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Essen n : a city in western Germany; industrial center of the Ruhr

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Old High German ezzan, akin to Old Saxon etan, compare Dutch eten



  1. meal

Proper noun

  1. A large industrial city in Germany.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

This article is about the city in Germany. For other places with the same name, see Essen (disambiguation).
Essen () is a city in the center of the Ruhr Area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Located on the Ruhr River, its population of approximately 582,000 (as of December 31, 2006) makes it the 7th- or 8th-largest city in Germany. The city was recently appointed European Capital of Culture for 2010 representing the whole Ruhr Area.
Formerly one of Germany's most important coal and steel centers and historically linked to the centuries-old Krupp family iron works, the city has developed a strong tertiary sector of industry and is nowadays (sometimes together with nearby Düsseldorf) known as the "desk of the Ruhr area". It is home to 13 of the 100 largest German corporations and seat to several of the region's authorities.
The city was chosen in 1958 to serve as the seat of a Roman-Catholic diocese, the Diocese of Essen (Ruhrbistum). In early 2003, the universities of Essen and its neighboring city of Duisburg (both established in 1972) were merged into the University of Duisburg-Essen with campuses in both cities and a university hospital in Essen.


Location, neighboring communes and general geography

Essen is located in the center of the Ruhr Area, one of the largest urban areas in Europe (see also: megalopolis), comprising 11 independent cities and 4 districts with some 5.3 million inhabitants. The city limits of Essen herself are long and border to 10 cities, 5 of them independent and 5 kreisangehörig (i.e., belonging to a district), with a total population of approximately 1.4 million.
The city extends over from north to south and from west to east, mainly north of the Ruhr River, which forms the Lake Baldeney reservoir in the boroughs of Fischlaken, Kupferdreh, Heisingen and Werden. The lake, a popular recreational area, dates from 1931 - 1933, when some thousands of unemployed coal miners dredged it with primitive tools for the Reichsarbeitsdienst. Generally, large areas south of the Ruhr river (including the suburbs of Schuir and Kettwig) are quite green and are often used as examples for rural structures in the otherwise relatively densely populated central Ruhr Area.
The lowest point can be found in the Northern borough of Karnap at , the highest point in the borough of Heidhausen (). The average elevation is .

City districts

Essen is subdivided into nine suburban districts, called Stadtbezirke. Each Stadtbezirk has a local body (of nineteen members each) that has limited authority. Stadtbezirke have names that are often derived from the boroughs they comprise. Additionally, Stadtbezirke are assigned Roman numerals. Essen has a total of fifty boroughs, most of which have originally been independent municipalities but were gradually incorporated from 1901 - 1975. The long-lasting process of city growth incorporation has led to a strong identification of the population with "their" boroughs and to a rare peculiarity: The borough of Kettwig, located south of the Ruhr river, and which was not incorporated until 1975, has its own area code. Additionally (allegedly due to relatively high church tax incomes), the Archbishop of Cologne managed to keep Kettwig direct subject to the Archbishopric of Cologne, whereas all other boroughs of Essen and some neighboring cities constitute the Diocese of Essen.


The average temperature is , the average annual precipitation . The coldest month of the year is January, when the average temperature is . The warmest month is July, with an average temperature of . Most rain falls in August with .


Origin of the name

Throughout the centuries, the name of the city changed continuously. The eldest known form is Asnithi, which changed to Essen over e.g. Astnidum, Assinde, Essendia and Esnede. The name Asnithi may have either referred to a region where many Ash trees were found or to a region in the East (of the Frankish Empire), though both translations are still disputed. The connection between the city name and the German word Esse (Old High German for fireplace) may be drawn because of the industrial history of the city, but is highly unlikely since the old forms of the city name originate from times before industrialization. What is safe to say, however, is that Essen does not refer to the act of eating (also Essen in German).

