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The western German city of Cologne is situated on the west bank of the Rhine. The fourth-largest city in Germany, it serves the entire Rhine region as its historical, economic, and cultural center. The first settlement on the site was a Roman fortification. Franks captured it in 456. It became the seat of a powerful archbishop, and became independent in 1288. A member of the Hanseatic League, it declined in the Thirty Years' War of the 17th century. Prussia took it over in 1815. The heavy shipping traffic of the Rhine and the intersection of major east-west trade routes at the city caused it to recover and prosper. The inner city was almost entirely destroyed in World War II. The city has been rebuilt and continues as a commercial center. Some historic architecture survives, notables the great Gothic cathedral in the middle of the inner city, which was designated as a World Heritage site in 1996. Cologne has a wealth of museums and galleries, notably the Wallraf-Richartz and Ludwig museum complex, whose collection encompasses medieval art to modern works, the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, and the Schnütgen Museum of medieval ecclesiastical art. Educational institutions include the University of Cologne, founded in 1388. The modern city has a highly diversified economy, and serves as a banking center as well as a manufacturing city, notably producing motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and the city's famous eau de cologne, made since the beginning of the 18th century. The population estimate for 2004 was 969,500.
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