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Regensburg a.d. Donau
The City of Regensburg is the largest urban center in the East of the Freistaat Bayern (Free State of Bavaria), Germany’s largest state. Regensburg, situated along the Donau, is the capital of the Bavarian province of Oberpfalz (Upper Palatine), with a population of approximately 130,000 people; it is the economic center of the east.
The city hosts three universities with the largest and most important being the Universität Regensburg. The historic city center, with a vast amount of buildings dating back to the 12th century, was named UNESCO World Heritage in 2006 and is attracting tourists from all over Europe. Being close to the Czech and Austrian borders, Regensburg considers itself “The Gate to the East” and holds strong relations to Eastern European cities.
Regensburg is well connected to other main cities in the State. Trains leave hourly to the state capital München, to Nürnberg, Bamberg, Ingolstadt, and others. There are also straight connections to the Czech capital Prague and the Austrian capital Wien. With just one stop on the way it is also very easy to get to the German Federal Capital of Berlin within 6 or 7 hours.
Most parts of the historic city center are car-free areas and for pedestrians only. Along the streets there is a huge variety of stores, restaurants, bakeries, bars, and cafés. Especially in summer, people sit outside the cafés, along the Donau (Danube River), or on one of the islands in the river; due to this “Mediterranean” atmosphere the city calls itself “the most northern city of Italy”. The entirely medieval city center is full of palaces, churches, and even ruins dating back to Roman times. The gothic cathedral of St Peter and the Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge) are the city’s main landmarks; the Basilika St. Emeram is a masterpiece of Southern German baroque architecture and the Basilika Unserer Lieben Frau zur Alten Kapelle (Basilica of Our Lady of the Old Chapel) is officially among the most beautiful churches in the state.
Regensburg is generally a pretty “traditional” city: local customs are preserved, traditions highly appreciated, and the Bavarian dialect Oberpfälzisch is widely spoken, which might make it hard for non-native speakers to understand people right away.
The approximately 20,000 students of the city’s universities (mainly from surrounding regions) add to Regensburg being a very “young” city. Many restaurants, clubs and bars offer specials for students all week long and many locations literally live on students.
Public transportation is very elaborate and works pretty well. Buses come and go every 15 to 30 minutes during daytime and are the best way to get around, since a ticket to use them freely all the time through the semester is included in the University of Regensburg student ID. Taxis are pretty expensive.
Student dorms are located throughout the city (center, periphery, …) since in Germany students do not live on campus. All of them, however, do have a good connection to buses so that it is no problem to get to the university or any other place in the city. They are predominantly cheap (approximately 200€/month), a meal plan is not included, and kitchen and bathrooms are shared.
The University of Regensburg was established in 1962 by the Bavarian Parliament as the 4th Bavarian State University. The inauguration with the Great Seal of the University of Regensburg being bestowed upon the young institution took place in 1967. Since then the University of Regensburg has offered a wide variety of majors and minors: theology, law, philosophy, history, mathematics, biology, medicine, chemistry, languages, sociology, business and public administration, physics, fine arts, psychology, etc. It gained nation-wide reputation for its medicine and biology programs, as well for those in economics, law, and languages. In 2008, about 16,000 students were registered at the university. Because of the geographical location the University of Regensburg considers itself a “bridge between East and West” and therefore offers special programs like the Europaeum or the Bohemicum. The university also founded the Department of Eastern European Studies.
The university has established a network of partnerships with schools all over the world (especially within the European Union, but also in Japan, China, the USA, Latin America, Australia, etc). Due to the character of these partnerships, each year the university hosts a huge number of students from foreign countries and offers foreign language classes like Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Korean, Yiddish, Portuguese, etc.
Language of education on German universities is generally German. The Language Department offers classes in foreign languages and lectures in English might also be found in the Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät (School of Business and Public Administration), but it is crucial to be aware of the fact that 95% of all classes are taught in German.
Due to new state legislation, the university has been charging tuition fees of 500€ per semester since 2007 and was consequently able to offer a larger number of classes, to expand its faculty, and to improve its libraries. Libraries are found throughout campus, i.e. each department has its own library where students can go to study.