Early history

The oldest archaeological finds date back to 280,000 B.C. (Vogelheimer Klinge, named after the borough of Vogelheim in the northern part of the town). Other finds date to between 120,000 and 10,000 years old.
Essen was part of the settlement areas of multiple Germanic peoples (Chatti, Bructeri, Marsi), although a clear distinction among these groupings is difficult.
The Alteburg castle in the South of Essen dates back to Celtic times (around 0), the Herrenburg to the 8th century.

8-12th century

Around 845, Saint Altfrid (around 800 - 874), the later Bishop of Hildesheim, founded a monastery for women (coenobium Astnide) in the center of present-day Essen. The first abbess of the monastery was Altfrid's relative Gerswit (see also: Essen Abbey). In 799, Saint Liudger had already founded Benedictine Werden Abbey on his own ground a few kilometers south. The region was sparsely populated with only a few smallholdings and an old and probably abandoned castle. Whereas Werden Abbey sought to support Liudger's missionary work in the Harz region (Helmstedt/Halberstadt), the monastery ought to care for women of the higher Saxon nobility. The monastery was not a monastery in the ordinary sense, but rather intended as residence and educational institution for daughters and widows of the higher nobility; led by an abbess, all members but the abbess herself were not obliged to take vows of chastity.
Around 852, construction of the collegiate church of the monastery began, to be completed in 870. A major fire in 946 heavily damaged both the church and the settlement. The church was rebuilt, expanded considerably and is the foundation of the present Essen Cathedral.
The first documented mention of Essen dates back to 898, when Zwentibold, King of Lotharingia, willed territory on the Western bank of the Rhine River to the monastery. Another document, describing the foundation of the monastery and allegedly dating back to 870, is now considered an 11th century forge.
In 971, Mathilde II, granddaughter of Emperor Otto I, took lead of the abbey. She was to become the most important of all abbesses in the history of Essen, reigned over 40 years, and endowed the abbey's treasury with invaluable objects such as the oldest preserved seven branched candelabrum, and the Golden Madonna of Essen, the oldest known sculpture of the Virgin Mary in the world. Mathilde was succeeded by other women related to the Ottonian emperors: Sophia, daughter of Otto II and sister of Otto III, and Teophanu, granddaughter of Otto II. It was under the reign of Teophanu when Essen, which had been called a city since 1003, received its right to hold markets in 1041. Ten years later, she had the eastern part of Essen Abbey constructed, with a crypt with the burial lairs of St. Altfrid, Mathilde II and Teophanu herself.

13-17th century

In 1216, the monastery, which had only been an important landowner until then, gained the status of a prince residence when Emperor Frederick II called abbess Elisabeth I Reichsfürstin (Princess of the Empire) in an official letter. 28 years later, in 1244, Essen received its town charter and seal when Konrad von Hochstaden, the Archbishop of Cologne, marched into the city and erected a city wall together with the population. This proved a temporary emancipation of the population of the city over the princes abbesses, but would only last until 1290. That year, King Rudolph I reassured the princess abbesses full sovereignty over the city; much to the dismay of the population of the growing city who called for self-administration and Reichsunmittelbarkeit. The title Free Imperial City was finally granted by Emperor Charles IV in 1377, who in 1372 had paradoxically already underlined Rudolph I's decision from 1290 and hence left both abbey and city with imperial favor. Disputes between the city and the abbey about the supremacy over the region remained common until the abbey's dissolution in 1803. Many lawsuits were filed at the Reichskammergericht, one of them lasting almost 200 years. The final decision of the court in 1670 was that the city had to be duly obedient in do's and don't s to the abbesses but could maintain its old rights - a decision that did not really solve any of the problems.
In 1563, the city council, with its self-conception as the only legitimate ruler over Essen, introduced the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic abbey had no troops to counter this development.

