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Mainz City Arms
Map of Germany showing Mainz
Map of Germany showing Mainz

Mainz (French Mayence) is a city in Germany, which is the capital of the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate.



Mainz is located on the left bank of the river Rhine, opposite the confluence of the Main river with the Rhine. Population (2002): 183,822 (an additional 18,619 people maintain a primary residence elsewhere but have a second home in Mainz). Mainz is easily reached from Frankfurt International Airport in 25 minutes by commuter railway (S-Bahn).

The city consists of 15 districts: Altstadt, Neustadt, Mombach, Gonsenheim, Hartenberg-Münchfeld, Oberstadt, Bretzenheim, Finthen, Drais, Lerchenberg, Marienborn, Hechtsheim, Ebersheim, Weisenau, and Laubenheim. Until 1945, the districts of Bischofsheim (now an independent town), Ginsheim and Gustavsburg (which together are an independent town) belonged to Mainz. The former suburbs Amöneburg, Kastel, and Kostheim—in short AKK—now belong to the city of Wiesbaden (on the north bank of the river). The AKK was separated from Mainz when the Rhine was designated the boundary between the French occupation zone (the later state of Rhineland-Palatinate) and the US occupation zone (Hessia) in 1945.


The Roman stronghold of castrum Moguntiacum, the precursor to Mainz, was founded by the Roman general Drusus in 13 BC. Moguntiacum seems to have been an important military town throughout Roman times, probably due to its strategic position at the confluence of the Main and the Rhine. It was without doubt the base of a Roman river fleet (the remains of Roman patrol boats and cargo barges from about 375/6 were discovered in 1982 and may now be viewed in the Museum für Antike Schifffahrt). The city was a provincial capital. Alamanni forces under Rando sacked the city in 368.

In last days of 406, the Siling and Asding Vandals, the Suebi, the Alans, and other Germanic tribes took advantage of the rare freezing of the Rhine to cross the river at Mainz and overwhelm the Roman defences. Christian chronicles relate that the bishop, Aureus, was put to death by the Alamannian Crocus. The way was open to the sack of Trier and the invasion of Gaul. This event is familiar to many from the historical novel, Eagle in the Snow, by Wallace Breem.

After the Fall of the Roman Empire in 476 CE, the Franks under the rule of Clovis I gained control over western Europe by the year 496. Mainz, in its strategic position, became one of the bases of the Frankish kingdom. Mainz had sheltered a Christian community long before the conversion of Clovis. His successor Dagobert reinforced the walls of Mainz and made it one of his seats.

In the Holy Roman Empire, which was founded in 962, the Archbishop of Mainz was one of the prince-electors. In the Middle Ages, Mainz was a centre for the Christianisation of the German and Slavic peoples. The first Archbishop of Mainz, Boniface, was killed while trying to convert the Frisians to Christianity and is buried in Fulda. Beginning with Willigis (9751011) until the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Archbishops of Mainz were archchancellors of the Empire and the most important ones of the seven Electors to elect the German Emperor. Besides Rome, Mainz is the only diocese in the world with an episcopal see that is called a Holy See (sancta sedes). The Archbishops of Mainz traditionally were primas germaniae , the substitutes of the Pope north of the Alps. In 1244, the Archbishop Siegfried III granted Mainz the town rights, which included the right of the citizens to establish and elect a city council.

The city saw a feud between two Archbishops in 1461, namely Diether von Isenburg, who was supported by the citizens, and Adolf II von Nassau, who had been named bishop for Mainz by the Pope. In 1462, the Archbishop Adolf II raided the city of Mainz, plundering and killing 400 inhabitants. At a tribunal, those who had survived lost all their property, which was then divided between those who promised to follow Adolf II. Those who would not promise to follow Adolf II (amongst them Johann Gutenberg) were driven out of the town or thrown into prison. The new Archbishop denied Mainz its town rights and made the city an archiepiscopal capital.

During the French Revolution, the French Revolutionary army occupied Mainz in 1792; the Archbishop of Mainz, Mr. Erthal, had already fled by the time the French marched in. On 18 March 1793, the Jacobins of Mainz, with other German democrats from about 130 towns in the Rhenish Palatinate, proclaimed the ‘Republic of Mainz’. Led by Georg Forster representatives of the Mainz Republic in Paris requested political affiliation of the Mainz Republic with France, but too late: As Prussia was not entirely happy with the idea of a democratic free state on German soil, Prussian troops had already occupied the area and besieged Mainz by the end of March, 1793. After a siege of 18 weeks, the French troops in Mainz surrendered on 22 July 1793; Prussians occupied the city and ended the Republic of Mainz. Members of the Mainz Jacobin Club were mistreated or imprisoned and punished for treason.

