On the trail of Hanseatic history

In the middle of the 13th century, the Nether German merchants from far away joined together in the Hanseatic League to pursue their economic interests and to trade together. The alliance included up to 225 larger and smaller towns as well as some of the large trading houses across the entire North Sea and Baltic region. Neuss maintained good trade relations with numerous cities of the Hanseatic League, which was founded in 1396, and, not only ware these its most important trading partners but also the Netherlands. Since 1475 Neuss had possessed the so-called Hanseatic privilege, which Emperor Frederick III had granted the city after the siege by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, had been successfully repelled. This privilege stated “that the city of Neuss may have, use and enjoy all the honour, dignity, advantage, law and justice of the Hanseatic League as other Hanseatic cities in the territory of the Empire”.

Although this strengthened the self-confidence of the people of Neuss, the city did not participate in the Hanseatic Days – the last of which took place in 1669 – especially since it was not an official member of the Hanseatic League of Cities. Neuss did not actually need the Hanseatic League to protect its trading interests either, since its relations with the Netherlands, the North German cities and the Baltic States were very successful. For more than 400 years, the Hanseatic League helped to shape and determine commerce, trade and politics until it lost its significance during the middle of the 17th century.

The tradition of foreign trade relations was revived when Neuss was invited to Zwolle for the founding of the “new” Hanseatic League in 1980. The “new” Hanseatic League has set itself the task of keeping the spirit of the Hanseatic League alive as a lifestyle and cultural community of cities. Through the cultivation of tradition and the lively exchange between member cities, the Hanseatic League aims to make a contribution to the economic, cultural, social and governmental unification of Europe. In 1984, the city on the Rhine hosted the International Hanseatic Day as part of its 2000th anniversary celebrations. In 2022, the city of Neuss once again had the honour of welcoming delegates, cultural figures, business representatives and market traders from 16 European countries to the 42nd International Hanseatic Day. Thus, Neuss paid special tribute to its old connections with the Hanseatic League.

The present day “Hanseatic League” is the world’s largest voluntary association of cities, with 195 member cities from 16 countries.

The Rhenish Hanseatic League

In 2009, the mayors of the Rhenish towns of Kalkar, Wesel, Emmerich am Rhein and Neuss signed a deed establishing the Rhenish Hanseatic League on the site of the former Neuss customs port. The founding of the Rhenish Hanseatic League was primarily intended to promote awareness of the Hanseatic League in the Rhenish homeland. The four Rhenish Hanseatic cities present themselves jointly at the International Hanseatic Day, which is held in a different European Hanseatic city each year.