Wismar is a smaller port and Hanseatic League city in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea, in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, about 45 km due east of Lübeck, and 30 km due north of Schwerin. Its natural harbor, located in the Bay of Wismar is well-protected by a promontory. The population was 48,800 in 1997, more than doubled from 21,902 in 1905.
The church of St Mary, a Gothic edifice of the 13th and 14th centuries (badly damaged in World War II and deliberately destroyed in 1960 under the East German government, leaving only the 260 ft. steeple), and the church of St Nicholas (1381-1460), with very lofty vaulting, are regarded as good examples of the influence exercised in these northern provinces by the large church of St Mary in Lübeck. The elegant cruciform church of St George dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. The Fürstenhof, at one time a ducal residence, and later occupied by the municipal authorities, is a richly decorated specimen of the Italian early Renaissance style. Built in 1552-1565, it was restored in 1877-1879. The "Old School," dating from about 1300, has been restored, and used as a museum. The town hall, rebuilt in 1829, contains a collection of pictures.
Wismar is said to have received civic rights in 1229, and came into the possession of Mecklenburg in 1301. In 1259 it had entered a pact with Lübeck and Rostock, intended to defend against the numerous Baltic sea pirates, which developed into the Hanseatic League. During the 13th and 14th centuries it was a flourishing Hanseatic town, with important woollen factories. Though a plague carried off 10,000 of the inhabitants in 1376, the town seems to have remained tolerably prosperous until the 16th century.
Under Swedish Rule
By the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 Wismar passed to Sweden, with a lordship to which it gives its name. Through Wismar and the other dominions in the Holy Roman Empire, the Swedish monarchs in their roles as princes, or Reichsfürsten, took part in the Imperial Diets. From 1653 it was the seat of the highest court for that part of Sweden. In 1803 Sweden pledged both town and lordship to Mecklenburg for 1,258,000 Riksdaler, reserving, however, the right of redemption after 100 years. In view of this contingent right of Sweden, Wismar was not represented in the diet of Mecklenburg until 1897. In 1903 Sweden finally renounced its claims. Wismar still retains a few relics of its old liberties, including the right to fly its own flag.
At the turn of the 19th century the most important manufactures of Wismar were in iron, machinery, paper, roofing-felt and asphalt. There was also a considerable trade, especially by sea, with exports including grain, oil-seeds and butter, and the imports coal, timber and iron. The harbour was deep enough to admit vessels of 17-ft. draught, and permitting large steamers to unload along its quays.
Representative of Hanseatic League city brick construction as well as the Eastern German brick churches it received a place on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.