Republic of Mainz and Napoleon

Republic of Mainz

It is the third French occupation in Mainz, which ultimately leads to the first German democracy: after the fall of the French King Louis XVI and the proclamation of the French Republic in August 1792, revolutionary troops advanced further and further east. In October, in the name of the "Crusade for the Freedom of Europe", the troops finally stood outside the gates of Mainz. The Elector had long since fled and the fortress of Mainz was vastly understaffed. The fortress surrendered without a fight, opened its gates, and French troops, led by General Custine, entered the city.

Mainz was now the centre of political and military action for France in order to penetrate areas on the right bank of the Rhine. The occupiers did not want to be perceived as conquerors or oppressors, but rather as liberators. Just a few days after the conquest, the first Jacobin clubs were founded and liberty poles were erected. Although the ideals of the French Revolution found supporters in the region, the French were disappointed by the continuing inertia of the "liberated" as early as November 1792. Instead of the originally promised self-determination of the territory, French democracy was now forcibly introduced.
On 24 February 1793 the elections for the so-called "Rheinisch-Deutschen Nationalkonvent" took place. About a month later, the first democratically elected people's representation met for its constituent session in the Mainzer Deutschhaus (today's seat of the parliament of Rhineland Palatinate). Anton Joseph Hofmann was elected President of the Convention and Georg Forster his deputy.

But the Republic of Mainz only existed for a short time. The German sovereigns wanted to recapture the city. In March 1793, a German army of 44,000 men had completely encircled Mainz. In June they started bombardment and caused devastating fires and destruction within the city walls. About a month later, on 22 and 23 July 1793, the French capitulated and handed the city over to the besiegers. The French left the city shortly afterwards, ending the Republic of Mainz just as abruptly as it had begun - by conquest.

It took only a few years until the French (this time Napoleonic troops) invaded Mainz again. The Treatyof Campo Formio (17 October 1797) awarded the left bank of the Rhine to the French. Mainz became the capital of the Mont-Tonnerre department and the Deutschhaus became the seat of the department administration.

Mainz and Napoleon

In 1804 Napoleon was crowned "Emperor of the French" and in the same year he visited Mainz for the first time. The city had a high value for Napoleon, especially as a military fortress.
In a decree, he even counted "Mayence" among the 36 most important cities in France. During his ten-year reign, the emperor stayed nine times in the departmental capital. During his visits he always resided in the Deutschhaus, which particularly appealed to Empress Marie-Louise. Napoleon later had it equipped as an imperial palace and even planned to connect it to the electoral palace by means of extensions. But this was not the only building project that the emperor had in mind for Mainz. Mainz was not only to be of military use, but also to have a representative character and to demonstrate the progressiveness of the French "Grand Empire". A boulevard, the "Grande Rue Napoléon", was built for parades and other representative purposes. This street still exists today under the name "Ludwigsstraße". The planned development could not be completed at that time. Today, only one building from this period has been partially preserved: the corner building at “Gutenberg Platz 1”. Further plans by Napoleon could not be implemented either. According to a decision of 1804, the emperor had planned, for example, a Gutenberg monument and a theatre. Both exist today, but were only erected after the French period and in a modified form.

In 1809 Napoleon also immortalised himself in Mainz Cathedral. Still today, the big bell, which he donated to the city and had marked with the inscription "Napoleon the Great", rings there.

After his defeat in the Battle of Leipzig, Napoleon resided in Mainz for the final time in November 1813. Shortly thereafter, the French were expelled from the region. They left Mainz on 4 May 1814.

At the following Congress of Vienna (September 1814 - 9 June 1815) Europe was reorganised. In a subsequent treaty between Prussia, Austria, and Hesse, Mainz was assigned to the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1816 and became the capital of the newly created province of Rhine Hesse as well as the fortress of the German Confederation.

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