Institute for Urban History (Frankfurt am Main)

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The Carmelite Monastery has been the seat of the Institute for City History since 1959

The Institute for Urban History in Frankfurt am Main , historically also the city ​​archive , has been the successor organization to the city archive founded in 1436 and one of the most important municipal collections of its kind in Germany. Together with the Archaeological Museum , it is located in the historic rooms of the Carmelite Monastery in the west of the old town .


Prehistory up to the construction of Frauenrode

Certificate of Emperor Charles III. dated December 2, 882
( ink on parchment )

The oldest surviving document of the Institute for City History, which comes from Frankfurt itself, was on December 2, 882 by the Carolingian ruler Karl III. displayed. Like almost all written documents from the time before the beginning of municipal self-government, it has its origins in the archives of the Salvator and later Bartholomew Foundation, founded in 852 under Ludwig II . The city of Frankfurt as such is difficult to grasp at this time, it consisted of the archaeologically proven royal palace and the Salvatorkirche , the predecessor of the Frankfurt Imperial Cathedral in almost the same place.

It is certain that functioning documentation systems for legal transactions were maintained as early as Carolingian times , such as B. the Lorsch Codex shows. An equally rich Frankfurt equivalent, whether by hand as an official of the Royal Palatinate or by monastery brothers, has not survived for unknown reasons, so that the tradition of around 350 years from the 9th to the early 13th centuries is limited to a few dozen documents from the monastery archives remains.

The year 1219 marks a turning point in this regard: in a document dated August 15 of this year, the Staufer King Friedrich II gave the city a piece of land to build the Leonhard Church . It is far more important that in the following text the township is mentioned in its entirety for the first time and placed under imperial protection. This is the first privilege of the city that until now the Imperial Bailiwick two from 1194 detectable Reeves shelter. With the abolition of the bailiwick by Frederick II in 1220, this task was transferred to the imperial mayor . At the same time, the tradition is now becoming exponentially denser. It is therefore conceivable that the Bailiwick kept its own archive, which was never merged with the city archive.

Altes Rathaus am Dom, 1405
( pen drawing on paper)

It was only with the emergence of municipal self-government in the second half of the 13th century that the real history of an urban archive began. 1266 were first documented councilors mentioned as representatives of the citizens, 1311 is one of the first elected mayor seen as the year in which the administration finally became independent. The administration of the city documents, especially the privileges that are important for the position of the city, was in the hands of the city ​​clerk in this early period . The old town hall, which was first mentioned in 1264 and stood on the site of today's cathedral tower, was probably the depository.

The Leonhardsturm on the banks of the Main, 1395–1436 seat of the city archive, 1628
( copper engraving by Matthäus Merian the Elder )

From the beginning of the 14th century, the number of official registers kept chronologically by year grew exponentially, as has already been secured by the rich tradition of this time. The most important surviving evidence of those years are the citizen registers from 1311, in which the new admissions to the citizenship were recorded. From the middle of the same century, factual files for external correspondence were added.

Before moving into the new town hall on Römerberg , the archive was moved to the Leonhardsturm in 1395 , which the town had built next to the church of the same name on the banks of the Main. Undoubtedly, this measure was only an emergency solution due to a lack of space, since the documents so important for the position of the city were in a building in front of the city wall, which was primarily intended for defense purposes and could easily become a target in times of crisis .

House Frauenrode up to secularization

Golden swan, to the right of it the archive tower of Haus Frauenrode, around 1900
(photography by Carl Friedrich Mylius )

When the move to the new town hall was completed in 1408, the city acquired the Frauenrode house to the west of the Golden Swan in 1424 . In 1436 and 1437 the archive tower of the same name was erected here under city architect Eberhard Friedberger , which remained the core of the council archive until modern times . The massive tower was provided with three fire-proof vaults arranged one above the other , called the lower, middle and upper vaults. A classification system derived from this is the reason why many of the older archives of the Institute for City History are still labeled as lower , middle or upper vault files (also abbreviated as Ugb, Mgb, Ogb) to this day.

Since the city has never been afflicted by wars for centuries despite all the hardships and was also spared the conflagrations of the Middle Ages , the city's archival holdings continued to grow. In 1614, the town clerk was replaced by his own office in his role as administrator of the archive. The importance that the city attached to the tradition, which was already rich at that time, becomes clear in the fact that it was not simple officials, but learned jurists who performed their duties here. At the beginning of the 18th century, Achilles Augustus von Lersner , one of those scholars, dealt with the history of the city of Frankfurt for the first time using documented sources and published the widely-famous Freyen Imperial, Elective and Trade City of Franckfurt am Mayn Chronica, a historical work that is still important today.

