York is twinned with two European towns, Dijon in the Burgundy region of France and Münster in the North Rhine Westphalia region of Germany. York’s partnership with Dijon dates back to 1953 followed by the ‘twinning’ with Münster four years later in 1957.
Twinning is a link between two similar communities, partnered in order to acquire knowledge of each other’s way of life, discuss mutual problems, form cultural and social links, arrange sporting events, exchange visits and develop friendships. On the whole, town twinning has brought thousands of people across Europe closer to one another and is based on the principle of reciprocity.
The idea was born post World War II when it was felt that establishing links between local communities of former enemy countries would contribute to a more secure peace in Europe. Since then, villages and towns across Europe have established twinning links.
The overall aims include developing mutual understanding and cross-cultural awareness between people from different countries.
Dijon and Münster have many features comparable with York, both date back long into history and are bursting with heritage and tradition.
Dijon, while being most famous for it’s mustard, offers a wealth of cultural activities, including a vast array of museums and the cathedral of Saint-Benigne de Dijon, Dijon’s patron saint. The cathedral itself certainly rivals York’s Minster boasting beautiful ornate turrets and a mysterious crypt, believed to be one of the oldest Christian sanctuaries still visitable in France. Similar to York, Dijon’s attractions are easily accessible within the city as due to traffic restrictions, the centre contains lots of pedestrian walking streets, showcasing one of the best preserved medieval centres in France.
Like York, the city of Münster is steeped in history and is most commonly known as the site of the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia, ending the Thirty Years’ War in 1648’ as the location of the Anabaptist rebellion during the Protestant Reformation; and, as less the less historic, more twee bicycle capital of Germany (statistically every inhabitant owns four bicycles). The picturesque German city is described as a ‘living metropolis with many faces’ and as the city of sculptures. Münster is a regular home to various market stalls including a weekly market on the cathedral square, similar to York’s markets but on a larger scale. Particularly enviable are their Christmas markets, containing around 300 stalls for the advent period. Perhaps York needs to step up its game…
Both cities also host University campuses, the Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster and the Université de Bourgogne and are therefore home to thousands of students. The WWU Münster was founded in 1780, so is much older that the University of York, boasting magnificent grand buildings and over 37,000 students. The University of Burgundy enrols slightly less students, around 27,000 per year yet still many more than York. It sinks its roots deep into the history of France as the origins date back to the French monarchy with the founding of the Dijon faculty of law in 1722, at the instigation of King Louis XV of France. Following the French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon I founded the faculties of Science, Arts and Medicine at the heart of Dijon. The current university campus however was erected in the 1950’s at the doors of the city centre.
Münster is also twinned with eight other cities besides York; evidently a popular choice.
Town twinning is interesting and certainly worth a research before visiting a European city, particularly considering how beautiful York’s twinned towns are, it certainly sparks an desire to discover which other British towns and cities are twinned.
Image courtesy of StewieD