Speyer (German pronunciation: [ˈʃpaɪ̯ɐ](listen), older spelling Speier, known as Spire in French and formerly as Spires in English) is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. Located on the left bank of the river Rhine, Speyer lies 25 km (16 miles) south of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim, and 21 km (13 miles) south-west of Heidelberg. Founded by the Romans, it is one of Germany's oldest cities.
Speyer Cathedral, a number of other churches, and the Altpörtel (old gate) dominate the Speyer landscape. In the cathedral, beneath the high altar, are the tombs of eight Holy Roman Emperors and German kings.
The first known names were Noviomagus and Civitas Nemetum, after the Teutonic tribe, Nemetes, settled in the area. The name Spira is first recorded in the 7th century, taken from villa Spira, a Frankish settlement situated outside of Civitas Nemetum.
In 10 BC, the first Roman military camp is established (situated between the town hall and the episcopal palace).
In AD 150, the town appears as Noviomagus on the world map of the Greek geographer Ptolemy.
In 346, a bishop for the town is mentioned for the first time.
In 1096, as Count Emicho's Crusader army rages across the Rhineland slaughtering Jewish communities, Speyer's Bishop John, with the local leader Yekutiel ben Moses, manages to secure the community's members inside the episcopal palace and later leads them to even stronger fortifications outside the town. It was ruled that anyone harming a Jew would have his hands chopped off.
In 1635, Marshal of France Urbain de Maillé-Brézé, together with Jacques Nompar de Caumont, duc de La Force, conquers Heidelberg and Speyer at the head of the Army of Germany.
In 1689, the town is heavily damaged by French troops.
Between 1792 and 1814, Speyer is under French jurisdiction after the Battle of Speyer.
In 1816, Speyer becomes the seat of administration of the Palatinate and of the government of the Rhine District of Bavaria (later called the Bavarian Palatinate), and remains so until the end of World War II.
Between 1883 and 1904, the Memorial Church is built in remembrance of the Protestation of 1529.
In 1947, the State Academy of Administrative Science is founded (later renamed German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer).
In 1990, Speyer celebrates its 2000th anniversary.