|What does history have to tell us? |
You will find yourself in a lively and vital town whose profile has been shaped by centuries. Even though it might give the impression of being a museum, you’ll soon find that the world is still in order in Gengenbach.
Wherever you are in Gengenbach – at the historical marketplace, in the winding idyllic streets and alleys, in the former Benedictine monastery, on top of the Bergle (Little Mountain), or at the modern outdoor swimming pool on the island – you will find a harmonious blend of history and modernity.
Our region was already settled by the Celts in pre-Christian times. Many names, such as Kinzig, for example, are reminders of the Celtic times. The Germanic tribes who followed the Celts were pushed back out of the area by the Romans. The first settlement in Gengenbach dates from Roman times, from 73 A.D. until 260 A.D. There are many remnants from the Roman era, including a richly decorated votive column, coins, and a brick oven made open to the public in 1974. Furthermore, the most important Roman road from Strasbourg to Rottweil ran through Gengenbach.
The Alemannic tribe ruled the area for some 200 years before submitting themselves to rule by King Chlodwig in 486, thus becoming part of the Frankish kingdom. Christianisation was completed under the Frankish Duke Ruthard. Duke Ruthard entrusted the missionary bishop Pirmin with this task. Pirmin founded the Benedictine abbey in Gengenbach in 725 after having founded the Reichenau cloister.
The cloister in Gengenbach was the king’s own cloister. He funded extensive estates. Many craftsmen and farmers settled around the cloister walls having found a secure position.
In 1230 this development led to the granting of municipal rights. The then-abbot, Lambert von Brunn, brought to an end the illegitimate claims made by the estate of Ortenberg. Von Brunn was also the Bishop of Briven, Speyer, Strasbourg, and Bamberg. As an adviser to King Karl IV, he was able to place the towns of Gengenbach and Zell under the direct auspices of the king in 1366. The towns thus won freedom from an intermediate lord within the kingdom.
Great unrest in the 16th Century ushered in the Reformation and later the Counterreformation. The Thirty Years’ War also left its mark on the town and the cloister. The worst year was in 1643 when Bernhard von Weimar’s troops repeatedly plundered the town.
No sooner were the horrors of the war over when the French Sun King, Louis XIV, sent his troops in to burn the town to ashes during his successful campaign in the Palatinate in 1689. The cloister and town began industriously to rebuild, determined to build for a peaceful future. This was the hour of birth of the modern-day face of Gengenbach. Equipped with the oldest market rights of central Baden and very active craftsmen’s guilds, the free town enjoyed a great blossoming.
The impressive Town Hall, built in 1784, is a result of these prosperous times. Unfortunately, the wonderful privileges enjoyed because of Gengenbach’s free town status came to an end in 1803 with the increasing secularisation. The cloister was shut down and the town was integrated into the Grand Duchy of Baden. The branch communities of Reichenbach, Bermersbach and Schwaibach were separated from Gengenbach. There were still two other dates of watershed important to Gengenbach. In 1860, the regulation of the Kinzig was abolished, and in 1866 the Black Forest railway tracks were laid. The town and citizens of Gengenbach have always been bound to tradition. In 1905 a local building ordinance was established to preserve the townscape. The entire inner part of the town was placed under an historical preservation order in 1955.