Mainz, a city of 200,000 with 40,000 college students at Gutenberg University, is a 45-minute commuter train ride from Frankfurt. The city’s chronology can be traced through five distinct eras:
1) The Romans founded the city around 1312 BC, bringing wine with them. The Rhine River borders Mainz, and the Rhineland is now one of the largest wine producing areas in Germany.
2) The second era began with the spread of Christianity in the Frankish Empire in the 8th century. St. Boniface became the first Archbishop of Mainz, beginning a thousand-year tradition of powerful Archbishops in the region. Boniface is the patron saint of Germany, and he was killed in 754 by bandits in the coastal region of Frisia, but only after many baptisms and conversions to Catholicism. A famous statue on the grounds of the Mainz Cathedral shows Boniface with a sword though a Bible, as he is said to have held up the holy book to shield himself when his assailants struck. Saint Boniface’s feast day is celebrated on June 5 in the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Anglican Communion and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
3) During the French Revolution, Mainz was occupied by the French for 20 years. Napoleon and the French were the ones responsible for placing the first statue of Gutenberg in the town, as the famous son had been marginalized over the years. Gutenberg was in perpetual debt, and he lost his print shop, obscuring his fame – inside the town, at least – for nearly 400 years.
4) In the 19th century, Mainz became a fortification town, mostly to guard against future French invasions. There was a French-German War (Franco-Prussian War) in 1870-71, and the Germans were victorious.
5) In the 20th Century, WWI and WWII took an enormous toll on the town. A 1945 bombing raid destroyed 85% of Mainz in 20 minutes, with more than 1,000 dead.
Below is a photo gallery of our visit.