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The area around Lubeck in northern Germany has been inhabited since neolithic times, and tombs made of stones from that period can still be seen today. In 1143 a commune consisting of Christian settlers was established on the site, and was given the name "Liubice," or "beautiful," from which the name Lubeck is derived. A short time later the town was consumed in a fire and re-established by Henry the Lion, a Saxon king. Lubeck soon became a center of trade, and one of the most prominent cities in northern Europe. It's old town was layed out mostly in the 13th-century, and remains virtually unchanged to this day. During this time, the St. Mary's and St. Peter's churches were constructed.
Lubeck reached the height of its power in the 14th- through 16th-centuries, when it was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 13th-century, Emperor Friedrich II had granted Lubeck the designation of free imperial city, giving the city virtually unlimited license and freedom from any ruling power save for the emperor himself. In 1375, Emperor Charles IV named Lubeck a "Glory of the Empire," a title shared only by Rome, Venice, Pisa and Florence.
After taking part in the Count's Feud, a civil war that took place in Denmark during the 1530s, the city began to lose its power, but remained an important trading post. Lubeck became a part of France in 1811, and then part of the German Confederation in 1815. Centuries of independence ended during World War II, when the Nazis annexed the city as part of Germany. Lubeck was the first German city to be attacked by the British Royal Air Force in that war.
Lubeck became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987.