Order of Saint Louis
The Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis is a dynastic order of chivalry founded 5 April 1693 by King Louis XIV, named after Saint Louis. It was intended as a reward for exceptional officers, notable as the first decoration that could be granted to non-nobles. By the authorities of the French Republic, it is considered a predecessor of the Legion of Honour, with which it shares the red ribbon. Although abolished by the government authorities of the July Revolution in 1830 following the French Revolution, its activities carried on as a dynastic order of the sovereign royal family; as such, it is still recognised by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry. The King was the Grand Master of the order, the Dauphin was automatically a member as well; the Order had three classes: Grand-Croix Commandeur Chevalier The entire order included 8 Grand Crosses, 28 Commanders and a variable number of Knights. Officers of the Order included, after a Trésorier, a Greffier and a Huissier; the badge of the order consisted of a portrait of Saint Louis surrounded by the motto « LUD M IN 1693 ».
The reverse features a sword interlaced with a laurel crown and a white sash, with the inscription « BELL VIRTUTIS PRAEM ». Knights wore the badge suspended from a ribbon on the breast, Commanders wore a red ribband over the right shoulder, recipients of the Grand Cross wore the ribband as well as a star on the left breast; the general assembly of the Order was held annually on 25 August, the feast day of Saint Louis, in the residence of the King. Conditions for being inducted did not include nobility. Members of the Order received a pension. Hereditary nobility was granted to a knight's son and grandsons. Another decoration, the Institution of Military Merit was created for the Protestant officers in service of the French king; until the death of Louis XIV, the medal was awarded to outstanding officers only, but it came to be an award that most officers would receive during their career. On 1 January 1791, during the French Revolution, a decree changed the name to décoration militaire, it was subsequently withdrawn on 15 October 1792.
One of the first acts of Louis XVIII was to reinstate the Order of Saint Louis, using it to award officers of the Royal and Imperial armies alike. In 1830 the new king Louis-Philippe abolished the order, never reinstated. Louis, by the grace of God King of Navarre, to all present and yet to come, hail; the officers of our troops have distinguished themselves by so many actions of considerable virtue and courage, in the conquest which it pleased God to bless the justice of our arms, ordinary awards becoming insufficient to the affection and the thankfulness which we have for them, we have deemed it necessary to seek new ways to reward their zeal and fidelity. In this view have we decided to establish a purely military Order to which, in addition to the external marks of honour which are associated to it, we shall guarantee revenues and pensions which shall rise in proportion to them growing more and more worthy through their behaviour. We have decided that only officers still serving in our troops shall be introduced and that virtue and distinguished service in our armies shall be the only criteria to enter.
We shall in the future give a particular attention to increase the advantages of this order, so that we shall have the satisfaction to always be able to grant graces to the officers, on the other hand, seeing rewards guaranteed by valour, they would every day bear renewed ardour in deserving them by their actions. In these causes, with the advice of our council, our certain science, full power and royal authority, we have created and built, by the present, our military Order with the name of Saint Louis, with the forms, statutes and rules as follow: Ordre Royal et Militaire de Saint-Louis—includes photographs, explanations and a 20,000 name list of recipients Histoire de l'Ordre royal & militaire de Saint-Louis—History of the Order
Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they support limited government, individual rights, democracy, gender equality, racial equality, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Liberalism became a distinct movement in the Age of Enlightenment, when it became popular among Western philosophers and economists. Liberalism sought to replace the norms of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, the divine right of kings and traditional conservatism with representative democracy and the rule of law. Liberals ended mercantilist policies, royal monopolies and other barriers to trade, instead promoting free markets. Philosopher John Locke is credited with founding liberalism as a distinct tradition, arguing that each man has a natural right to life and property, adding that governments must not violate these rights based on the social contract.
While the British liberal tradition has emphasised expanding democracy, French liberalism has emphasised rejecting authoritarianism and is linked to nation-building. Leaders in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789 used liberal philosophy to justify the armed overthrow of royal tyranny. Liberalism started to spread especially after the French Revolution; the 19th century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe and South America, whereas it was well-established alongside republicanism in the United States. In Victorian Britain, it was used to critique the political establishment, appealing to science and reason on behalf of the people. During 19th and early 20th century, liberalism in the Ottoman Empire and Middle East influenced periods of reform such as the Tanzimat and Al-Nahda as well as the rise of secularism, constitutionalism and nationalism; these changes, along with other factors, helped to create a sense of crisis within Islam, which continues to this day, leading to Islamic revivalism.
