City (pop., 2002 est: city, 323,400; metro. area, 579,000), northwestern Germany. Founded in 1214, the town arose from a religious settlement around St. Mary's Church in the late 13th century. It joined the Hanseatic League in the 14th century and passed to Brandenburg in 1647. The first mechanized textile mills in Germany were established there in 1851. Heavily damaged in World War II, the city has since been rebuilt. It is the centre of a linen industry; it also has silk and plush weaving mills.