History of Rothenburg o.d.T.
                                          A journey through German Romanticism
History of Rothenburg o.d.T.
A journey through German Romanticism

A journey through German Romanticism

History of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

When you visit Rothenburg, you immerse yourself in a world that embodies the essence of German Romanticism. To truly understand this fascinating city, it is essential to know its rich history. Only then does the full magic of the medieval old town unfold before your eyes. Let’s dive in together and explore the history that has made Rothenburg an icon of German Romanticism.

The history of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is rich with highs and lows, from times of splendor to dark hours. Today, the city serves as a living museum, preserving the history and charm of bygone centuries.

The origins of Rothenburg:

From Reinger to the "Red Castle (Roten Burg)"

In the year 970, the East Frankish nobleman Reinger laid the foundation for the parish of Detwang in the picturesque Tauber Valley, not far from the future city of Rothenburg. The church of St. Peter and Paul in Detwang later evolved into the mother church of St. Jacobs church.

In 1080, the Counts of Komburg erected an impressive castle complex at the “Essigkrug,” near the present-day hospital. The legacy of this structure passed in 1116 to the monastery of Komburg and the Neumünster Abbey in Würzburg, both founded by them.

In 1142, King Conrad III, the first ruler of the Staufer dynasty, acquired the area where the city would later emerge and had the “Red Castle” built high above the Tauber. It was already referred to as “Castrum Imperiale” (Imperial Castle) in 1167.

A golden age of trade and prosperity

Rothenburg ob der Tauber gained prominence through its flourishing trade in wool and its strategically advantageous location on the imperial road from Würzburg to Augsburg. Merchants, pilgrims, and travelers played a significant role in the economic prosperity, and thus, the city thrived between the 13th and 16th centuries, becoming one of the most splendid in the Holy Roman Empire. To this day, historical structures such as St. Jacob’s Church, the Town Hall, and majestic patrician houses bear witness to the former wealth of the city.

Challenges in the Middle Ages:
Between plagues of rats & famines

The Middle Ages were by no means a romantic era. Unpaved streets, lack of sewage systems, and tanneries spread unpleasant odors. Rat infestations facilitated the spread of the plague, while famines, wars, and the tyranny of rulers plunged the population into difficult times. The supposedly “good old days” were anything but idyllic.

Heinrich Toppler's expansion and influence

With growing autonomy, Rothenburg expanded not only in terms of its rights but also spatially. It included suburbs that were integrated into an imposing fortification. Since 1383, the city’s influence extended beyond the walls into the surrounding region, creating a significant urban territory. This territory, known as the “Landwehr,” was protected by a “Landhege” since around 1430.

This expansive period coincided with the rule of the powerful mayor Heinrich Toppler, who, in 1408, fell victim to political intrigues and a rival upper class.

The walled city: a symbol of defense

Rothenburg was surrounded by an impressive city wall with six city gates, and its citizens defended their home with crossbows and later firearms. The gates were closed at nightfall, and the ringing of bells signaled the “curfew” to call the citizens back into the city. Those who arrived late had to pass through the “Mannloch” (manhole) and pay a fine. The city successfully withstood many enemies until it was eventually conquered during the Thirty Years’ War.

The Reformation and the Thirty Years' War

In the 16th century, Rothenburg ob der Tauber experienced the Reformation, leading the city to become a center of Protestantism. In the subsequent 17th century, Rothenburg endured the terrible events of the Thirty Years’ War. Particularly noteworthy is the siege of Rothenburg in 1631, which brought devastating destruction. A fascinating episode from the city’s history is the legend of Georg Nusch and his courageous act of drinking wine to save Rothenburg ob der Tauber during the siege of 1631. Georg Nusch, the mayor of the city at that time, is celebrated as a hero in this legend, creatively preventing the city’s conquest.

For more information on the city’s rescue: 

Rothenburg's reawakening

After the devastating impact of the war, Rothenburg ob der Tauber gradually lost significance and fell into a kind of slumber. It was only in the 19th century that the city was rediscovered when its well-preserved medieval architecture and historical charm attracted tourists from around the world. However, during World War II, the city suffered severe damage once again. Thanks to the intervention of John McCloy, Rothenburg survived and was lovingly restored after the war.

Today, Rothenburg ob der Tauber stands as the best-preserved medieval town in Germany. The city walls and historic buildings attract visitors from around the world who wish to experience the rich history and impressive architecture up close. Rothenburg’s journey was marked by highs and lows, but it has evolved into a vibrant and fascinating city, proudly showcasing its history.

Rothenburg today: A living ode to the past

From the well-preserved city walls to the winding alleys, the castle garden, and magnificent half-timbered houses, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a true treasure that keeps the rich history of Germany alive and preserved for future generations. Visitors can not only immerse themselves in the past but also experience the beauty and enchantment of one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. Rothenburg ob der Tauber will never cease to captivate people with its history and charm.


TOP sights in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Colored facades, slanted gables, wooden beams, golden inscriptions, ornaments, and original carvings – not only do our whimsical half-timbered houses in Rothenburg ob der Tauber possess incredible charm. Get to know the most beautiful places and TOP sights of our enchanting city.

the menu, please.


Hotel Gotisches Haus
Herrngasse 13
DE-91541 Rothenburg o.d.T.