Before 1920, the main ideological opponent of classical liberalism was conservatism, but liberalism faced major ideological challenges from new opponents: fascism and communism. However, during the 20th century liberal ideas spread further—especially in Western Europe—as liberal democracies found themselves on the winning side in both world wars. In Europe and North America, the establishment of social liberalism became a key component in the expansion of the welfare state. Today, liberal parties continue to wield influence throughout the world. However, liberalism still has challenges to overcome in Asia; the fundamental elements of contemporary society have liberal roots. The early waves of liberalism popularised economic individualism while expanding constitutional government and parliamentary authority. Liberals sought and established a constitutional order that prized important individual freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom of association. Waves of modern liberal thought and struggle were influenced by the need to expand civil rights.
Liberals have advocated gender and racial equality in their drive to promote civil rights and a global civil rights movement in the 20th century achieved several objectives towards both goals. Continental European liberalism is divided between moderates and progressives, with the moderates tending to elitism and the progressives supporting the universalisation of fundamental institutions, such as universal suffrage, universal education and the expansion of property rights. Over time, the moderates displaced the progressives as the main guardians of continental European liberalism. Words such as liberal, liberty and libertine all trace their history to the Latin liber, which means "free". One of the first recorded instances of the word liberal occurs in 1375, when it was used to describe the liberal arts in the context of an education desirable for a free-born man; the word's early connection with the classical education of a medieval university soon gave way to a proliferation of different denotations and connotations.
Liberal could refer to "free in bestowing" as early as 1387, "made without stint" in 1433, "freely permitted" in 1530 and "free from restraint"—often as a pejorative remark—in the 16th and the 17th centuries. In 16th century England, liberal could have positive or negative attributes in referring to someone's generosity or indiscretion. In Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare wrote of "a liberal villaine" who "hath confest his vile encounters". With the rise of the Enlightenment, the word acquired decisively more positive undertones, being defined as "free from narrow prejudice" in 1781 and "free from bigotry" in 1823. In 1815, the first use of the word "liberalism" appeared in English. In Spain, the liberales, the first group to use the liberal label in a political context, fought for decades for the implementation of the 1812 Constitution. From 1820 to 1823 during the Trienio Liberal, King Ferdinand VII was compelled by the liberales to swear to uphold the Constitution. By the middle of the 19th century, liberal was used as a politicised term for parties and movements worldwide.
Over time, the meaning of the word liberalism began to diverge in different parts of the world. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica: "In the United States, liberalism is associated with the welfare-state policies of the New Deal programme of the Democratic administration of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, where
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris, France. With more than 3.5 million visitors annually, it is the most visited necropolis in the world. Père Lachaise is located in the 20th arrondissement and notable for being the first garden cemetery, as well as the first municipal cemetery in Paris, it is the site of three World War I memorials. The cemetery is on Boulevard de Ménilmontant; the Paris Métro station Philippe Auguste on Line 2 is next to the main entrance, while the station named Père Lachaise, on both Line 2 and Line 3, is 500 metres away near a side entrance. Many tourists prefer the Gambetta station on Line 3, as it allows them to enter near the tomb of Oscar Wilde and walk downhill to visit the rest of the cemetery; the cemetery of Père Lachaise opened in 1804. The cemetery takes its name from the confessor to Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise, who lived in the Jesuit house rebuilt during 1682 on the site of the chapel; the property, situated on the hillside from which the king watched skirmishing between the armies of the Condé and Turenne during the Fronde, was bought by the city during 1804.
Established by Napoleon during this year, the cemetery was laid out by Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart and extended. Napoleon, proclaimed Emperor by the Senate three days earlier, had declared during the Consulate that "Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion”; as the city graveyards of Paris filled, several new, large cemeteries, outside the precincts of the capital, replaced them: Montmartre Cemetery in the north, Père Lachaise in the east, Montparnasse Cemetery in the south. Near the middle of the city is Passy Cemetery. At the time of its opening, the cemetery was considered to be situated too far from the city and attracted few funerals. Moreover, many Roman Catholics refused to have their graves in a place that had not been blessed by the Church. During 1804, the Père Lachaise contained only 13 graves; the administrators devised a marketing strategy and during 1804, with great fanfare, organized the transfer of the remains of Jean de La Fontaine and Molière.
