Essen's emergence as an secular town in 1803 is almost coincident with its industrialization. The town has its origins in the 9th century with a nunnery (Damenstift) which then came to control the area as a 'mini-state', its abbess eventually bearing the title of Fürstin-Abtissin (princess-abbess) and having a seat in the Reichstag. In 1377, the Town Council was nominally given some independent rights but there appears to have been some sort of perpetual strife between the Town Council and the numery as to who controlled the town - right up until the time the nunnery and its influence was abolished in 1803 under Napoleon. This ambiguity reached comic-tragic proportions when the Town Council decided the town should become Protestant, and when during the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 the abbess called in Spanish troops to assert their own religious 'outlook'.

Becoming fully independent of the Catholic order, the town almost immediately became dominated by the Krupp company. By 1890, Krupp employed 20,000 of the 60,000 population of the town.

The Cathedral


Burgplatz, Essen

The above image shows the Burgplatz with the present-day Cathedral which is the the former church (Münster) of the nunnery. The 106 meter high Rathaus is in the background.

The nunnery was not an 'ordinary' nunnery, but rather intended as residence and educational institution for daughters and widows of the higher nobility - no members apart from the abbess herself were obliged to take vows of chastity. During the 10th century (while the abbess was a granddaughter of the Emperor Otto I) the abbey was endowed with various precious objects such as the oldest preserved seven branched candelabrum; and the Golden Madonna of Essen, the oldest known sculpture of the Virgin Mary in the world.Golden Madonna of Essen See Domschatz for details of other treasures

The nunnery was founded in 870 by Altfrid of Hildesheim and his sister Gerswida became the first abbess. As mentioned right at the top, there was long-standing friction between the nunnery and the Town Council. During the Thirty Years War (1618-48), the abbess Maria Klara von Spaur invited Italian and Spanish troops to invade her own town.

The last abbess of Essen, Maria Kunigunde engaged in the iron industry, coal mines and building highways. These were private investments on her part so that when Essen was secularized under Napoleon, she was able to keep her industrial possessions and eventually sold them at great profit.

The Rathaus


The Rathaus is the highest in Germany with 23 stories (plus 5 underground). There is an observation deck on the 22nd. storey.



Probably the largest in Deutschland, the Old Synagogue was set ablaze during Kristallnacht, although it was of such robust construction it could not be destroyed without taking adjacent buildings with it.

Being acquired by the City of Essen, in 1980 a decision was made to change its role into a memorial institution and venue for an exhibition of resistance and persecution in Essen during the Nazi period. It was complemented in 1988 by a further exhibition on "Stages of Jewish Life". In 2008 the Rat of Essen decided to further develop it into a house of Jewish culture. The interior was newly designed, and approximated its original appearance again. The new permanent exhibition centers around the themes of the history of the building, the history the Jewish community in Essen, the source of Jewish traditions, Jewish festivals and the Jewish Way of Life: via a touch screen you can invoke the Jewish worlds from nine cities.





Coal was originally mined in drift mines close to the River Ruhr. As you move North, the coal lies deeper and required steam engines to operate at the depths required. In the later half of the 19th.century the coal industry did tend to move northwards away from the Ruhr, into the general Emscher area.

Zollverein Colliery, Essen The Zollverein was the largest coal mine ever in Europe, begun in 1847 (by Franz Haniel) and once employing 3 000 people. Shaft 12, which is the one shown in the picture, was built in 1932 when the mine was owned by Vereinigte Stahlwerke, the second-largest steel company in the world at the time, behind U.S. Steel. Its architects were Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer from the Bauhaus.

The mine was closed in 1987 (or maybe 1986 - references differ).

The Ruhrlmuseum is now located in the washery. Schurenbachhalde, Essen

The Zollverein used to use the Schurenbachhalde as a tip. It is now crowned with the 15m high 'Bramme for the Ruhrgebiet' by Richard Serrra (see also Bochum where his sculpture 'Terminal' caused much controversy initially).

former Krupp Area


Colosseum Theater, Essen The large Krupp installation was build up outside the Limbecker Gate, now the location of a recent shopping center (follow Limbecker Strasse on a map). Although virtually nothing is left of the original works, the Colosseum Theater you see immediately opposite the shopping center was the 8th. Mechanischen Werkstatt (mechanical workshop) of the Krupp works.

