Graz, formerly known as Gratz, is the second-largest city in Austria after Vienna and the capital of the federal state of Styria (Steiermark). On 1. January 2015 it had a population of 309,323 (of which 276,526 had principal residence status). In 2012 the population of the Graz Larger Urban Zone who had principal residence status stood at 599,049.
Graz has a long tradition as a student city: its six universities have more than 44,000 students. Its "Old Town" is one of the best-preserved city centres in Central Europe.
In 1999, Graz was added to the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage Sites, and the site was extended in 2010 by Schloss Eggenberg. Graz was sole Cultural Capital of Europe for 2003 and got the title of a City of Culinary Delights in 2008.
The oldest settlement on the ground of the modern city of Graz dates back to the Copper Age. However, there is no historical continuity of a settlement before the Middle Ages.
During the 12th century dukes under Babenberg rule made the town into an important commercial center. Later Graz came under the rule of the Habsburgs, and in 1281 gained special privileges from King Rudolph I.
In the 14th century Graz became the city of residence of the Inner Austrian line of the Habsburgs. The royalty lived in the Schloßberg castle and from there ruled Styria, Carinthia, most of today's Slovenia and parts of Italy (Carniola, Gorizia and Gradisca, Trieste).
In the 16th century, the city's design and planning were primarily controlled by Italian Renaissance architects and artists. One of the most famous buildings built in this style is the Landhaus, designed by Domenico dell'Allio, and used by the local rulers as a governmental headquarters.
Karl-Franzens Universität, also called the University of Graz, is the city's oldest university, founded in 1585 by Archduke Charles II. For most of its existence it was controlled by the Catholic church, and was closed in 1782 by Joseph II in an attempt to gain state control over educational institutions. Joseph II transformed it into a lyceum where civil servants and medical personnel were trained. In 1827 it was re-instituted as a university by Emperor Franz I, thus gaining the name 'Karl-Franzens Universität,' meaning 'Charles-Francis University.' Over 30,000 students currently study at this university.
Nikola Tesla studied electrical engineering at the Polytechnic in Graz in 1875. Nobel Laureate Otto Loewi taught at the University of Graz from 1909 until 1938. Ivo Andric, the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature Laureate obtained his doctorate at the University of Graz. Johannes Kepler was a professor of mathematics at the University of Graz. Erwin Schrödinger was briefly chancellor of the University of Graz in 1936.
Adolf Hitler was given a warm welcome when he visited in 1938, the year Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. The thriving Jewish community was destroyed by the Nazis, and their grand synagogue was burnt. A small group of Graz Jews returned despite everything after the war. In 2000, on the anniversary of the Reichskristallnacht, Graz city council presented the Jewish community with a new synagogue as a gesture of reconciliation. Hitler promised the people of Graz 1,000 years of prosperity and an end to mass unemployment: only seven years later the Graz resistance surrendered the city to Soviet troops, sparing Graz any further destruction. By then about 16% of buildings had been destroyed by Allied bombing - luckily the Old Town was not seriously hit.
Graz lies in Styria, or Steiermark in German. Mark is an old German word indicating a large area of land used as a defensive border, in which the peasantry are taught how to organize and fight in the case of an invasion. With a strategic location at the head of the open and fertile Mur valley, Graz was often assaulted (unsuccessfully), e.g. by the Hungarians under Matthias Corvinus in 1481, and by the Ottoman Turks in 1529 and 1532. Apart from the Riegersburg, the Schloßberg was the only fortification in the region that never fell to the Ottoman Turks. Graz is home to the region's provincial armory, which is the world's largest historical collection of Baroque weaponry. It has been preserved since 1551, and displays over 30,000 items.
From the earlier part of the 15th century Graz was the residence of the younger branch of the Habsburgs, which succeeded to the imperial throne in 1619 in the person of Emperor Ferdinand II, who moved the capital to Vienna. New fortifications were built on the Schlossberg at the end of the 16th century. Napoleon's army occupied Graz in 1797. In 1809 the city withstood another assault by the French army. During this attack, the commanding officer in the fortress was ordered to defend it with about 900 men against Napoleon's army of about 3,000. He successfully defended the Schloßberg against eight attacks, but they were forced to give up after the Grande Armée occupied Vienna and the Emperor ordered to surrender. Following the defeat of Austria by Napoleonic forces at the Battle of Wagram in 1809, the fortifications were demolished using explosives, as stipulated in the Peace of Schönbrunn of the same year. The belltower and the civic clock tower, often used as the symbol of Graz, were spared after the people of Graz paid a ransom for their preservation.
Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria had 20,000 Protestant books burned in the square of what is now a mental hospital, and succeeded in returning Styria to the authority of the Holy See. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was born in Graz, in what is now the Stadtmuseum (city museum).