Aside from the Mensa (main cafeteria), each school has its own cafeteria, where food and drinks can be purchased.
The campus is located on the Galgenberg, a suburb at the periphery of Regensburg. Four bus lines go there until very late, it generally takes about 5 minutes to get from campus to the city center. All buildings are very close to each other and most schools on campus are connected through underground passages or “skywalks”.
The History of Regensburg
The City of Regensburg can look back to a long history and is among the oldest cities in what is now Germany. Earliest settlements at the location between the rivers Donau and Regen probably began in the early Stone Age already. First descriptions of the place by Roman historians and travellers mention a Celtic town named Ratisbona. The Celtic settlement was probably founded in the 5th century B.C.
In the course of Roman expansion northwards into Southern Germany, the legions of Rome took over the town, and in the year 179 they established a stronghold and city which they called Castra Regina. The city remained the military headquarter of the Roman province of Raetia until Rome’s withdrawal, approximately around the year 400 A.D.
From 500 to 788, Regensburg was the capital of the Bavarian Dynasty of the Agolfinger and later became part of the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne. In 739, St Boniface established the Catholic diocese of Regensburg, making the city one of the oldest dioceses in whole Germany. Consequently, Regensburg fell under the rule of the local bishops. The city became one of the favourite residences of the East-Frankish rulers (several emperors and their wives are buried in the Abtei St. Emeram) and remained one of the most important cities within the Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation (Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation), which was established in 962.
The 12th century was a period of economic growth and prosperity due to the city’s location on the crossroad of important trade roads. Many palaces of rich citizens remain until today. In 1147, Emperor Konrad III started the Second Crusade in Regensburg, Emperor Friedrich I left the city for the Third Crusade in 1189. The city also started the construction of the Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge), one of the oldest bridges in Europe.
In 1230, the city was bestowed with important privileges by Emperor Friedrich II and eventually gained its sovereignty from the bishops. It was henceforth called Freie Reichsstadt (Free Imperial City), i.e. a city which owed allegiance to the Emperor only. In 1260, the city started the construction of the gothic Dom (cathedral). The following centuries, however, were characterized by economic decline and by problems within the community.
In 1487, the City Council and the Bavarian Duke Albrecht IV officially asked the Pope to establish a university in Regensburg. Despite of the papal confirmation of the petition the city could not afford the creation of such an institution.
In order to gain more independence from the bishop and the ever-growing Duchy of Bavaria, both always eager to take over the city, Regensburg officially became Lutheran in 1543. Political pressure on the city grew during the Thirty Years’ War and even more so due to the Bavarian annexation of Upper Palatine, the province surrounding the city. Catholicism was re-established in 1648.
Later on, Regensburg gained more importance due to the creation of the Immerwährender Reichstag (Permanent Imperial Diet) which resided in the city hall from 1663 to 1806. In 1800 Napoleon’s armies conquered the city, vandalized churches and ruined the city’s finances. After the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (Principal Conclusion of the Extraordinary Imperial Delegation) of 1803, Regensburg lost its privileges as a free city and was eventually annexed by the Kingdom of Bavaria. Centuries of sovereignty of the “most noble Free City of Regensburg” came to an end.
In the 19th century, Regensburg faced an incredible economic decline and became the Armenhaus (house of the poor) of Bavaria; it slipped into complete unimportance. The city suffered under the rule of the National Socialists (1933 – 1945): the synagogue was burned down and the Jewish population deported. Fortunately, and quite ironically because of its economic and political insignificance, Regensburg did not face a lot of destruction caused by Allied bombing during the last months of the Second World War, and could preserve its medieval character until today.
Since 1945, Regensburg has been an economically growing city and it is now the fifth largest city in the State. The establishment of the University of Regensburg and of factories such as Siemens, Toshiba, or BMW have contributed immensely to this development. In 1997 the city received the Europapreis for its contribution to European integration, in 2006 the city center became a UNESCO World Heritage.