Thirty Years' War

During the Thirty Years' War, the Protestant city and the Catholic abbey opposed each other. In 1623, princess abbess Maria Clara von Spaur, Pflaum und Valör managed to direct Catholic Spaniards against the city, in order to initiate a counter-reformation. In 1624, a "re-catholization law" was passed and churchgoing was strictly controlled. In 1628, the city council filed against this at the Reichskammergericht. Maria had to flee to Cologne when the Dutch stormed the city in 1629. She returned in the summer of 1631 following the Bavarians under Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim, only to leave again in September. She died 1644 in Cologne.
The war proved a severe strike for the city, with frequent arrests, kidnapping and rape. Even after the Peace of Westphalia from 1648, troops remained in the city until September 9, 1650.


The first historic evidences of the important mining tradition in Essen date back to the 14th century, when the princess abbess was granted mining rights. The first silver mine opened in 1354, but the indisputably more important coal was not mentioned until 1371, and coal mining only began in 1450.
At the end of the 16th, many coal mines had opened in Essen and the city earned a name as a center of the weapon industry. Around 1570, gunsmiths made high profits and in 1620, they produced 14,000 rifles and pistols a year. The city became more and more strategically important.
Particular importance gained the factories of the Krupp family. Resident in Essen since the 16th century, Essen and the Krupp dynasty were of particular influence for each other. In 1811, Friedrich Krupp founded Germany's first cast steel factory in Essen and laid the cornerstone for what was to be the largest enterprise in Europe for a couple of decades. The weapon factories in Essen became so important that a sign vis-à-vis the main station welcomed visitors to the Armory of the Reich during World War II. The Krupp works also were the main reason for the large population growth since the mid-19th century - Essen became a Großstadt in 1896. Other industrialists, such as Friedrich Grillo, who in 1892 donated the Grillo Theater to the city, also played a major role in the shaping of the city and the Ruhr region in the late 19th/early 20th century. Although no weaponry is produced in Essen anymore, the old industrial enterprises such as Krupp and RWE remain large employers in the city. Foundations such as the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung still promote the well-being of the city, e.g. with a hospital and the spending of €55 Million for a new building for the Museum Folkwang, one of the Ruhr Area's major art exhibitions.


Historical development

The administration of Essen had for a long time been in the hands of the princess-abbesses as heads of the Imperial Abbey of Essen. However, from the 14th century onward, the city council increasingly grew in importance. In 1335, it started choosing two burgomasters, one of whom was placed in charge of the treasury. In 1377, Essen was granted Reichsunmittelbarkeit but had to abandon this privilege later on. Between the early 15th and 20th centuries, the political system of Essen underwent several changes, most importantly the introduction of the Protestant Reformation in 1563, the annexation of 1802 by Prussia, and the subsequent secularization of the principality in 1803. The territory was made part of the Prussian Province of Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1815-22, after which it became part of the Prussian Rhine Province until its dissolution in 1946.
During the time of Nazi Germany (1933-1945), the Lord Mayors were installed by the Nazi Party. After World War II, the military government of the British occupation zone installed a new lord mayor and a municipal constitution modeled on that of British cities. Later, the Rat der Stadt was again elected by the population. The Lord Mayor was elected by the council as its head and as the city's main representative. The administration was led by a full time Oberstadtdirektor. In 1999, the position of Oberstadtdirektor was abolished in North Rhine-Westphalia and the Lord Mayor became both main representative and administrative head. In addition, the population now elects the Lord Mayor directly.

City council

The last local elections took place on September 26, 2004. As a result, Dr. Wolfgang Reiniger (CDU) was elected Lord Mayor and the following political parties gained seats in the city council: The city is governed by a coalition of Reiniger's CDU and the Greens.

Coat of arms

The coat of arms of the city of Essen is a heraldic peculiarity. Granted in 1886, it is a so-called Allianzwappen (arms of alliance) and consists of two separate shields under a single crown. Most other coats of arms of cities show a wall instead of a crown. The crown, however, does not refer to the city of Essen itself, but instead to the secularized ecclesiastical principality of Essen under the reign of the princess-abbesses. The heraldically right shield shows the double-headed Imperial Eagle of the Holy Roman Empire, granted to the city in 1623. The left shield is one of the eldest arms of Essen and shows a sword that people believed was used to behead the city's patrons Saints Cosmas and Damian. People tend to connect the sword in the left shield with one found in the Cathedral Treasury. This sword, however, is much younger . A slightly modified and more heraldically correct version of the arms can be found on the roof of the Handelshof hotel near the main station.