Krupp Stammhaus, Essen The Krupp Stammhaus has been re-constructed near its original site, at Altendorfer Strasse 100 (about 100 meters away from the original site). The original house was the house inside the works into which the family had to move in 1824 after their financial plight meant they had to sell their previous residences. Later the family moved into an adjacent more upmarket house nearby (before their move to Villa Hügel) and the original was just left unmaintained. When this original house was restored with a view to making it some sort of representative building, it was not an accurate restoration for the simple reason that by then even the Krupps couldn't remember properly what it looked like originally. Unsurprisingly it was severely damaged in the war. In 1961 it was re-constructed to celebrate the 150 year anniversary of the company.

The Krupps

Firearms were a traditional industry in Essen from early times (ca. from 1500 onwards), so it is unusual that this should be some sort of pre-cursor to the much larger trade in armaments which marked Essen greatly during its more recent history. (1620 is seen as a peak year when 15,000 rifles and pistols were manufactured)

There is an attempt to trace the Krupp involvement in steel back to the 16th century. However at the start of the 19th century, its industrial output was mainly in 'kitchenware' - pots and pans and similar. A much higher grade of metal would be needed to enter its next stage. Also they had a grocery shop and accommodation on the Flax Market.

Friedrich Krupp is often denoted as the founder of the modern company in 1811. In reality he left the company almost bankrupt. The Continental Blockade had cut off supplies of cast steel from Britain and Napoleon offered a prize of 4,000 francs to anyone who could come up with the method. The Krupp factory employed the von Kechel brothers who succeed in producing cast steel but only in uneconomic quantities. The works were shut down . A couple more unsuccessful business attempts also foundered.

In 1812, Friedrich was appointed Municipal Councillor and thus became a representative of a foreign administration (this is despite of a wave of anti-French feeling in the wake of their unsuccessful Russian venture). He built defences for the French as Prussian troops advanced, but as soon as the French were thrown out he became a local representative of the Prussian Government.

In 1819, he set up business on land outside the actual city, adjacent to the Limbecker Gate By 1824, things had gone so badly, he had to sell his house on the Flax market and move into a house in the works itself.He died in 1826.

The business was inherited by his son, Alfred, the so-called 'Cannon King'. He was a notoriously unscruplous person who relished supplying both sides in a conflict if he could. His so-called welfare schemes do not stand up to much examination. The housing he provided for his workers was seemingly run on a commercial basis (i.e. not subsidised) for the most part.

Steam power was introduced in the 1830s and it was around this time that the Zollverein opened up markets in large areas of Deutschland. In 1833, he employed 11 workers, raising to about 100 by 1840.

The arrival of railways proved a great boost. The works is especially credited with producing seamless railway tyres - the firm's symbols is three interlocking railway tyres (although the Bochumer Verein also claimed to have invented these tyres, using a different method). In the 1840s the firm started to move into armaments - originally small arms but then cannon.

It is interesting to note that Krupp spent six months in Torquay in the 1870s after the Franco-Prussian War meant his usual resort in France was not available.

The successor to Alfred was Fritz in 1887.

Despite Deutschland being neutral during the Boer War, Krupp supplied arms to Britain by adopting devious methods of supplying the weapons, whilst denying the situation.

Fritz died in 1902 just as he was facing charges of perversion, so obviously suspicions existed about suicide. No post-mortem was carried out and a legal action against the Socialist newspaper Vorwärts, who had been publishing the sordid details of the case, was dropped. He had previously attracted the attention of the Italian police and newspapers because of activities at his residence on Capri.

