Notre-Dame Cathedral and a portion of the fortress wall.
It has come under the control of many states and ruling houses in its long history, but it has been a separate, if not always autonomous, political unit since the 10th century. The ancient Saxon name of its capital city, Lucilinburhuc (“Little Fortress”), symbolised its strategic position as “the Gibraltar of the north,” astride a major military route linking Germanic and Frankish territories.
This tiny country is a point of contact between the Germanic- and Romance-language communities of Europe, and three languages are regularly employed in the grand duchy itself: Luxembourgish, German, and French.
The peoples and their languages reflect the grand duchy’s common interests and close historical relations with its neighbours. In the 20th century it became a founding member of several international economic organisations. Perhaps most importantly, the grand duchy was an original member of the Benelux Economic Union (1944), which linked its economic life with that of the Netherlands and of Belgium and would subsequently form the core of the European Economic Community (EEC; ultimately succeeded by the European Union).