The next year there were 44 burials, with 49 during 1806, 62 during 1807 and 833 during 1812. In another great spectacle of 1817, the purported remains of Pierre Abélard and Héloïse d'Argenteuil were transferred to the cemetery with their monument's canopy made from fragments of the abbey of Nogent-sur-Seine; this strategy achieved its desired effect: people began clamoring to be buried among the famous citizens. Records show that the Père Lachaise contained more than 33,000 graves during 1830. Père Lachaise was expanded five times: during 1824, 1829, 1832, 1842 and 1850. Presently there are more than 1 million bodies buried there, many more in the columbarium, which holds the remains of those who had requested cremation; the Communards' Wall, located within the cemetery, was the site where 147 Communards, the last defenders of the workers' district of Belleville, were shot on May 28, 1871. That day was the last of the "Bloody Week". Today, the site is a traditional rallying point for members of the French political Left.
Adolphe Thiers, the French president who directed "Bloody Week," is interred in the cemetery, where his tomb has been subject to vandalism. A funerary chapel was erected during 1823 by Étienne-Hippolyte Godde at the exact place of the ancient Jesuit house; this same Neoclassical architect created the monumental entrance a few years later. A columbarium and a crematorium of a Neo-Byzantine style were designed in 1894 by Jean-Camille Formigé. Père Lachaise is still an operating cemetery and accepting new burials. However, the rules to be buried in a Paris cemetery are rather strict: people may be buried in one of these cemeteries if they die in the French capital city or if they lived there. Being buried in Père Lachaise is more difficult nowadays as there is a waiting list: few plots are available; the grave sites at Père Lachaise range from a simple, unadorned headstone to towering monuments and elaborate mini chapels dedicated to the memory of a well-known person or family. Many of the tombs are about the size and shape of a telephone booth, with just enough space for a mourner to step inside, kneel to say a prayer, leave some flowers.
The cemetery manages to squeeze an increasing number of bodies into a finite and crowded space. One way it does. At Père Lachaise, it is not uncommon to reopen a grave after a body has decomposed and inter another coffin; some family mausoleums or multi-family tombs contain dozens of bodies in several separate but contiguous graves. Shelves are installed to accommodate them. During recent times, the Père Lachaise has adopted a standard practice of issuing 30-year leases on grave sites, so that if a lease is not renewed by a family, the remains can be removed, space made for a new grave, the overall deterioration of the cemetery minimized. Abandoned remains are boxed and moved to Aux Morts ossuary, in Père Lachaise cemetery. Plots can be bought in perpetuity or for 50, 30 or 10 years, the last being the least expensive option. For the case of mausoleums and chapels, coffins are most of the time below ground. Although some sources incorrectly estimate the number of interred as 300,000 in Père Lachaise, according to the official website of
Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, which from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients. The degrees of Freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow, Master Mason; the candidate of these three degrees is progressively taught the meanings of the symbols of Freemasonry, entrusted with grips and words to signify to other members that he has been so initiated. The initiations are part allegorical morality part lecture; the three degrees are offered by Craft Freemasonry. Members of these organisations are known as Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, are administered by their own bodies; the basic, local organisational unit of Freemasonry is the Lodge. The Lodges are supervised and governed at the regional level by a Grand Lodge or Grand Orient.
There is no worldwide Grand Lodge that supervises all of Freemasonry. Modern Freemasonry broadly consists of two main recognition groups. Regular Freemasonry insists that a volume of scripture is open in a working lodge, that every member profess belief in a Supreme Being, that no women are admitted, that the discussion of religion and politics is banned. Continental Freemasonry is now the general term for the jurisdictions which have removed some, or all, of these restrictions; the Masonic lodge is the basic organisational unit of Freemasonry. The Lodge meets to conduct the usual formal business of any small organisation. In addition to business, the meeting may perform a ceremony to confer a Masonic degree or receive a lecture, on some aspect of Masonic history or ritual. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Lodge might adjourn for a formal dinner, or festive board, sometimes involving toasting and song; the bulk of Masonic ritual consists of degree ceremonies. Candidates for Freemasonry are progressively initiated into Freemasonry, first in the degree of Entered Apprentice.
