Jülich (in old spellings also known as Guelich or Gülich, cf. , cf. ) is a town in the district of Düren, in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Jülich is well known as location of a world-famous research centre, the Forschungszentrum Jülich. As a border region between the competing powers in the Lower Rhine and Meuse areas, the town and the Duchy of Jülich played a historic role from the Middle Ages up to the 17th century.
Jülich is first mentioned in Roman times as Juliacum along an important road through the Rur valley. Fortified during the late Roman period, it was taken over by the Franks and grew to be the centre of a county which became the nucleus of a regional power. The counts and dukes of Jülich extended their influence during the Middle Ages and granted Jülich city status in 1234 (Count Wilhelm IV). During battles with the Archbishop of Cologne, Jülich was destroyed in 1239 and again in 1278.
In 1416, the city was granted fiscal independence by Duke Rainald of Jülich-Geldern. Following a fire in 1547, the city was rebuilt as an ideal city in the Renaissance style under the direction of the architect Alessandro Pasqualini. The citadel of Jülich was later visited by the French military engineer Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban and was rated exemplary.
After the ducal family line was extinguished in 1609, the Duchy of Jülich was divided in the War of the Jülich Succession; as part of that war, the fortress at Jülich was by Emperor Rudolph's forces, but a siege by Dutch, Brandenburg and Palatine forces led to the surrender and withdrawal of Imperial troops.
In 1620 Jülich was occupied by the Dutch Republic until the Spanish took the fortress after five months of siege. The city later belonged to Palatinate-Neuburg, then the Electorate of the Palatinate (1685) and Bavaria (1777).
From 1794 to 1814, Jülich was part of France under the name of Juliers. The French added the Napoleonic bridge head to the fortifications. In 1815, Jülich became a Prussian fortification and district town. The town was subsequently administered within the Prussian Province of Jülich-Cleves-Berg (1815) and then the Rhine Province (1822). The fortification was razed in 1860.
On 16 November 1944 (World War II), 97% of Jülich was destroyed during Allied bombing, since it was considered one of the main obstacles to the occupation of the Rhineland, although the city fortifications, the bridge head and the citadel had long fallen into disuse. The ruined city was subject to heavy fighting for several months until the Allies eventually managed to cross the Rur on 23 February 1945. Newsreel footage exists of Supreme Commander Eisenhower at the southern entrance to the citadel.
Jülich became part of the new state of North Rhine-Westphalia after the war. From 1949 to 1956, the town centre was rebuilt along the plans of the Renaissance town.
In 1998, the state garden fair took place in Jülich. This made the extensive restoration of the bridge head fortifications and the establishment of a large leisure park, the bridge head park, possible.
Today, Jülich is mainly known for its world-famous research centre (established in 1956) and the satellite campus of the Fachhochschule Aachen (established in 1970). The town's landmark is the Witch Tower, a city gate and remnant of the medieval city fortifications. The most impressive remnants from the past are, however, both the Napoleonic Bridgehead and the Citadel.