In the early 13th century two trading settlements, CÕlln and Berlin, were founded on the site of modern Berlin. CÕlln, which was first mentioned in written records in 1237, stood on an island in the River Spree. Berlin, first mentioned in 1244, stood on the north bank opposite. In 1307 the two towns were united.

The Hohenzollern family Berlin-Cölln was part of the Brandenburg region. From the 15th century it was ruled by princes of the Hohenzollern family. These princes took over Berlin-Cölln, built a palace and made the city their capital. Between 1618 and 1648 Protestants and Roman Catholics from many European countries opposed each other in the Thirty Years’ War. Fighting raged in Berlin-Cölln and disease also swept through the city. About half of its 12,000 inhabitants had died by the end of this period. Powerful rulers In 1640 a new ruler took over in Brandenburg. This was Frederick William, known as the Great Elector . He built fortifications , canals, and houses in Berlin-Cölln, and brought about 6,000 Huguenots (French Protestants) to the city to replace inhabitants killed in the war. When Frederick William died in 1688, his son Frederick became Elector, and in 1701 was crowned King Frederick I. He controlled the territory of Prussia , an area which included Brandenburg. In 1709 the king united Berlin, Cölln, and three nearby towns to form the single city of Berlin.

Huguenots came to Berlin after their religion was banned in France in 1685. This imaginative picture shows the Great Elector welcoming them.


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