Halle (Saale) is in the southern part of Saxony-Anhalt, along the river Saale which drains the surrounding plains and the greater part of the neighbouring Free State of Thuringia just to its south, and the Thuringian basin, northwards from the Thuringian Forest. Leipzig, one of Germany's major cities, is only 35 kilometres (22 mi) away.
Halle's early history is connected with the harvesting of salt. The name Halle reflects early Celtic settlement given that halen is the Brythonic (Welsh/Breton) word for salt (cf. salann in Irish). The name of the river Saale also contains the Germanic root for salt, and salt-harvesting has taken place in Halle since at least the Bronze Age (2300–600 BC).
Halle became a center for Pietism, a movement encouraged by King Frederick William I of Prussia (reigned 1713-1740) because it caused the area's large Lutheran population to be more inclined to Fredrick William I's religion (Calvinism), as well as more loyal to the Prussian king instead of to the decentralized feudal system. By the 1740s Halle had established many orphanages as well as schools for the wealthy in the sober style Pietism encouraged. This Halle education was the first time the "modern education" system was established. The Halle Pietists also combated poverty.
During the War of the Fourth Coalition, French and Prussian forces clashed in the Battle of Halle on 17 October 1806. The fighting moved from the covered bridges on the city's west side, through the streets and market place, to the eastern suburbs.
Near the end of World War II, there were two bombing raids carried out against the town: the first on 31 March 1945, the second a few days later. The first attack took place between the railway station and the city's centre, and the second bombing was in the southern district. It killed over 1,000 inhabitants and destroyed 3,600 buildings. Among them, the Market Church, St. George Church, the Old Town Hall, the City Theatre, historic buildings on Bruederstrasse and on Grosse Steinstrasse, and the city cemetery.
On 17 April 1945, American soldiers occupied Halle, and the red tower was set on fire by artillery and destroyed. The Market Church and the Church of St. George received more hits. However, the city was spared further damage because an aerial bombardment was canceled, after former naval officer Felix von Luckner negotiated the city's surrender to the American army. In July, the Americans withdrew and the city was occupied by the Red Army.
German Democratic Republic (1949–1990)
After World War II, Halle served as the capital of the short-lived administrative region of Saxony-Anhalt until 1952, when the East German government abolished its "Länder" (states). As a part of East Germany (until 1990), it functioned as the capital of the administrative district (Bezirk) of Halle.
Giebichenstein Castle, first mentioned in 961, is north of the city centre on a hill above the Saale river, with a museum in the upper castle and the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design in the lower castle.
Moritzburg, a newer castle, was built between 1484 and 1503. It was the residence of the Archbishops of Magdeburg, was destroyed in the Thirty Years' War, and was a ruin for centuries afterward. Partially reconstructed in 1901-1913, it is an art gallery today. The reconstruction was completed with the opening of new exhibition rooms designed by the Spanish architects Sobejano and Nieto in 2010.
Neue Residenz (New Residence), an early Renaissance palace (1531–1537)
Market square with
Market Church of St. Mary (Marktkirche), built in 1529–1554, using elements of two medieval churches, St. Gertrude's Church dating back to the 11th century and the older St. Mary's Church from the 12th century. The church has four steeples, the two western octagonal ones are called Blue Towers because of their dark blue slate roofing. The other two Hausmannstürme are connected by a bridge and on this bridge was the city's fire watch. The church owns the original death-mask of Martin Luther. The Marktkirche's four towers is a landmark symbol of the city.
Roter Turm (Red Tower), originally built as campanile of the older St. Mary's Church between 1418 and 1503, a landmark of Halle, with the steeples of St. Mary's Church forms the five towers marking the city’s skyline.
Roland, originally (13th century) a wooden sculpture representing urban liberty (after an uprising in the city, a cage was placed around it between 1481 and 1513, a reminder of the restrictions). Today’s sculpture is a sandstone replica made in 1719.
Marktschlösschen, late Renaissance building, gallery and tourist information office
Ratshof (Council’s Yard), built in 1928/29 as a backyard building of the Old Town Hall (demolished in 1948/50 after the destruction of World War II, so the Ratshof is situated today directly on the market square).
Stadthaus, Renaissance-Revival building of 1891-1894
Yellow line, which runs over the market square, marking a geological fault line, the Hallische Verwerfung.
Handel House, first mentioned in 1558, birthplace of George Frideric Handel, a museum since 1948
Old Market square with Donkey's Fountain (1906/13), referring to a local legend
Remains of the town fortifications: the Leipzig Tower (Leipziger Turm) (15th century) in the east and remains of the town wall to the south of the city centre.
Francke Foundations, Baroque buildings (including Europe's largest surviving half-timbered building) and historical collections
Stadtgottesacker, a Renaissance cemetery, laid out in 1557, in the style of an Italian camposanto
Saline Museum is dedicated to Halle’s salt-works and the corporation of salt workers (Halloren)
Cathedral (Dom), a steepleless building, was originally a church within a Dominican monastery (1271), converted into a cathedral by cardinal Albert of Hohenzollern. Since 1688, it has been the church of the Reformed parish.