Some time in a separate ceremony, they will be passed to the degree of Fellowcraft, they will be raised to the degree of Master Mason. In all of these ceremonies, the candidate is entrusted with passwords and grips peculiar to his new rank. Another ceremony is officers of the Lodge. In some jurisdictions Installed Master is valued as a separate rank, with its own secrets to distinguish its members. In other jurisdictions, the grade is not recognised, no inner ceremony conveys new secrets during the installation of a new Master of the Lodge. Most Lodges have some sort of social calendar, allowing Masons and their partners to meet in a less ritualised environment. Coupled with these events is the obligation placed on every Mason to contribute to charity; this occurs at both Grand Lodge level. Masonic charities contribute to many fields, such as disaster relief; these private local Lodges form the backbone of Freemasonry, a Freemason will have been initiated into one of these. There exist specialist Lodges where Masons meet to celebrate events, such as sport or Masonic research.
The rank of Master Mason entitles a Freemason to explore Masonry further through other degrees, administered separately from the Craft, or "Blue Lodge" degrees described here, but having a similar format to their meetings. There is little consistency in Freemasonry; because each Masonic jurisdiction is independent, each sets its own procedures. The wording of the ritual, the number of officers present, the layout of the meeting room, etc. varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The officers of the Lodge are appointed annually; every Masonic Lodge has two Wardens, a secretary and a treasurer. There is a Tyler, or outer guard, always present outside the door of a working Lodge. Other offices vary between jurisdictions; each Masonic Lodge exists and operates according to a set of ancient principles known as the Landmarks of Freemasonry. These principles have thus far eluded any universally accepted definition. Candidates for Freemasonry will have met most active members of the Lodge they are joining before they are initiated.
The process varies between jurisdictions, but the candidate will have been introduced by a friend at a Lodge social function, or at some form of open evening in the Lodge. In modern times, interested people track down a local Lodge through the Internet; the onus is on candidates to ask to join. Once the initial inquiry is made, an interview follows to determine the candidate's suitability. If the candidate decides to proceed from here, the Lodge ballots on the application before he can be accepted; the absolute minimum requirement of any body of Freemasons is that the candidate must be free, considered to be of good character. There is an age requirement, varying between Grand Lodges, capable of being overridden by a dispensation from the Grand Lodge; the underlying assumption is that the candidate should
Chamber of Peers (France)
The Chamber of Peers was the upper house of the French parliament from 1814 to 1848. The Peerage of France was recreated by the Charter of 1814 at the same time as the Bourbon Restoration, albeit on a different basis from that of the ancien regime before 1789. A new Chamber of Peers was created, similar to the British House of Lords, it met at the Palais du Luxembourg. Like the House of Lords, the Chamber of Peers had a judicial function, being authorized to judge peers and other prominent people; as such, it judged Marshall Ney to death. This new Chamber of Peers acted as the Upper House of the French parliament. To begin with it had 154 members, including the holders of all surviving pre-Revolutionary ecclesiastical and lay peerages, except for the Duchy of Aubigny, held by a foreigner, the Duke of Richmond. Thirteen peers were prelates. New members were appointed without limit on their numbers; such a peerage was heritable, at the king's will. All men of the royal family and all descendants in the male line of previous kings were members of the chamber by birth, but they needed explicit permission from the king to sit at each session of the chamber.
At the outset comprising only hereditary peers and certain prelates of the church, the Chamber became a body to which men were appointed for life following the July Revolution of 1830. In the Revolution of 1848, the Chamber of Peers was disbanded and the peerage of France was abolished. Chamber of Most Worthy Peers House of Lords French Senat | La Chambre des Pairs de la Restauration French Senat | La Chambre des Pairs de la Monarchie de Juillet University of Cambridge | Institution French Chamber of Peers
The Rhine is one of the major European rivers, which has its sources in Switzerland and flows in an northerly direction through Germany and The Netherlands to the North Sea. The river begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and the Franco-German border flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and empties into the North Sea; the largest city on the Rhine is Cologne, with a population of more than 1,050,000 people. It is the second-longest river in Central and Western Europe, at about 1,230 km, with an average discharge of about 2,900 m3/s; the Rhine and the Danube formed most of the northern inland frontier of the Roman Empire and, since those days, the Rhine has been a vital and navigable waterway carrying trade and goods deep inland. Its importance as a waterway in the Holy Roman Empire is supported by the many castles and fortifications built along it. In the modern era, it has become a symbol of German nationalism.
