Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a rich history

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
There are only a few medieval towns in Germany that are as rich in history as the Franconian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Located some 420 meters above sea level and overlooking the valley of the Tauber River, its beautiful gates, towers and massive walls present a silhouette that continues to impress the never-ending flow of visitors.

Traces of the first settlement by Celts around 500 B.C. can be found on the opposite side of the valley at the Engelsburg castle ruins. Around the year 960, the city of Detwang in the Tauber valley was founded, and at the same time a citadel was built on the hill above the Tauber River. Conrad III, the first Hohenstaufen in the king's throne, erected an imperial citadel in 1142.

The town that developed from the small borough was awarded its charter and declared a Free Imperial City by Emperor Rudolph I in 1274. The following 150 years saw the expansion of the town and its territory that concluded in the early 15th century.

The first city wall dates as early as the 12th century. The outer town wall with its towers, gates and battlements dates to the 14th century. At that time, the town was a city state with around 155 square miles of land embracing 167 villages.

In 1544, Rothenburg joined in the Reformation. In the Thirty Years War, it suffered at the hands of a succession of conquerors. The town never recovered, and after that time it remained a city state without any economic and political impact. From the beginning to the end of its status as a Free Imperial City, the town was governed by wealthy patrician families, many of whom belonged to the nobility. In the course of the Napoleonic wars, Rothenburg was incorporated in Wuerttemberg. Its border location near the Bavarian-Wuerttemberg frontier was remote from busy trade routes and left Rothenburg completely unaffected by the architectural changes of the last century.

The councilors' Tavern with the Meistertrunk clock is the most famous point of interest in Rothenburg. The tavern was built in 1446. The clock was installed in the gable in 1683 and the Meistertrunk scene added in 1910. The scene on the clock shows an ex-mayor who drank nearly a gallon of wine at one time to meet a challenge of besieging forces, saving the town from destruction. The famous Doll and Toy museum, a 400 square meter exhibition hall, features porcelain as well as wax dolls from 1780 to 1940.

On Whitsunday, armed processions and camps present aspects of the Thirty Years War. The historic Shepherd's Dance is a treat for the senses during a historical festival held in August and September. Tourists often enjoy a visit of the Reichstadt museum, the medieval criminal museum in the Historical Vaults and the Franconian Craftsman's House. There are a lot of things for visitors to enjoy in the romantic town of Rothenburg.

Although the city has a rich history, it also offers everything a modern city enjoys such as sporting events and other activities. Some leisure activities include flying and gliding, fishing, tennis and bowling, open-air or indoor bathing, cross country riding, and camping.

The harmony of Rothenburg's surroundings should also not be overlooked. The flair of imperial Franconian towns is also noticeable in other nearby cities to include Nuremberg, Feuchtwangen, Dinkeslbuehl and Bad Windsheim.