Edinburgh to join medieval alliance of cities

Folk singers in traditional costumes at Hanseatic Day celebrations in Estonia. Picture: contributed
Folk singers in traditional costumes at Hanseatic Day celebrations in Estonia. Picture: contributed
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EDINBURGH is to join a medieval alliance of key cities and hopes to host its annual gala day – in 20 years’ time.

The Capital has been accepted as a member of the Hanseatic League, which was originally created in the 14th century to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges of the cities along the northern European trade routes visited by merchants.

Edinburgh’s connection to the league comes through Leith, which was Scotland’s most important port for more than 300 years.

Council chiefs say membership of the league will result in increased civic, cultural and economic links with 183 other cities spread across 16 countries in northern Europe.

And Edinburgh has already offered its services as host of Hanseatic Day in 2035 – the annual gathering of representatives from the member countries, which mixes medieval costume, ceremony and feasting with discussion of common interests.

Lord Provost Councillor Donald Wilson said: “The Hanseatic League has had a major historical influence on this city, with Leith being one of its feeder ports and attempts to reconstruct this network in modern times will therefore have both civic and economic benefits.

“As a member of the Leith Trust I have been a great supporter of this initiative.

“As well as the economic benefits for Leith, and of course also for Edinburgh, this is an opportunity for the city to show its commitment to the ­development of Leith as ­Edinburgh’s international port and as a strong community in its own right.”

The council says contact has already been made with schools, libraries, museums and galleries in the Capital about promoting the long-standing Hanseatic cultural and historical links.

Throughout the Middle Ages, Leith traded with the Hanseatic League, which had its origins in the co-operation between merchants in the northern German cities of Lubeck and Hamburg.

It grew to around 60 member cities and the league also established trading posts in places such as Bruges, Bergen and London.

But by the late 16th century, the league was overwhelmed by internal divisions and it faded away.

The league was revived in 1980, when former members came together to recreate some of the old links and promote business interests, tourism and cultural exchange.

The new league, with its headquarters in Lubeck, is open to all former members and its former trading posts.

Herr Bernd Saxe, president of the league, said: “I am delighted that Edinburgh has been accepted into the Hanseatic League as it has a rich maritime heritage.

“I am looking forward to promoting the many cultural and economic links the city has with its northern European neighbours.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com