At the beginning of the 12th century, Wesel, which had developed into an important trade centre through its convenient location on the Rhine and Lippe, fell to the Count of Kleve. With the issuance of city rights in 1241 by the Young Earl Dietrich, the citizens obtained a series of privileges such as free inheritance and exemption from duty.
While trade in the 13th century was limited to the purchase and sale of food and handmade goods, there was an economic boom in the 14th century through the further processing of imported materials as well as the export of finished goods. In particular the production of scarves turned into a main source of wealth. And in 1407, Wesel joined the Hanseatic League. Following this, the city became the most important storage and trading site after Cologne for merchandise imported from Netherlands and Westphalia and received such an influential position that it was recognised as one of the five districts of the Cologne Hanseatic District at the Lübeck Hanseatic Day in 1447.
Trade relationships existed with the large Dutch Hanseatic cities, the London steel yard, but also with Stralsund, Danzig, Reval, Riga and Bergen.
Historic Town Hall and Willibrordi Cathedral
Through the enormous economic upswing, there was large construction activities in Wesel, which is reflected in the historic town hall and the Willbrordi Cathedral. The town hall built between 1456 and 1457 is one of the best-known secular buildings on the Lower Rhine from the Late Gothic and became the emblem of the city. Completely destroyed during World War II, the reconstruction of the historic town hall façade was complete in 2011. In 1424, the conversion of the church started, which was ordained by the namesake Willibrord. Originally planned as a three-aisled city church, the current Willibrordi Cathedral was converted into a five-aisled church from 1501 to about the middle of the 16th century.
The upswing of the 15th century also made Wesel a centre of artistic life on the Lower Rhine. The most important constructors, sculptors, painters and goldsmiths of the time worked here including Barthel Bruyn, Derick Baegert and his son Jan Baegert, Jan Joost van Calcar, and Heinrich Douvermann. The well-known court painting from Derik Baegert, which was made for the courtroom in the Late Gothic town hall, during the pre-reformation time is still owned by the city. The blooming period of Wesel dates back to the end of the 16th century.
The connection of Wesel to the Hanseatic League is reflected in the "Hanseband", which runs through the entire pedestrian zone. It is an anthracite band of stone with the names of 185 cities, which belong to the Hanseatic League of today or the Westphalia Hanseatic League. The names of the communes are listed from East to West.
The historic Hanseatic Festival is held every year on the last weekend of October. A diverse program with music and artists as well as Sunday shopping awaits visitors.