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Halberstadt is situated at an elevation of 119 m at the rivers Holtemme and Goldbach, about 20 km north of the Harz mountains in western Saxony-Anhalt. The district town has a population of 39,750 (2005).
In AD 804 the missionary outpost Halberstadt became the seat of a bishopric. In 989 it received important privileges such as the right to mint coins and the rights of a market town. At the same time, the bishops also obtained the secular powers in the Harzgau region. In the following century they succeeded to extend their territory to include the neighbouring counties. In 1387 Halberstadt joined the Hanse federation of trading towns. In 1591 the bishop of Halberstadt introduced the Protestant faith in his bishopric. During the Thirty Years' War (16181648), Imperial troops occupied the city in 1826 and reintroduced Catholicism. After the Pease of Westfalia (1648) the prince bishopric was secularized and became part of Brandenburg-Prussia. During the Napoleonic period, Halberstadt in 1807 was incorporated into the Kingdom of Westphalia and became the préfecture (capital) of the Saale département. After the defeat of the French army at Leipzig in 1813 and the Congress of Vienna (1815), Halberstadt was returned to Prussia. The railroad from Halberstadt to Magdeburg was opened in 1848. During World War II about 82% of the historic old town were destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in 1945. After the war, the city was rebuilt but many of the remaining old buildings were torn down during this process.
The cathedral Sankt Stephanus and Sankt Sixtus [background] was founded in the 9th century. When that church collapsed in 965 a new cathedral was built until 992. This building existed until 1239. When Magdeburg began the construction of its new cathedral in 1209, Halberstadt also decided to build a new, Gothic, cathedral. As the old cathedral had been remodeled only a short period before, the new church was started, unconventionally, at the western end. The nave was begun in 1260 but was completed only some 50 years later. The next part of the new church to be built was the Lady chapel at the eastern end of the church, which was begun around 1350 and took some 60 years to be completed (it was consecrated in 1401). The remaining parts of the Ottonic church in between were then rebuilt until 1491. The last part to be added was the chapter house which was completed in 1514. The massive west towers were rebuilt in neo-Gothic style in the late 19th century. In 1945 the cathedral was severely hit by the bomb raid which destroyed most of the town. The restoration of the church already began soon after the war.
The town hall [foreground right]
was begun in 1381, the characteristic oriel was added in 1541, the access balcony was built in 1663.
The historic town hall was completely destroyed in 1945 and was not restored after the war.
A new building which imitates the old structure was built later. A true reproduction of the historic access balcony
of the 17th century was completed in 2004.