After it had been in the mid-18th century from lack of space first outsourcing, which in 1803 with the set Reichsdeputationshauptschluss carried secularization of archival point of view, a major problem. For example, the extensive, well-down in urban property were stocks of some nearly a thousand years old pen archives different locations outsourced, e.g. B. the profaned rooms of the Dominican and Carmelite monasteries , the Eschenheimer tower , the rent tower or the city ​​scales next to the screen house on the Weckmarkt . The files of the Reich Chamber of Commerce concerning Frankfurt , extensive holdings of several centuries, were also added.

19th century to World War II

The intellectual movement of the 19th century brought changes to the structures of the city archive, which had been untouched for generations. Up until now, the focus was primarily on collecting and indexing archive material, but now an era of research and development of the rich tradition has begun. Using documented sources, Johann Georg Battonn and Anton Kirchner wrote standard works on the history and topography of the city and with their work laid the foundations for modern Frankfurt historiography.

Johann Friedrich Böhmer, 1845
(oil painting by Amélie de Barrelier )

Under Johann Friedrich Böhmer , city archivist from 1825, there were first attempts to organize the huge holdings and to make them accessible via regesta works , for which his Codex diplomaticus Moeno-Francofurtanus published in 1836 in a revised edition from 1901 to today is decisive. Under Georg Ludwig Kriegk , city archivist from 1863 to 1875, they went one step further when he published numerous collections of popular science articles based on archival sources that made the significance of the city archive accessible to the general public. In addition, like his predecessors, he also made a name for himself by continuously reorganizing and indexing the archives through repertories . During his time, the holdings were divided into a city ​​archive I with the files up to 1868 and a city ​​archive II with the files after 1868, which was already specified in the archive regulations that existed today (see section on the holdings).

In 1874, the late medieval city scales on the Weckmarkt were demolished and a dedicated archive building in neo-Gothic style was built on the same site until 1877 under cathedral builder Franz Josef Denzinger . In addition to 950 square meters of archive space, it offered almost 5 kilometers of shelving and until 1904 reunited the two parts of the city archive that had been spatially separated since 1866. These included the valuable old holdings of the City Archives I from Haus Frauenrode, after this had to give way to the new historic town hall at the turn of the century with other older annex buildings from the Roman . From 1876 to 1887 Hermann Grotefend headed the city archive. His successor, Rudolf Jung , who was in office from 1888 to 1922, is still the most important city archivist today. The system of archival material he introduced is still valid today. At the end of the 19th century, the archive grew again by leaps and bounds by taking over local archives from numerous incorporated suburbs as well as the files of the Higher Appeal Court of the four Free Cities of the German Confederation .

Canvas house and neo-Gothic city archive, 1898
(photography by Max Junghändel )

After the start of collecting historical documentation material in 1932, a counseling center for family research and ancestry followed in 1933 when the National Socialists came to power . Due to new media such as photographs and the collection of sound carriers in the form of records , there were again space problems at the end of the 1930s, so that parts of the archive had to be relocated to Domplatz 8 . Nevertheless, another new building would have been inevitable in the medium term, as reports on multiple use of shelves and the expansion of the archive rooms into the attic rooms that were not actually created for this purpose suggest.

Along with the historical archive of the city of Cologne, the archive was the largest of its kind in Germany at the time; the archive inventory comprised over 10 kilometers of shelves, including 100,000 individual documents. For unexplained reasons, the relocation of the irreplaceable old stocks in particular was delayed, although it had been clear since 1942 at the latest that Frankfurt am Main would also be the target of major air raids . A bombing raid on January 29, 1944 almost completely destroyed the city archives on Weckmarkt with six direct hits from high explosive bombs. Anything that had not yet been relocated was destroyed on September 12 of the same year. According to current knowledge, a total of 6.5–7 shelf kilometers of files fell victim to the flames. The well-known March attacks in 1944, which destroyed the entire medieval old town, did not damage any of the deposits in the city archive.

Post-war to the present

After 1945, the rescued holdings were partly in air raid shelters in Praunheim , partly in the slightly damaged house at Domstrasse 9, and from May 1947 onwards they were poorly managed from here under the direction of archive director Hermann Meinert . Similar to the reconstruction, which paid little attention to the history, importance and topography of the city before 1945, the archives were also neglected for almost a decade and a half. Since the old archival order had been completely torn apart by destruction and relocation, even experts were hardly able to work properly during these years. It was not until 1959 that the city archives, under its new director Dietrich Andernacht, initially got their own offices again in the Carmelite monastery, which at that time was a makeshift war ruin itself.

