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May 15 in German History
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May 15, 719

St. Boniface receives the pope's permission to undertake a mission to christianize the area now known as Germany.

St. Boniface

Winfried (675-754) (church name Bonifatius or Boniface) was probably born in England in about 672 (though some think Ireland). He became a Benedictine monk and at age 30 was ordained a priest. He felt a calling to convert the heathens on the European continent. His first mission was to the Friesians in 716. That first effort lasted only a few months and he returned to England. In 718 he traveled to Rome to seek the pope's approval as a missionary to Germany. On May 15, 719 he received Pope Gregory II's approval to undertake the mission. For a time he worked, once again, among the Friesians with St. Willibrord. He then traveled to Trier, where a monastery had been established. From that base he continued eastwards to Thuringia and Hessia where he converted many. On November 30, 722 the pope made him a bishop. In his missionary work in Hessia he is said to have cut down an oak tree thought to be sacred to the pagan god Thor and to have built a church using the wood, thus demonstrating the superiority of the Christian God over Thor. Boniface founded the bishoprics of Passau, Regensburg, Freising, Würzburg and Erfurt. On May 1, 748 Pope Zachary appointed Bonifatius Archbishop of Mainz and primate of Germany. Boniface was murdered by pagans in 754 while on a missionary trip, thus becoming a martyr of the Church. His remains were taken to the Monastery at Fulda which had been founded in 744 under his authority. Bonifatius had been revered as a saint for centuries before the formal canonization by Pope Pius IX on June 11, 1874. During his lifetime Boniface had had close ties to Charles Martell, Carloman and Pippin the Short. His work among the eastern tribes established a structure for the Christian empire which Karl der Große (Charlemagne) would develop in the area now known as Germany.

May 15, 1248

Cologne Cathedral

Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden lays the cornerstone for the Cologne cathedral (German: Kölner Dom, officially Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria), a Roman Catholic church in Cologne, Germany. It took more than six centuries for the structure to be completed. Construction was started during the 13th century, and it was 632 years until the structure was finished. At 157 m tall, the cathedral still holds the honor of being the tallest building of Gothic architecture found anywhere in the entire world.

Curiously, Cologne Cathedral remained intact after the bombings of World War II. Allied pilots used it as a landmark, which is why it was not destroyed.

May 15, 1618

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) announces his harmonies law. Kepler was convinced "that the geometrical things have provided the Creator with the model for decorating the whole world." In Harmony, he attempted to explain the proportions of the natural world—particularly the astronomical and astrological aspects—in terms of music. The central set of "harmonies" was the musica universalis or "music of the spheres," which had been studied by Pythagoras, Ptolemy and many others before Kepler; in fact, soon after publishing Harmonices Mundi, Kepler was embroiled in a priority dispute with Robert Fludd, who had recently published his own harmonic theory.

May 15, 1773

Birth of Klemens Fürst von Metternich in Koblenz, Germany. Metternich fled Germany to Austria in the face of French invasions. Through marriage and connections he rose rapidly in government circles in Vienna. In 1801 he was the Austrian minister in Dresden, and in 1806 the minister to France. In 1808 he was appointed Austrian minister of foreign affairs. In that position he took virtual control of Austrian international relations. In 1812 he formed an alliance with Napoleon against Russia. By 1813 he switched sides and fought against Napoleon. He hosted the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 attempting to sort out the organization of Europe which had been put in chaos by Napoleon. He resigned his office in 1848 at the demand of the revolutionaries.

May 15, 1848

Carl Wernicke

Birth of Carl Wernicke (1848-1905) in Tarnowitz, Germany (now in Poland). Wernicke was a German physician, anatomist, psychiatrist and neuropathologist who discovered that nerve diseases relate to specific areas of the brain. He was a pioneer in the understanding of aphasia (brain problems which inhibit the ability to speak and write), Lehrbuch der Gehirnkrankheiten (1881). He died in Germany due to injuries suffered during a bicycle accident.

May 15, 1911

Max Frisch

Birth of Max Frisch (1911-1991) in Zürich, Switzerland. Frish was one of the outstanding Swiss writers of the 20th Century. He studied at the University of Zürich. Among his works are Santa Cruz (1947), Die chinesische Mauer (1947), Als der Krieg zu Ende war (1949), Don Juan oder die Liebe zur Geometrie (1953), Stiller (1954), Biedermann und die Brandstifter (1958), Andorra (1961) and Blaubart (1982).

May 15, 1955

A treaty was signed in Vienna by the representatives of the four powers and Austria. It formally reestablished the Austrian republic in its pre-1938 frontiers as a "sovereign, independent and democratic state." Austria must agree to the status of a neutral nation as a part of the agreement.

May 15, 1974

Walter Scheel is elected German President.

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