Among the biggest and most important cities on the Rhine are Cologne, Düsseldorf, Rotterdam and Basel. The variants of the name of the Rhine in modern languages are all derived from the Gaulish name Rēnos, adapted in Roman-era geography as Greek Ῥῆνος, Latin Rhenus; the spelling with Rh- in English Rhine as well as in German Rhein and French Rhin is due to the influence of Greek orthography, while the vocalisation -i- is due to the Proto-Germanic adoption of the Gaulish name as *Rīnaz, via Old Frankish giving Old English Rín,Old High German Rīn, early Middle Dutch Rijn. The diphthong in modern German Rhein is a Central German development of the early modern period, the Alemannic name Rī retaining the older vocalism, as does Ripuarian Rhing, while Palatine has diphthongized Rhei, Rhoi. Spanish is with French in adopting the Germanic vocalism Rin-, while Italian and Portuguese retain the Latin Ren-; the Gaulish name Rēnos belongs to a class of river names built from the PIE root *rei- "to move, run" found in other names such as the Reno in Italy.
The grammatical gender of the Celtic name is masculine, the name remains masculine in German and French. The Old English river name was variously inflected as feminine; the length of the Rhine is conventionally measured in "Rhine-kilometers", a scale introduced in 1939 which runs from the Old Rhine Bridge at Constance to Hoek van Holland. The river is shortened from its natural course due to a number of canalisation projects completed in the 19th and 20th century; the "total length of the Rhine", to the inclusion of Lake Constance and the Alpine Rhine is more difficult to measure objectively. Its course is conventionally divided as follows: The Rhine carries its name without distinctive accessories only from the confluence of the Rein Anteriur/Vorderrhein and Rein Posteriur/Hinterrhein next to Reichenau in Tamins. Above this point is the extensive catchment of the headwaters of the Rhine, it belongs exclusively to the Swiss canton of Graubünden, ranging from Saint-Gotthard Massif in the west via one valley lying in Ticino and Italy in the south to the Flüela Pass in the east.
Traditionally, Lake Toma near the Oberalp Pass in the Gotthard region is seen as the source of the Anterior Rhine and the Rhine as a whole. The Posterior Rhine rises in the Rheinwald below the Rheinwaldhorn; the source of the river is considered north of Lai da Tuma/Tomasee on Rein Anteriur/Vorderrhein, although its southern tributary Rein da Medel is longer before its confluence with the Anterior Rhine near Disentis. The Anterior Rhine springs from Lai da Tuma/Tomasee, near the Oberalp Pass and passes the impressive Ruinaulta formed by the largest visible rock slide in the alps, the Flims Rockslide; the Posterior Rhine starts near the Rheinwaldhorn. One of its tributaries, the Reno di Lei, drains the Valle di Lei on politically Italian territory. After three main valleys separated by the two gorges and Viamala, it reaches Reichenau in Tamins; the Anterior Rhine arises from numerous source streams in the upper Surselva and flows in an easterly direction. One source is Lai da Tuma with the Rein da Tuma, indicated as source of the Rhine, flowing through it.
Into it flow tributaries from the south, some longer, some equal in length, such as the Rein da Medel, the Rein da Maighels, the Rein da Curnera. The Cadlimo Valley in the canton of Ticino is drained by the Reno di Medel, which crosses the geomorphologic Alpine main ridge from the south. All streams in the source area are sometimes captured and sent to storage reservoirs for the local hydro-electric power plants; the culminating point of the Anterior Rhine's drainage basin is the Piz Russein of the Tödi massif of the Glarus Alps at 3,613 metres above sea level. It starts with the creek Aua da Russein. In its lower course the Anterior Rhine flows through a gorge named Ruinaulta; the whole stretch of the Anterior Rhine to the Alpine Rhine confluence next to Reichen
Alsace is a cultural and historical region in eastern France, on the west bank of the upper Rhine next to Germany and Switzerland. From 1982 to 2016, Alsace was the smallest administrative région in metropolitan France, consisting of the Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin departments. Territorial reform passed by the French legislature in 2014 resulted in the merger of the Alsace administrative region with Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine to form Grand Est. Alsatian is an Alemannic dialect related to Swabian and Swiss German, although since World War II most Alsatians speak French. Internal and international migration since 1945 has changed the ethnolinguistic composition of Alsace. For more than 300 years, from the Thirty Years' War to World War II, the political status of Alsace was contested between France and various German states in wars and diplomatic conferences; the economic and cultural capital of Alsace, as well as its largest city, is Strasbourg. The city is the seat of bodies; the name "Alsace" can be traced to the Old High German Ali-saz or Elisaz, meaning "foreign domain".
