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In 1143 Adolf II, Count of Schauenburg and Holstein, founded the modern town as a German settlement on the river island of Bucu. He built a new castle, first mentioned by the chronicler Helmold as existing in 1147. Adolf had to cede the castle to the Duke of Saxony, Henry the Lion, in 1158. After Henry's fall from power in 1181 the town became an Imperial city for eight years. Emperor Barbarossa (r. 1152-1190) ordained that the city should have a ruling council of twenty members. With the council dominated by merchants, pragmatic trade interests shaped Lübeck's politics for centuries. The council survived into the 19th century. The town and castle changed ownership for a period afterwards and formed part of the Duchy of Saxony until 1192, of the County of Holstein until 1217, and of the kingdom of Denmark until the Battle of Bornhöved in 1227.

Around 1200 the port became the main point of departure for colonists leaving for the Baltic territories conquered by the Livonian Order and, later, by the Teutonic Order. In 1226 Emperor Frederick II elevated the town to the status of an Imperial Free City, by which it became the Free City of Lübeck.

In the 14th century Lübeck became the "Queen of the Hanseatic League", being by far the largest and most powerful member of that medieval trade organization. In 1375 Emperor Charles IV named Lübeck one of the five "Glories of the Empire", a title shared with Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence.


Three great seals of the city of Lübeck with the same legend and picture are known from the 13th century. The oldest, perhaps made at the occasion of the promotion of the city to a free Imperial city in 1226was used until 1253. The second known from two charters of 12 March 1256 was replaced in 1280 by a seal made by magister Alexander, incisor ymaginum atque pictor. Nevertheless the second seal was still used until the 19th century. [1]


Lübeck, first seal 1226

Lübeck, second seal 1253-‘56

Typar und moderner Abdruck

Æ 8,8 cm, rund. Messing mit kleiner Handhabe auf der Rückseite.

Umschrift: X sigillvm • bvrgensivm • de lvbeke.

© Museen für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Lübeck


Lübeck, third seal 1280


In the top of the mast a flag per fess which is thought to have been per fess Argent and Gules and the predessor of the Lübeck arms.


The two arms of Lübeck


For a long time Lübeck had two coats of arms, the first with the Imperial Eagle as a symbol for the Imperial Freedom and the other one of the parted per fess Argent and Gules. At the end of the 15th century bot emblems were combined and since then the arms per fess are on the breast of the Imperial Eagle. Nevertheles both arms in alliance became not altogether obsolete.


Silver so-called Sechsling of Lübeck, end 14th cent.


Coin of Lübeck 1502


The arms of a per fess [of Argent and Gules].


Terra cotta frieze by Statius von Düren (active 1551-‘56)


On the left an achievement of Lübeck, the arms per bend sinister, Argent and Gules, supported by two naked men. On the right the two-headed eagle of the Empire.


Memorial for Sweder Honer, chaplain of the fleet of Lübeck, 1556

St. Jacobi church, Lübeck


The ship decorated with the arms of the Empire and of Lübeck: per bend sinister Argent and Gules.


Achievement of Lübeck

On the back of a seat. St. Annen Museum (no date known, 16th century?)


Town Hall / Rathaus


Achievement of Lübeck

Facade of the Chancellery, Mengstraße 1614


An achievement of an alliance of the Empire and Lübeck. supported by two lions.


Lesser achievement

Outer Holsten Gate / Äußeres Holstentor, 1621

Holstentor Museum


The arms of Lübeck 1811-1813


From 1811-1813 Lübeck was a part of the French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. In connection therewith Lübeck was granted a new coat of arms on 1.1.1811. This was of the usual French imperial fashion with the three bees in a red chief. For the occasion the two-headed Imperial Eagle was reduced to a pair of wings. It was surrounded with the decorations of a Bonne Ville (a Good City) being the French Eagle issuant from a mural crown and a garland of oak and laurel hanging from a caduceus.

These arms were abandoned immediately after the fall of the French Empire in 1813.

During most of the 19th century the lesser achievement was preferred over the coat of arms with the Imperial eagle with the arms of Lübeck on its breast on a yellow field. [2]


The arms of Lübeck supported by a lady, 1895

Waiting room of the Imperial Court of Justice in Leipzig

Achievement of Lübeck

By H.G. Ströhl, 1896


The arms of Lübeck with crested helmet and two lions for supporters


Freie und Hansestadt Lübeck



Achievement of Lübeck by Otto Hupp


Lübeckische Landesverfassung

vom 23. Mai 1920

Allgemeine Bestimmungen.


Artikel 1. Der lübeckische Freistaat bildet unter dem Namen "Freie und Hansestadt Lübeck" einen selbständigen Staat des Deutschen Reiches.


Hansestadt Lübeck



Zweite Durchführungsverordnung zum Gesetz über Groß-Hamburg und andere Gebietsbereinigungen


vom 11. März 1937


Auf Grund des § 14 des Gesetzes über Groß-Hamburg und andere Gebietsbereinigungen vom 26. Januar 1937 (RGBl. I. S. 91) sowie auf Grund des § 119 Nr. 1 und des § 121 der Deutschen Gemeinedeordnung vom 30. Januar 1935 (RGBl. I. S. 49) wird folgendes verordnet:


Abschnitt I.


§ 3. (1) Die Stadt Lübeck führt die Bezeichnung "Hansestadt". Sie erhält die Befugnis, das Wappen und die Flagge zu führen, die vordem vom Land Lübeck geführt worden sind.



Abschnitt VI.


§ 11.Diese Verordnung tritt mit der Verkündung in Kraft.


      Berlin, den 11. März 1937

Der Reichminister des Innern


Quelle: Reichsgesetzblatt 1937 I. S. 301

Dr. Dr. A. Dehlinger, Systematische Übersicht über 76 Jhg. RGBl. (1867-1942), Kohlhammer Stuttgart 1943

© 7. März 2004




The present coat of arms of the city of Lübeck was adopted in 1997 and is designed by Prof. Kurt Weidemann.


Æ See illustration in the head of this article



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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-01-08




[1]  Die Zeit der Staufer, Kat. nr. 151, Abb. 81.

[2]  Picture: www.deutsche-schutzgebiete.de


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