Xanten, a historic town in the North Rhine-Westphalia, was settled by neolithic farmers thousands of
years before the first settlements by isolated German tribes around the year 2000 BC. Romans
founded a military camp here in 15 BC. Castra Vetera I was situated on the Fürstenberg, a hill-top
location which was easily defensible and had a view of Germania. Until its destruction during the
Revolt of the Batavi in 70 AD, it was occupied by 8,000 to 10,000 legionaries who lived in wooden
and clay houses here, and was the main base of the Classis germanica. The best-known Roman
officer to die here was Marcus Caelius. His memorial stone was discovered in Xanten in 1630. After
the destruction of Castra Vetera, a second camp was established and named Castra Vetera II.  
Xanten was also the legendary home of Siegfried from the legend of the Nibelungs.
In the late 8th Century, a church was built on the grounds of an old Roman cemetery and called
Sanctos. In 982, the foundation stone for a Gothic cathedral was laid, and actual work commenced in
1263 to commemorate St. Viktor, roman soldier and last martyr, killed under the apostate emperor
Julian 362-363. At the end of the 14th Century, Xanten was surrounded by a city wall. In 1392, the
northern part of the city came into the possession of the dukes of Cleves, while the southern part was
still possessed by the Archbishopric of Cologne. In the 17th century Xanten was with Cleves
inherited by the Margraviate of Brandenburg.
In February, 1945, bombardment of the city began. Especially heavy bombing of February 10 and 13
killed almost 300 civilians and 18 foreign workers. The bombing destroyed large parts of Xanten.
The ancient cathedral was nearly destroyed as was the medieval town center along with 85% of the
town. in the Xanten town cemetery lie among the rest of the victims, the remains of ten members of
one family. It was then occupied by British troops who evacuated the population elsewhere until
Germany was defeated for good and fully occupied. After the war, many refugees from East Prussia
found refuge here.
Xanten