Sister Cities

Essen's sister cities are:

Industry and infrastructure

Major companies based in Essen

Essen is seat to several large companies, among them Germany's fifth-largest industrial enterprise RWE AG. The ThyssenKrupp industrial conglomerate with its seats in Essen and Duisburg originates from a 1999 merger between Duisburg-based Thyssen AG and Essen-based Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp. Other companies in Essen include Germany's largest construction company, Hochtief AG (a former RWE subsidiary), as well as ALDI Nord, Arcandor AG, Medion AG and Deichmann (Europe's largest shoe retailer). With Eon-Ruhrgas AG, Germany's largest gas company also has its seat in Essen. The Coca-Cola Company had also originally established their German headquarters in Essen (around 1930), where it remained until 2003, when it was moved to the capital Berlin.


On the MESSE ESSEN fair grounds, some 50 trade fairs are held each year, among them the world's biggest consumer fair for gaming (SPIEL, also occasion of the presentation of the Essen Feather and of the Deutscher Spiele Preis), the FIBO (fitness & wellness) and YOU, the largest European youth fair. Other important fairs include E-WORLD - ENERGY & WATER, 'Security' (security and fire protection) and Essen Motor Show.


The Westdeutscher Rundfunk has a studio in Essen, which is responsible for the central Ruhr Area. Each day, it produces a 30-minute regional evening news magazine (called Lokalzeit Ruhr), a 5-minute afternoon news program, and several radio news programs. The Essen-based WAZ-Mediengruppe (WAZ Media Group) is one of the most important (print) media companies in Europe and publishes the Ruhr Area's two most important daily newspapers, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ; 580.000 copies) and Neue Ruhr/Rhein Zeitung (NRZ; 180.000 copies). In Essen, the WAZ Group also publishes the local Borbecker Nachrichten (at times Germany's largest local newspaper) and Werdener Nachrichten, both of which are formerly independent weekly newspapers for parts of Essen.


One renowned educational institution in Essen is the Folkwang Academy, a University of the Arts founded in 1927, with locations in Essen, Duisburg, Bochum and Dortmund.
The University of Duisburg-Essen, which resulted from a 2003 merger of the universities of Essen and Duisburg, is one of Germany's "youngest" universities. One of its primary research areas is urban systems (i.e., sustainable development, logistics and transportation), a theme largely inspired by the highly urbanized Ruhr area. Other fields include nanotechnology, discrete mathematics and "education in the 21st century". Another university in Essen is the private Fachhochschule für Oekonomie und Management, a university of applied sciences with over 6000 students and branches in 15 other major cities throughout Germany.


Essen offers a highly diversified health care system with more than 1,000 resident doctors, 350 dentists and almost 6,000 beds in 13 hospitals, including a university hospital. The university hospital dates back to 1909, when the city council established a municipal hospital; although it was largely destroyed during World War II, it was later rebuilt, and finally gained the title of a university hospital in 1963. It focuses on diseases of the circulatory system (West German Heart Centre Essen), oncology and transplantation medicine, with the department of bone marrow transplantation being the second-largest of its kind in the world.


The road network of Essen consists of 3,227 streets, which in total have a length of .


