemagne established it as a diocese, and it was raised to an Archbishopric in 845. Within two centuries, Bremen had become a leading trading port and ecclesiastical administrative center known as “the Rome of the North”. In the thirteenth century, the city won its independence from the bishops, and in 1358 it joined several other states in forming the Hanse trading league. For three centuries, Bremen prospered greatly from commerce with northern and eastern Europe. This heritage of leadership in the Hanseatic League has perpetuated an internationalist outlook in the city. Over the centuries, the city, connected to the North Sea by the Weser river, continued to find success in trade, becoming at different times a leading import center for products as varied as tobacco, coffee, cotton, and oil as well as the embarkation port for millions of German and other Europeans who emigrated to the New World. Shipbuilding also thrived. Throughout its long history, Bremen has prided itself on its independent, progressive spirit, and the symbol of that love of freedom is the statue of Ronald erected in 1404 in the central plaza in front of the City Hall (Rathaus). Bremen entered the German Confederation as an autonomous republic (Germany’s oldest) in 1815 and only temporarily lost its independence during the rule of the National Socialists. That independence was regained in 1947, when Bremen and the smaller port city of Bremerhaven jointly became an independent state within the Federal Republic of Germany with the formal name of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.