However, with the resolution of the city council on August 30, 1962, the former sacred building was permanently raised to accept the city's archives. After further emergency solutions, which u. a. meant the storage of almost 10 km of stocks in the wholesale market hall , a three-storey underground warehouse with 1,700 square meters and 9.8 kilometers of shelving was built in 1972 as part of the underground construction in front of the Carmelite monastery. Despite the fact that there are still external magazines, it has since housed the core of the city archive's collection. By the mid-1980s, the files were back to 16 kilometers of shelves; in 2003 it was over 30 kilometers.

During these years of reconstruction, Wolfgang Klötzer did significant work. He had already been the deputy head of the institute since 1960 and took over its management in 1983, which he held for another seven years. His work is characterized above all by the publication of a large number of writings on the history of Frankfurt, including numerous popular scientific works. In the decades after the war, these were able to arouse the low interest in the history of Frankfurt among the general public for a long time. One of his most important works is the two-volume Frankfurter Biographie (1994–1996), the first source-critical collection of biographies of Frankfurt personalities from all walks of life and from all ages.

Under Dieter Rebentisch , head of the archive since 1991, there was an urgently needed overhaul of the structures of the city archive in the 1990s. In 1992, the institution was renamed the Institute for City History, with the premise of converting the office, which had hitherto been of interest almost exclusively to specialist audiences, into a modern service center. This found practical expression in 1999 in the opening of a generally accessible reading, exhibition and lecture hall in the former dormitory of the monastery. The opening times, which also extend to the weekends, are generous even in a national comparison. The fire files that had not been viewed since the Second World War , a total of 102 Wehrmacht crates , were inspected under the vines and around 12 meters of shelves were recovered from stocks that were believed to have been lost.

Since June 2004, Evelyn Brockhoff , deputy director since 1996, is the first woman to head the Institute for Urban History. One of the most important innovations in recent years is the successive indexing of the holdings via a generally accessible Internet archive database. 2006–2010 the rooms of the Institute for Urban History were extensively renovated and modernized.


The Bürgerbuch I from 1311/12 is the oldest evidence of the Frankfurt municipal administration
(ink on parchment)

The holdings of the city archive are essentially divided into three large parts, the sub-areas of which are structured according to a decadal order: the city ​​archive until 1868 , the city ​​archive from 1868 and, thirdly, the newer collections . The first part of the archive contains the files of the Imperial City of Frankfurt from the Middle Ages to 1806 as well as the church archives that were taken over until 1802. Furthermore, the documents of the Principality or Grand Duchy of Frankfurt between 1806 and 1816 and of the Free City of Frankfurt until the final integration into the Prussian state are located here in the year 1868. The archive part from 1868 consists primarily of the files of the community organs and the office registers from 1868 as well as archives taken over after 1868 of the suburbs incorporated.

The collections, on the other hand, are not arranged chronologically, but thematically and media-related. Here are u. a. the collection of contemporary history, which has been kept since 1932, the poster collection , the map collection or the preserved legacies, aristocratic and family archives. Of great importance is the collection of around 140,000 images from audiovisual media, made up of countless photographs, slides , films and tape recordings . Graphics, on the other hand, are only represented in small numbers, as these are primarily archived and collected by the Historical Museum . A rough breakdown of the extensive picture inventory is given by its three-part division into the sections Frankfurt before the destruction in 1944 , the destroyed city 1943 / 44-1950 and reconstruction and development since 1950 .

Losses and important preserved archive material

The losses of the Second World War to the old holdings, i.e. the archive up to 1868, whose almost complete transmission made the Frankfurt City Archive stand out from other municipal archives, weighed heavily. So burned u. a. the Bedebücher of the Middle Ages, which allowed conclusions to be drawn about the social structure of the city far beyond tax revenue, but also construction and arithmetic books, from which all city editions were traceable over centuries.

Plan drawing of the cathedral tower by Madern Gerthener, approx. 1420

In connection with the destruction of the old town, the loss of practically all files related in any way to the building construction before 1945 is also serious, as many of them also go back to the Middle Ages. Not only new buildings, but also any structural changes to existing buildings were meticulously documented here. Today, archival material on building projects from the late 19th / early 20th century and indirectly via files from other offices, such as floor plans for the city drainage system, are preserved.

Other losses that are regrettable from a local historical point of view are the files of the Senate of the Free City of Frankfurt, files on the constitutional dispute with the Imperial Commissions in the early 18th century, almost all correspondence with the church and on secularization (Acta ecclesiastica), and other parts of the war files (including the Schmalkaldic and Thirty Years' War ) as well as contemporary documents from the municipal trade office, which demonstrated the elimination of Jews from economic life.

