Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Leipzig from Philip's Encyclopedia

City in E central Germany, at the confluence of the Pleisse, White Elster and Parthe rivers. It was founded as a Slavic settlement in the 10th century. In 1813, it was the scene of the Battle of the Nations. It was home to J.S. Bach for 27 years, and is the birthplace of Richard Wagner. It was East Germany's second-biggest city (after Berlin). The printing industry (founded in 1480) is still important. Industries: textiles, machinery, chemicals. Pop. (1999) 490,000.

Summary Article: Leipzig
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

(līp'tsĭkh), city (1994 pop. 490,850), Saxony, E central Germany, at the confluence of the Pleisse, White Elster, and Parthe rivers.


One of Germany's major industrial, commercial, and transportation centers, it has many rail lines and two airports. Manufactures include textiles, electrical products, automobiles, machine tools, and chemicals. The city harbors major industries in heavy construction and engineering. The area is heavily polluted with sulfur dioxide from nearby coal-processing plants. Important international trade and industrial fairs have been held in the city since the Middle Ages.

Points of Interest

Noteworthy buildings include the Church of St. Thomas (late 15th cent.), which has housed the tomb of Bach since 1950; the Gewandhaus, built in 1884 to replace the earlier structure; the 13th-century Pauline Church; Auerbach's Keller (16th cent.), an inn in which a scene of Goethe's Faust is set; the old city hall (1558); the old stock exchange (1682); the Church of St. John (17th cent.); the large main railroad station; the former German supreme court building (which now houses an art museum); and the opera (1960). In addition to the university (est. 1409), the city has institutes of applied radioactivity and stable isotopes.


Originally a Slavic settlement called Lipsk, Leipzig was chartered at the end of the 12th cent. and rapidly developed into a commercial center located at the intersection of important trade routes. A printing industry, which later became important, was started there c.1480. The city was the scene of the famous religious debate between Martin Luther, Carlstadt, and Johann Eck in 1519. In 1539 it accepted the Reformation. Three great battles of the Thirty Years War (two at Breitenfeld and one at Lützen) were fought near Leipzig.

The city was one of the leading cultural centers of Europe in the age of the philosopher and mathematician Leibnitz, who was born there in 1646, and of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was cantor at the Church of St. Thomas from 1723 until his death. The Univ. of Leipzig (founded 1409) became one of the most important in Germany. In the 18th cent. Gottsched, Gellert, Schiller, and many others made Leipzig a literary center; the young Goethe studied there in 1765. The city's musical reputation reached its peak in the 19th and early 20th cent. Felix Mendelssohn, who died there in 1847, made the Gewandhaus concerts (begun in the 18th cent. in a former guildhouse and still continuing) internationally famous. Robert Schumann worked in Leipzig, Richard Wagner was born there in 1813, and the Leipzig Conservatory (founded by Mendelssohn in 1842–43) became one of the world's best-known musical academies.

The battle of Leipzig, Oct. 16–19, 1813, also called the Battle of the Nations, was a decisive victory of the Austrian, Russian, and Prussian forces over Napoleon I. On Oct. 16 the Prussians under General Blücher defeated the French under Auguste de Marmont at Möckern, near Leipzig. A peace offer by the vastly outnumbered French army was rejected on the following day while the Allies closed in. On Oct. 18 the French were driven to the gates of Leipzig, and most of their Saxon and Württemberg auxiliaries (but not the king of Saxony himself) passed over to the enemy camp. Leipzig was stormed on Oct. 19, and Napoleon's forces began their flight across Germany and beyond the Rhine. It is estimated that 120,000 men (of both sides) were killed or wounded in the battle. Allied losses were heavier than those of the French. The battle is commemorated by a large monument in the city.

Until World War II, Leipzig was the center of the German book and music publishing industry, and the center of the European trade in furs and smoked foods. The city (including the book-trade quarter) was badly damaged in World War II. In Oct., 1989, Leipzig was the site of the largest demonstration against the East German government since 1953; the demonstration was instrumental in the downfall of the Communist government and the subsequent reunification of Germany.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Leipzig
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

51 20N 12 21E A city in E Germany, near the confluence of the Rivers Elster, Pleisse, and Parthe. Important international trade fairs have...

Full text Article Leipzig
The Encyclopaedia of the Renaissance

A central German city where Germans were settled in the later Middle Ages. After obtaining municipal status (1170), Leipzig prospered on...

See more from Credo