From a bishopric ...

Grave crown of Kaiser Konrad II, 1039 © Historisches Museum der Pfalz

... to an imperial free city (4th to 13th centuries).

Speyer became a bishopric for the first time in the year 346. Goods, landed property, toll revenue and the Rhine ferries formed the economic foundations for Speyer's bishops. Imperial privileges placed the city under the protection, control and rule of the bishops.

 

WGrave crown of Kaiser Konrad II © Historisches Museum der Pfalz ith the election of the Salian, Conrad II from the district of Speyer as the King of Germany in 1024, Speyer became the spiritual center of the Salian kingdom and was turned into the centerpoint of imperial politics.

The construction of the cathedral in the decade of the 1020s was decisive in the further development of the city. It exceeded in size and significance all other churches in the empire at that time and as the imperial burial site, it prooved symbolic in suggesting  unification of the worldly emperor with Christianity.

A long series of events, decisions and meetings underscored Speyer's important role during the Middle Ages: Henry IV started on his penetential trek to Canossa from here, Bernhard of Clairvaux issued his call for the Second Crusade in the Cathedral in 1146, Richard the Lionhearted was handed over to Henry IV in Speyer in 1193, and Frederick II's first Germany trip brought him to Speyer in 1213. After disagreements with the citizenry, the bishops' rule over Speyer ended in 1294. Speyer became a free imperial city with its own administration and government. The Old City Gate stems from this era; it is one of the few remnants of the city's mighty fortifications during the Middle Ages which at the time demonstrated the city's economic and political significance.

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