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Freiburg, or “free town,” was originally founded as a market by the dukes Konrad of Zähringen and Bertold III in 1120 due to its strategic location at the junction of the Danube and Rhine rivers, as well as its proximity to the Mediterranean and North Seas. The city lived up to its name by buying its independence from the local count in 1368. They turned over sovereignty to the House of Habsburg, but retained many freedoms not usually granted to towns.
During the early 1500s, Freiburg came to prominence as a center of Catholicism on the Rhine due to the town’s decision to oppose the Reformation. The city struggled through the next several centuries as various European powers fought over this southwestern corner of Germany. Finally, in 1805, the city was made part of the German state of Baden, and so it remains today.There are several historical buildings still standing in the city today. The oldest and best known is the Minster, a large cathedral dating back to the 1200s. Unlike most other German churches, this building was erected in the Gothic style and largely financially sponsored by the townspeople. There is also the Albert Ludwigs Universität, one of the first German centers of higher learning, founded in 1457 by Duke Albrecht VI.