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Mühlhausen is known as the city of gates and churches. Because of the 56 steeples and towers of its city wall the place was originally referred to as " Mulhusia turrita", which means "Mühlhausen ornamented with steeples and towers".

In mediaeval times Mühlhausen ranked second after Erfurt as the most important city in Thuringia. Its architectural diversity provides evidence of the economic and cultural importance the former imperial free-city (Reichsstadt) once had, as does the city itself with its well-preserved, fully accessible city wall.