An alternative explanation is from a Germanic Ell-sass, meaning "seated on the Ill", a river in Alsace. In prehistoric times, Alsace was inhabited by nomadic hunters. By 1500 BC, Celts began to settle in Alsace and cultivating the land, it should be noted that Alsace is a plain surrounded by the Vosges mountains and the Black Forest mountains. It creates Foehn winds which, along with natural irrigation, contributes to the fertility of the soil. In a world of agriculture, Alsace has always been a rich region which explains why it suffered so many invasions and annexations in its history. By 58 BC, the Romans had established Alsace as a center of viticulture. To protect this valued industry, the Romans built fortifications and military camps that evolved into various communities which have been inhabited continuously to the present day. While part of the Roman Empire, Alsace was part of Germania Superior. With the decline of the Roman Empire, Alsace became the territory of the Germanic Alemanni; the Alemanni were agricultural people, their Germanic language formed the basis of modern-day dialects spoken along the Upper Rhine.
Clovis and the Franks defeated the Alemanni during the 5th century AD, culminating with the Battle of Tolbiac, Alsace became part of the Kingdom of Austrasia. Under Clovis' Merovingian successors the inhabitants were Christianized. Alsace remained under Frankish control until the Frankish realm, following the Oaths of Strasbourg of 842, was formally dissolved in 843 at the Treaty of Verdun. Alsace formed part of the Middle Francia, ruled by the eldest grandson Lothar I. Lothar died early in 855 and his realm was divided into three parts; the part known as Lotharingia, or Lorraine, was given to Lothar's son. The rest was shared between Louis the German; the Kingdom of Lotharingia was short-lived, becoming the stem duchy of Lorraine in Eastern Francia after the Treaty of Ribemont in 880. Alsace was united with the other Alemanni east of the Rhine into the stem duchy of Swabia. At about this time, the surrounding areas experienced recurring fragmentation and reincorporations among a number of feudal secular and ecclesiastical lordships, a common process in the Holy Roman Empire.
Alsace experienced great prosperity during the 13th centuries under Hohenstaufen emperors. Frederick I set up Alsace as a province to be ruled by ministeriales, a non-noble class of civil servants; the idea was that such men would be more tractable and less to alienate the fief from the crown out of their own greed. The province had a central administration with its seat at Hagenau. Frederick II designated the Bishop of Strasbourg to administer Alsace, but the authority of the bishop was challenged by Count Rudolf of Habsburg, who received his rights from Frederick II's son Conrad IV. Strasbourg began to grow to become the commercially important town in the region. In 1262, after a long struggle with the ruling bishops, its citizens gained the status of free imperial city. A stop on the Paris-Vienna-Orient trade route, as well as a port on the Rhine route linking southern Germany and Switzerland to the Netherlands and Scandinavia, it became the political and economic center of the region. Cities such as Colmar and Hagenau began to grow in economic importance and gained a kind of autonomy within the "Décapole", a federation of ten free towns.
As in much of Europe, the prosperity of Alsace came to an end in the 14th century by a series of harsh winters, bad harvests, the Black Death. These hardships were blamed on Jews, leading to the pogroms of 1336 and 1339. In 1349, Jews of Alsace were accused of poisoning the wells with plague, leading to the massacre of thousands of Jews during the Strasbourg pogrom. Jews were subsequently forbidden to settle in the town. An additional natural disaster was the Rhine rift earthquake of 1356, one of Europe's worst which made ruins of Basel. Prosperity returned to Alsace under Habsburg administration during the Renaissance. Holy Roman Empire central power had begun to decline following years of imperial adventures in Italian lands ceding hegemony in Western Europe to France, which had long since centralized power. France began an aggressive policy of expanding eastward, first to the riv