Among the important old holdings that have been preserved are v. a. the privileges of counting first and foremost the Golden Bull of 1356, the codes of law, edicts and council ordinances, which have been passed down in great completeness since the Middle Ages. Important surviving files of the otherwise badly damaged archives of the city organs in the Middle Ages are the mayor's books, council and senate minutes as well as the citizens' books.

Extensive evidence has also been preserved of the bourgeois representations in Römer that have appeared since the 17th century, as well as of the foreign correspondence from the middle of the 14th century. In this context, the rich tradition of house deeds since the 14th century is also of importance, most of which come from private property and thus allow an insight into the bourgeois conditions of their time, which is no longer given due to the loss of the bedbooks.

The files in the monastery archives should first be mentioned as being of significance beyond the city limits, especially those of the Bartholomäusstift , which at times was one of the most important of its kind in the entire Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . These are not only direct documents from the monastery, but also individual items, such as the original plans for the cathedral tower drawn on parchment by town builder Madern Gerthener at the beginning of the 15th century .

The files on the activities of the Frankfurt criminal justice system since the 16th century (Criminalia), which alone take up 128 meters of shelf space, as well as the material on the foundation and poor system and social institutions of the High Middle Ages are also extremely complete.


  • 2011: Frankfurt's memory , exhibition for the 575th anniversary of the archive in the Carmelite monastery
  • 2012: Frankfurt ahoy! 100 Years of the Osthafen 1912–2012 , exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of Frankfurt's Osthafen
  • 2012/2013: Goethe's Frankfurt 1749 to 1775 / The constellation was happy ... , exhibition as part of the Goethe Festival with a complementary series of lectures
  • 2014: Home / Front. Frankfurt am Main in the air war . Catalog.

See also


General works on the city archive / Institute for city history

  • Rudolf Jung: The Frankfurt City Archives. Its holdings and its history , Verlag Baer, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1909 ALO
  • Hermann Meinert: The City Archives Frankfurt a. M. in World War II . In: Archive for Frankfurt's History and Art. Fifth episode. First volume. First issue . Waldemar Kramer publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1948
  • Konrad Bund: 1436–1986. 550 years of the Frankfurt am Main City Archives. A brief overview of its holdings . Waldemar Kramer publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1986
  • Sabine Hock : A tightrope walker between preservation and renewal , in: Wochendienst, No. 37 of September 23, 2003, Press and Information Office of the City of Frankfurt am Main (ed.), Frankfurt am Main 2003 ( online )
  • The Institute for Urban History. Since 1436 the memory of Frankfurt , ed. v. Evelyn Brockhoff. Frankfurt a. M., Wiesbaden 2013

Regesta works and source editions

  • Dietrich Andernacht , Otto Stamm, Erna Berger: The citizen books of the imperial city of Frankfurt . Waldemar Kramer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1955–1978 (two volumes)
  • Dietrich Andernacht : Regesta on the history of the Jews in the imperial city of Frankfurt am Main from 1401–1616 . Hahn, Hanover 1996–2007 (six volumes)
  • Johann Friedrich Boehmer , Friedrich Lau: Document book of the imperial city Frankfurt . Joseph Baer & Co, Frankfurt am Main 1901–1905 (two volumes)
  • Karl Bücher , Benno Schmidt: Frankfurt official and guild documents up to 1612 . Joseph Baer & Co, Frankfurt am Main 1914–1915 (three volumes)
  • Richard Froning, Rudolf Jung : Sources on Frankfurt history . Carl Jügel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1884–1888 (two volumes)
  • Armin Wolf: The laws of the city of Frankfurt am Main in the Middle Ages . Waldemar Kramer publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1969
  • Isidor Kracauer : Document book on the history of the Jews in Frankfurt am Main from 1150-1400 . Verlag J. Kaufmann, Frankfurt am Main 1914 ( Volume 1: Documents, arithmetic books, Bedebücher ; Volume 2: Citizens' books, court books, grave inscriptions, registers )


