BONN, a town of Germany, in the Prussian Rhine province, on the left bank of the Rhine, 15 m. S. by E. from Cologne, on the main line of railway to Mainz, and at the junction of the lines to the Eifel and (by ferry) to the right bank of the Rhine. Pop. (1885) 35,989; (1905) 81,997. The river is here crossed by a fine bridge (1896-1898), 1417 ft. in length, flanked by an embankment 2 m. long, above and parallel with which is the Coblenzer-strasse, with beautiful villas and pretty gardens reaching down to the Rhine. The central part of the town is composed of narrow streets, but the outskirts contain numerous fine buildings, and the appearance of the town from the river is attractive. There are six Roman Catholic and two Protestant churches, the most important of which is the Münster (minster), an imposing edifice of grey stone, in the Romanesque and Transition styles, surmounted by five towers, of which the central, rising to a height of 315 ft., is a landmark in the Rhine valley. The church dates from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, was restored in 1875 and following years and in 1890-1894 was adorned with paintings. Among other churches are the Stiftskirche (monasterial church), rebuilt 1879-1884; the Jesuitenkirche (1693); the Minoritenkirche (1278-1318), the Herz Jesu-kirche (1862) and the Marienkirche (1892). There is also a synagogue, and the university chapel serves as an English church. The town also possesses a town hall situate on the market square and dating from 1737, a fine block of law-court buildings, several high-grade schools and a theatre.
By far the finest of the buildings, however, is the famous university, which occupies the larger part of the southern frontage of the town. The present establishment only dates from 1818, and owes its existence to King Frederick William III. of Prussia; but as early as 1786 the academy which had been founded about nine years before was raised by Archbishop Maximilian Frederick of Cologne to the rank of a university, and continued to exercise its functions till 1794, when it was dissolved by the last elector. The building now occupied by the university was originally the electoral palace, constructed about 1717 out of the materials of the old fortifications. It was remodelled after the town came into Prussian possession. There are five faculties in the university - a legal, a medical, and a philosophic, and one of Roman Catholic and another Protestant theology. The library numbers upwards of 230,000 volumes; and the antiquarian museum contains a valuable collection of Roman relics discovered in the neighbourhood. Connected with the university are also physiological, pathological and chemical institutes, five clinical departments and a laboratory. An academy of agriculture, with a natural history museum and botanic garden attached, is established in the palace of Clemensruhe at Poppelsdorf, which is reached by a fine avenue about a mile long, bordered on both sides by a double row of chestnut trees. A splendid observatory, long under the charge of Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander, stands on the south side of the road. The Roman Catholic archiepiscopal theological college, beautifully situated on an eminence overlooking the Rhine, dates from 1892.
Beethoven was born in Bonn, and a statue was erected to him in the Münster-platz in 1845. B.G. Niebuhr is buried in the cemetery outside of the Sterntor, where a monument was placed to his memory by Frederick William IV. Here are also the tombs of A.W. von Schlegel, the diplomatist Christian Karl von Bunsen, Robert Schumann, Karl Simrock, E.M. Arndt and Schiller's wife. The town is adorned with a marble monument commemorating the war of 1870-71, a handsome fountain, and a statue of the Old Catholic bishop Reinkens. In 1889 a museum of Beethoven relics was opened in the house in which the composer was born. There are further a municipal museum, arranged in a private house since 1882, an academic art museum (1884), with some classic originals, a creation of F.G. Welcker, and the provincial museum, standing near the railway station, which contains a collection of medieval stone monuments and works of art, besides a small picture gallery.
One of the most conspicuous features of Bonn, viewed from the river, is the pilgrimage (monastic) church of Kreuzberg (1627), behind and above Poppelsdorf; it has a flight of 28 steps, which pilgrims used to ascend on their knees. "Der alte Zoll," commanding a magnificent view of the Siebengebirge, is the only remaining bulwark of the old fortifications, the Sterntor having been removed in order to open up better communication with the rapidly increasing western suburbs and the terminus of the light railway to Cologne.
But for its university Bonn would be a place of comparatively little importance, its trade and commerce being of moderate dimensions. Its principal industries are jute spinning and weaving, and the manufacture of porcelain, flags, machinery and beer, and it has some trade in wine. There are considerable numbers of foreign residents, notably English, attracted by the natural beauty of the place and by the educational facilities it affords.
Bonn (Bonna or Castra Bonnensia), originally a town of the Ubii, became at an early period the site of a Roman military settlement, and as such is frequently mentioned by Tacitus. It was the scene, in A.D. 70, of a battle in which the Romans were defeated by Claudius Civilis, the valiant leader of the Batavians. Greatly reduced by successive barbarian inroads, it was restored about 359 by the emperor Julian. In the centuries that followed the break-up of the Roman empire it again suffered much from barbarian attacks, and was finally devastated in 889 by bands of Norse raiders who had sailed up the Rhine. It was again fortified by Konrad von Hochstaden, archbishop of Cologne (1238-1261), whose successor, Engelbert von Falkenburg (d. 1274), driven out of his cathedral city by the townspeople, established himself here (1265); from which time until 1794 it remained the residence of the electors of Cologne. During the various wars that devastated Germany in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the town was frequently besieged and occupied by the several belligerents, but continued to belong to the electors till 1794, when the French took possession of it. At the peace of Lunéville they were formally recognized in their occupation; but in 1815 the town was made over by the congress of Vienna to Prussia. The fortifications had been dismantled in 1717.
See F. Ritter, Entstehung der drei ältesten Städte am Rhein: Köln, Bonn und Mainz (Bonn, 1851); H. von Sybel, Die Gründung der Universität Bonn (1868); and Führer von Hesse (10th ed., 1901).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)