The Ruhrschnellweg (A40) runs directly through the city, dividing it roughly in half. A tunnel was built in the 1970s, when the then-Bundesstraße was upgraded to Autobahn standards, so that the A40 is hidden from public view in the inner-city district near the main station. As with most freeways in the Ruhr Area, the Ruhrschnellweg suffers from congestion during rush hours, which is why many people in the area do not call it Ruhrschnellweg (Ruhr fast way) but Ruhrschleichweg (Ruhr crawling way). Other major Autobahns include the A52, which crosses the city limits at Kettwig, continues past the fairground through the southern borough of Rüttenscheid, and then merges with the Ruhrschnellweg at the Autobahndreieck Essen-Ost junction. A proposed extension to replace B224 in the northern boroughs has not yet materialized. In the northern borough of Karnap, the A42 briefly touches Essen territory, serving as an interconnection between the cities of Oberhausen and Gelsenkirchen.

Public transport

Local transport is carried out by Essener Verkehrs-AG, a public company operating the Essen Stadtbahn (partly with used Docklands Light Rail stock), 7 tram and 48 bus lines (83 and total length, respectively). As a speciality, Essen has a Spurbus guided bus line on the median of the A40 autobahn connecting the city centre to the borough of Kray, as well as a Stadtbahn line on the median of the same autobahn leading towards Mülheim.
Via Essen Hauptbahnhof, the city is connected to the InterCityExpress network of high-speed trains and the general long distance networks operated by Deutsche Bahn. Minor so-called Regionalbahnhöfe (regional railway stations) are situated in the boroughs of Altenessen, Borbeck, Kray (south) and Steele, and 20 further S-Bahn stations in the whole urban area. The first railway line to run over now-Essen territory was the Köln-Mindener Eisenbahn, which opened in 1847 with a stop at Altenessen. The station still exists, though it was renamed from Essen to "Essen-Altenessen" when the Bergisch-Märkische Eisenbahn from Mülheim an der Ruhr to Bochum opened in 1862.
All local and DB regional traffic is subject to the fare structure of the VRR transportation association.

Sights in Essen

Zollverein Industrial Complex

Coal mine (built in 1932, closed in 1986) and coking plant (built in 1961, closed in 1993). Visitors now have access to the precincts, which frequently house temporary art exhibitions. Once the largest coal mine in the world, it has been awarded World Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO.

Villa Hügel

Built at the end of the 19th century by industrial magnate Alfred Krupp as a representative seat to his family, the real estate register solely lists the 269-room mansion () surrounded by a park of as a single-family house. Today, the mansion houses exhibitions and music concerts.

Essen Cathedral

A 14th-century cathedral with a westwork and crypt from the 10th century, rebuilt in 1958. It is not spectacular in appearance, but has some exquisite artworks from around 1000 AD on display in the attached treasure house: a crown of Emperor Otto III and the oldest preserved sculpture of the Virgin Mary in the world (Goldene Madonna, commonly referred to as Essen sein Schatz, to translate literally "Essen it´s treasure").

Alte Synagoge

The Jewish community inaugurated the synagogue in 1913. Destroyed by fire in the Nazi pogroms of 1938, it was restored after World War II. It stands as the largest synagogue north of the Alps.

Essen city hall

Germany's highest city hall (), built from 1971 to 1979. Free guided tours offer a view from the 22nd floor, overlooking the city from above ground.

RWE tower

The 2nd-highest skyscraper in North Rhine Westphalia and corporate headquarters of the second largest electric power company in Germany (after E.ON) RWE AG, situated across the street from the Aalto theatre (Opernplatz 1).

Aalto Theater

Popular opera house designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, opened in 1988.


Once a town of its own, it became a borough of Essen in 1929; the center of the town has partly retained its medieval townscape with many pubs and restaurants. It stands near the Lake Baldeney and hosts the Folkwang College of Music and Performing Arts.


Located south of the Ruhr river, and also once a town of its own, it was incorporated in 1975. Until today, residents of Kettwig can only be called using an area code different from that of the rest of Essen. Additionally (allegedly because of relatively high church tax incomes), the Archbishop of Cologne managed to keep Kettwig part of the Archbishopric of Cologne, whereas all other parts of Essen and some neighbouring cities constitute the Diocese of Essen (Ruhrbistum).

Notable residents


Essen in Arabic: إسن
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