Saint Maurice Church, late Gothic building (1388–1511)
Saint Ulrich Church, late Gothic church of the Servite Order (15th century), today used as a concert hall
Church of the former village of Böllberg (Romanesque, with late Gothic painted wooden ceiling)
Numerous bourgeois town houses, including the Ackerbürgerhof (15th – 18th centuries with remains from the 12th century), Christian Wolff’s House (today City Museum), Graseweg House (half-timbered building)
Botanical Garden of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, founded in 1698 in the former gardens of the Archbishops of Magdeburg, belonging to the Garden Dreams project
Reichardts Garten is a historic park, part of the Garden Dreams project. Laid out in 1794 by Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752–1814) as an English garden, becoming the "accommodation of Romanticism". It changed ownership several times and the city of Halle bought the park in 1903 to give the public wider access.
Zoological Garden (Bergzoo), situated on the Reilsberg hill.
Galgenberge, location of the gallows from the 14th to the end of the 18th century
Klausberge, porphyry hill, named after a chapel of the St. Nicholas' brotherhood, panoramic view over the Saale Valley, Eichendorff's bench
Dölauer Heide forest, including Bischofs Wiese with 35 graves dating back to about 2500–2000 BC, the Neolithic period
Racecourse in the Passendorf Meadows
Halle-Neustadt, to the west of Halle, built beginning 1964 (foundation stone ceremony 15 July 1964) as a socialist model city.
Salt, also known as white gold, was extracted from four "Borns" (well-like structures). The four Borns/brine named Gutjahrbrunnen, Meteritzbrunnen, Deutscher Born and Hackeborn, were located around the Hallmarket (or "Under Market"), now a market square with a fountain, just across from the TV station, MDR. The brine was highly concentrated and boiled in Koten, simple structured houses made from reed and clay. Salters, who wore a unique uniform with eighteen silver buttons, were known as Halloren, and this name was later used for the chocolates in the shape of these buttons.
The Halloren-Werke, the oldest chocolate factory in Germany, was founded in 1804. Old documents are on display and a chocolate room can be visited.
Within East Germany, Halle's chemical industry, now mainly shut down, was of great importance. The two main companies in the region were Buna-Werke and Leuna, and Halle-Neustadt was built in the 1960s to accommodate the employees of these two factories.
Baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel (later George Frideric Handel) was born in Halle in 1685 and spent the first 17 years of his life in the city. The house where he lived is now a museum about his life. To celebrate his music, Halle has staged a Handel Festival since 1922, annually in June since 1952. The Franckesche Stiftungen (Francke Foundations) are home to the Stadtsingechor zu Halle [de], which was founded before the year 1116 and is one of the oldest boys' choirs in the world.
The Silver Treasure of the Halloren is displayed occasionally at the Technical Museum Saline. It is a unique collection of silver and gold goblets dating back to 1266. The ancient craft of "Schausieden" (boiling of the brine) can be observed there too. The State Museum of Prehistory houses the Nebra sky disk, a significant (though unproven) Bronze-Age find with astrological significance.
Halle Zoo contributes to the EAZA breeding programme, in particular for the Angolan lion and the Malaysian tiger. Halle is also known for its thriving coypu (or nutria) population, which is native to South America.
German-American expressionist painter Lyonel Feininger worked in Halle on an invitation by the city from 1929 to 1931. As one of eleven views of the city termed Halle Cycle, he painted in 1931 Die Türme über der Stadt (The towers above the city), which is now in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. This painting appeared on a 55 eurocent stamp on 5 December 2002 as a part of the series “Deutsche Malerei des 20. Jahrhunderts” (German painting of the 20th century).
Halle's prominence as a railway centre is set to continue growing with the arrival of the Erfurt-Leipzig/Halle high-speed railway. Leipzig will also be connected to this railway, but since it is a terminus station (though the Leipzig City Tunnel is currently under construction, the route will be shared with S-Bahn trains, making it unlikely that it will be used as a through station for Berlin-Munich trains), Halle is more likely to be used as an intermediate stop for Berlin-Munich trains. The completion of the Nuremberg–Erfurt high-speed railway will also provide a further impetus to use the route.
The football team Hallescher FC Wacker 1900 had some regional importance before World War II. In the German Championship Wacker reached the semi-finals in 1921, and the quarter-finals in 1928. The successor team became East German champions in 1949 and 1952 under the names of ZSG Union and BSG Turbine Halle. From these evolved today's Turbine Halle and Hallescher FC. In the era of the German Democratic Republic, the latter club (as Chemie Halle ) was a mainstay in the first division and won the Cup tournament in 1956 and 1962. The most prominent player was 72-times international Bernd Bransch, who was with Chemie in the 1960s and 1970s. These days, Hallescher FC usually plays in the third division.
The general sports club SV Halle [de], originating from Chemie Halle, created a notable number of Olympic gold medallists and world champions, mainly in nautical and watersports, e.g., swimmer Kornelia Ender won four Olympic gold medals in 1976 and Andreas Hajek won four rowing world championships between 1998 and 2001. The basketball team of the club - these days known as Lions and focusing on the woman's team which plays in the national first division - won five men's and 10 women's championships of the German Democratic Republic.
The Hallesher FC's location is extremely close to a train station.
Nickel Hoffmann, mastermason, worked over 30 years in Halle, including the Market Church and the Composanto
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn 1852
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778–1852), theology student of University Halle 1796–1800, went into hiding and used a phorphyr cave along the river Saale at the Klausberge, this cave later was known as the "Jahn-Höhle" (Cave)