The official heir was the 16-year daughter, Bertha, but her mother Margarethe became the de facto. head. As a result of her reaction to her husband's actions, she had been in an institution with her mental health being examined, and only narrowly missed being fully committed to a mental hospital (the implication being that there was actually nothing wrong with her at all - the 'memtal health' aspects being a result of her being fitted up). On marrying Bertha, leadership of the firm was taken on by Gustav von Bohlen and Halbach, who adopted the Krupp name (on the insistence of the Kaiser). He joined the board in 1906. Gustav was the only person to be indicted as a war criminal after both the First and Second World Wars.

The next heir, Alfried, joined the S.S. in 1933. In 1933, Krupp factories began producing tanks in what was officially part of the Agricultural Tractor Scheme. They also built submarines in Holland and new weapons were developed and tested in Sweden.

In 1943 Hitler appointed Krupp as Minister of the War Economy. Later that year the SS gave him permission to employ 45,000 Russian civilians as forced labour in his steel factories as well as 120,000 prisoners of war in his coalmines. In 1950, it was believed that German steel was needed for armaments for the Korean War and in October, the 11 million ton limitation on German steel production was lifted. America also pardoned German industrialists who had been convicted at Nuremberg. This included Fritz Ter Meer, the senior executive of I. G. Farben, the company that produced Zyklon B poison for the gas chambers. He was also Hitler's Commissioner of for Armament and War Production for the chemical industry during the war. Adanauer requested clemency for Krupp. McCloy also decided to free included Friedrich Flick, one of the main financial supporters of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). During the Second World War Flick became extremely wealthy by using 48,000 slave labourers from SS concentration camps in his various industrial enterprises. It is estimated that 80 per cent of these workers died as a result of the way they were treated during the war. His property was restored to him and like Krupp became one of the richest men in Germany. Within a few years of his release Krupp's company was the 12th largest corporation in the world

Krupp housing was largely destroyed during the war but composed a large proportion of slum housing. Still existing examples of Krupp housing are to be seen at Margaretenhöhe and Altdorf, which are often used to portray a (non-existant) Krupp philanthropism. Only 450 houses were available for retired personnel at a time when the firm employed about 70,000 workers (in about 1900-10)

Housing allowed the firm to exert enormous control over the city during the 19th century. It was already made clear that workers would be dismissed for disagreeable attitudes, support for socialism, voting the wrong way, etc. etc. and any victims would lose their accommodation immediately. Prohibitions on political attitudes were extended to home life and Krupp inspectors were empowered to enter accommodation to search for any 'banned' literature or newspapers and the like. Contributions to pension funds were forfeited completely if the worker left the company.

Tram 107


Many sites are connected by the tram number 107, see the map below. E-Hbf indicates Essen Hauptbahnhof (the main railway station)

Tram Line 107, Essen


Marktkirche, Essen

In the early days of the Reformation, the protestants were able to claim this church for themselves. At the time it was called Gertrudskirche, and had been first mentioned as such in the 11th century. Only the eastern part was re-constructed after heavy bombing damage and the bronze portal has a portrayal of the Riders of the Apocalypse in remembrance of the war.


Grillo-Theater, Essen

The Grillo-Theater on Theaterplatz is one of the oldest theaters in the Ruhrrevier. The building was financed by the industrialist Friedrich Grillo (or his family anyway, after his death)

Folkwang Museum

The museum has notable displays of 19th- and 20th-century painting. The name derives from German/Norse mythology. The original Folkwang collecrion was assembled in Hagen by Karl Ernst Osthaus and was acquired by Essen in 1922 who merged it with their pre-existing art collections. During the Third Reich, most of the collection was vilified as "entartete Kunst" and 1 400 works were lost.

With Essen being the capital of the Year of Culture 2010, the museum building was fundamentally renovated, and extended by a generously dimensioned complementary building in a consistent form. The inaugural exhibition bore the title "The most beautiful museum in the world" and had as its theme the history of the Folkwang collection up till 1933. Numerous paintings and sculptures which had earlier been owned by Folkwang and which were squandered across the whole world during the Nazi period were put on show.

There is a music and arts school in Essen-Werden with the same name.


Baldeneysee, Essen

The Baldeneysee is a reservoir on the River Ruhr built in 1931/3 to provide work in a time of high unemployment. I have seen the surrounding area described as the 'Beverly Hills of the Ruhr district'.