In 1797, the French returned. The army of Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoleon I of France) occupied the German territory to the west of the Rhine river, and the Treaty of Campo Formio awarded France this entire area. On 17 February 1800, the French Département du Mont-Tonnerre was founded here, with Mainz as its capital, the Rhine river being the new eastern frontier of la Grande Nation. Austria and Prussia could not but approve this new border with France in 1801. However, after several defeats in Europe during the next years, the weakened Napoléon and his troops had to leave Mainz in May 1814.

In 1816, the part of the former French Département which is known today as Rheinhessen was awarded to the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, Mainz being the capital of the new Hessian province Rheinhessen. From 1816 to 1866, to the German Confederation Mainz was the most important fortress in the defence against France, and had a strong garrison of Austrian and Prussian troops.

In the afternoon of 18 November 1857, a huge explosion rocked Mainz when the city’s powder magazine, the Pulverturm, exploded. Approximately 150 people were killed and at least 500 injured; 57 buildings were destroyed and a similar number severely damaged in what was to be known as the Powder Tower Explosion or Powder Explosion.

During the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, Mainz was declared a neutral zone. After the founding of the German Empire in 1871, Mainz no longer was as important a stronghold, because in the war of 1870/71 France had lost the territory of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany, and this defined the new border between the two countries.

For centuries the inhabitants of the fortress of Mainz had suffered from a severe shortage of space which led to disease and other inconveniences; in 1872, Mayor Carl Wallau and the council of Mainz persuaded the military government to sign a contract for the expansion of the city. Beginning in 1874, the city of Mainz assimilated the Gartenfeld, an idyllic area of meadows and fields along the shore of the Rhine River to the north of the rampart. The city expansion more than doubled the urban area, which allowed Mainz to participate in the industrial revolution which had previously passed the city by for decades.

Mainz towards the Rhine river (around 1890)
Mainz towards the Rhine river (around 1890)

Eduard Kreyßig was the man who made this happen. Having been the master builder of the city of Mainz since 1865, Mr. Kreyßig had the vision of the new part of the town, the Mainz Neustadt; he also planned the very first sewer system (since Roman times) for the old part of the town, and it was he who persuaded the city government to relocate the railroad route from the Rhine side to the west end of the town. The Mainz master builder constructed a number of state-of-the-art public buildings, including the Mainz town hall — which was the largest one of its kind in Germany at that time — as well a synagogue, the Rhine harbor, and a number of public baths and school buildings. Mr. Kreyßig's last work was the Christ Cathedral, which is the protestant counterpart to the 1,000-year-old catholic Mainz Cathedral.

After the end of World War I, Mainz was occupied by the French between 1919 and 1930. During World War II, more than 30 air raids and bomb attacks destroyed about 80% of the inner city of Mainz, including most of the historic buildings.

From 1945 to 1949, the city was again occupied by the French military. When the federal state of Rheinland-Pfalz was founded on 18 May 1947, Koblenz was the temporary capital; in 1950 Mainz became the capital of the new state.


Mainz is twinned with:

and is a ‘Friendship citiy’ to:


  • Roman-Germanic central museum (Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum) – Roman, Medieval, and earlier artifacts
  • Antique Maritime Museum (Museum für Antike Schifffahrt) – the remains of five Roman boats from the late 4th century, discovered in the 1980s
  • ^Mainz Cathedral of St. Martin (Mainzer Dom) – over 1,000 years old
  • The Iron Tower(Eisenturm, tower at the former iron market) – a tower from the 13th century
  • The Wood Tower (Holzturm, tower at the former wood market) – a tower from the 14th century
  • The Gutenberg Museum – exhibits an original Gutenberg Bible amongst many other printed books from the 15th century and later
  • The Mainz Old Town – what's left of it
  • The Electoral Palace (Kurfürstliches Schloss) – residence of the prince-elector
  • Christ Cathedral (Christuskirche) – built 1898–1903, bombed in ’45 and rebuilt in 19481954
  • The Church of St. Stephan – with post-war windows by Marc Chagall


After the last ice age, sand dunes were deposited in the Rhine valley at what was to become the western edge of the city. The Mainz Sand Dunes area is now a nature reserve with a unique landscape and rare steppe vegetation for this area.

Johann Gutenberg, credited with the invention of the modern printing press with movable type, was born here and died here. The Mainz University, which was refounded in 1946, is named after Gutenberg; the earlier University of Mainz that dated back to 1477 had been closed down by Napoleon's troops in 1798.

Mainz was one of three important centers of Jewish theology and learning during the Middle Ages. Known collectively as 'Shum', the cities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz played a key role in the preservation and propagation of Talmudic scholarship.

Mainz is famous for its Carnival, the Mainz Fassenacht, which has developed since the early 19th century, and is celebrated in a fountain near the centre of the city. Carnival in Mainz has its roots in the criticism of social and political injustices under the shelter of cap and bells; today, the uniforms of many traditional Carnival clubs still imitate and caricature the uniforms of the French and Prussian troops of the past.

The city is well-known in Germany as the seat of Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen ("Germany Channel 2", ZDF), one of two government owned nationwide TV broadcasters. There are also a couple of radio stations based in Mainz.

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