  • Konrad Bund: Finding aid of the epitaph books and the heraldic books . Frankfurt am Main, Waldemar Kramer Verlag, 1987
  • Konrad Bund: Finding aid for the Lersnermanuscripts . Frankfurt am Main, Waldemar Kramer Verlag, 1988
  • Konrad Bund: Finding aid for the holdings of the Dutch Congregation Augsburg Confession . Frankfurt am Main, Waldemar Kramer Verlag, 1988
  • Konrad Bund: Finding aid for the inventory of council elections and appointments to offices in the Reich and Free City of Frankfurt am Main . Frankfurt am Main, Waldemar Kramer Verlag, 1989
  • Konrad Bund: Finding aid for the inventory of municipal books relating to the St. Bartholomäusstift . Frankfurt am Main, Waldemar Kramer Verlag, 1993
  • Roman Fischer: Finding aid for the holdings of Frankenstein fiefdoms . Frankfurt am Main, Verlag Waldemar Kramer, 1992
  • Hermann Grotefend , Rudolf Jung , Association for History and Archeology in Frankfurt am Main (ed.): Inventories of the Frankfurt City Archives , Verlag Völcker, Frankfurt am Main 1888–1892
  • Inge Kaltwasser: Inventory of the files of the Reich Chamber Court 1495–1806 . Waldemar Kramer publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 2000

Secondary literature, which today has the rank of source works due to the war losses

  • Karl books : The population of Frankfurt am Main in the XIV. And XV. Century. Social statistical studies . Laupp, Tübingen 1886 ( digitized  - Internet Archive ), social statistics based on the Bedebücher burned in the Second World War
  • Alexander Dietz : Frankfurt trade history . Herman Minjon Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1910-25 wikisource , five volumes, according to the author, compiled over decades from sources in the city archive, indispensable because the area of ​​economic history has suffered severe damage
  • Ernst Georg Gerhard: History of the secularization in Frankfurt am Main . Schöningh, Paderborn 1935
  • Julius Hülsen, Rudolf Jung , Carl Wolff : The architectural monuments of Frankfurt am Main . Self-published / Völcker, Frankfurt am Main 1896–1914 ( digital copies ), three volumes, standard work on Frankfurt's architectural history
  • Walther Karl Zülch: Frankfurt artist 1223–1700. Diesterweg, Frankfurt am Main 1935 (= Publications of the Historical Commission of the City of Frankfurt am Main 10), source-critical standard work on Frankfurt art history based largely on archival materials that no longer exist

Web links


Unless otherwise stated, the historical presentation follows the work of Konrad Bund and is supplemented in the modern part with information from the article by Sabine Hock (both see literature).

  1. Michael Matthäus: Frankfurt's oldest document ( memento of the original from October 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , in: Newsletter of the Institute for Urban History, No. 1 from August 2003 (online publication). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ↑ Printed in full length by Johann Friedrich Boehmer, Friedrich Lau: Urkundenbuch der Reichsstadt Frankfurt . Volume I 794-1314. J. Baer & Co, Frankfurt am Main 1901–1905, pp. 23f., Certificate No. 47.
  3. ^ Friedrich Bothe: History of the City of Frankfurt am Main . Publishing house by Moritz Diesterweg, Frankfurt am Main 1913, p. 65; Bothe mentions a document that was issued ante domum consilii (= in front of the town hall). In a document that has survived, it was first mentioned in a document in 1288 as domus consilii Frankenvordensis ; Printed in full length by Johann Friedrich Boehmer, Friedrich Lau: Urkundenbuch der Reichsstadt Frankfurt . Volume I 794-1314. J. Baer & Co, Frankfurt am Main 1901–1905, pp. 262–263, certificate no. 544, May 25, 1288.
  4. Carl Wolff, Rudolf Jung (arrangement): The architectural monuments of Frankfurt am Main. Vol. 2 Secular Buildings, self-published / Völcker, Frankfurt am Main 1898, pp. 21–23.
  5. Carl Wolff, Rudolf Jung (arrangement): The architectural monuments of Frankfurt am Main. Vol. 2 Secular Buildings, self-published / Völcker, Frankfurt am Main 1898, pp. 247–248.
  6. ^ Armin Schmid: Frankfurt in the firestorm. The history of the city in World War II . Verlag Frankfurter Bücher, Frankfurt am Main 1965, pp. 84–86.
  7. Helmut Nordmeyer: Institute for City History Frankfurt in the Carmelite Monastery: renovation 2006–2010 . In: Archivnachrichten aus Hessen 10.2 (2010), pp. 45–47.
  8. Frankfurt's memory in: FAZ of September 10, 2011, page 57
  9. ^ The heart of the industrial city in: FAZ of May 24, 2012, page 37
  10. Frankfurt blog: Goethe's constellation was happy
  11. Who sows the wind, will reap the storm in FAZ from January 11, 2014, page 35

Coordinates: 50 ° 6 ′ 33 ″  N , 8 ° 40 ′ 41 ″  E