Villa Hügel

The former Krupp residence, Villa Hügel, overlooks the Baldeneysee.

Hespertalbahn Railway

Hespertalbahn, Preserved Railway, Essen

The Hespertalbahn Railway runs along the Baldeneysee. To get there, travel on the S9 to Kupferdreh station, from where it is a short walk to the 'other' Kupferdreh station of the preserved railway.


Klusenkapelle, Essen Stadtwald The small gothic Klusenkapelle in Essen Stadtwald has a small opening in its wall as its 'gimmick'. This leads on to two 'stories : 1) after the murder of Archbishop Engelbert von Berg by Friedrich von Isenberg in 1225, a near relative of the murderer who had endowed the church subsequently had himself walled up there to atone for the misdeed in a representative manner 2 ) a leprous nun was isolated here from the rest of the population and supplied with food through the opening. Such an interpretation is bolstered by the patronage of the small church : St Agidius is considered to be the patron saint of all contagiously sick people.

The picture above shows the Restaurant "Zur Kluse" opposite the chapel. They lie about one kilometer eat of Villa Hügel.


Since 2008, the former Ruhrlandmuseum became the Ruhrmuseum based in the former washery of the Zollverein colliery (adjacent to Shaft 12). Its previous home was vacated to make way for an extended Folkwang Museum.

You enter via an escalator onto the 24-meter level, where you will find the admission area, bookshop and cafe.

The other levels are :

  • 17-meter level myths, phenomenon and structures of the present-dat Ruhr district
  • 12-meter level pre-industrial history of the region and also contains the museum's general collections in archaeology, ethnology and natural history. A special exhibit is a 200 000 year-old stone axe, which was found during canal building work in Essen-Vogelheim - the "Vogelsheimer Klinge".
  • 6-meter level history of the district during the industrial period.

Of the museum's previous locations, of special interest is the former Ledigenheim used between 1927-1939. This was an eating and sleeping house erected by Krupp for 750 unmarried workers. The building still exists as the Bürohaus West (nearest S-Bahn station : Essen-West).

Schloss Borbeck

Schloss Borbeck, Essen The Schloss was a summer residence of the Essen abbesses until it was taken off them during the secularization following the Napoleonic occupation. Since the 1940s it has been owned by the city and now has several uses including a permanent exhibition on the Essen Damenstift (i.e. the nunnery). The 42 ha. park is claimed to be one of the oldest in the Rhineland. (nearest railway station : Essen-Borbeck, then by bus 140 directly to the Schloss or by tram 103 to the stop "Schloß Borbeck". Alternatively the tram 103 travels directly from the city center.

Zeche Carl

Zeche Carl, Essen A relic of the mining history of Altenessen is the Malakoffturm over Schacht Carl (originally 'Schacht Hercules') in the vicinity of Wilhelm-Nieswandt-Allee. The sinking of the shaft began in 1885 and by 1861 regular extraction of coal had commenced. The bulky tower is designed in classical style. Earlier, the two side wings incorporated the hauling engine and the water pumping facilities.

Nowadays, it is used for various cultural activities. In summer, the old colliery yard becomes an atmospheric biergarten, and it is not only the alternative scene who gather there.

Nearest U-Bahn station : Altenessen-Mitte


Ruhrkämpferehrenmal, Essen

On 4th November 1934, during the Nazi-period, the Ruhrkämpferdenkmal was consecrated a little to the East of Haus Horst (a monument to the fallen of the Freikorps, citizens’ militia, Army and police units who had put down the workers’ uprising in the Ruhr district after the First World War). The politically problematic nature of the great rotunda in the present-day is critically expounded by an explanatory plaque.

St Laurentius Church, Steele

St Laurentius Church, Steele, Essen

This Catholic church (the "Steeler Cathedral") is very noticeable to passengers passing through Steele on the S-Bahn.

The western facade had originally been designed for two towers but a a lack of money compelled the community to reduce the plans just to one central tower. It was heavily damaged in the Second World War and rebuild again in the old style during 1945-48. Of the older features, the neo-gothic high altar remains.