Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Windsheim - four imperial cities in the eye of the hurricane: This was the situation the region found itself in during the Thirty Years' War. The small area located in what is today the West of Bavaria suffered the full blow of the horrors of this pan-European conflict.
At its end, a peace was concluded and drafted in the Imperial City of Nuremberg, preparing the way for the development of nation states and foreshadowing the form of today's Europe. A lament from that era still stands as a warning today:
"Come, that you may still use your brains, ere all Europe, that golden country, passes away!"
The year 2018 marks the 400th anniversary of the event that triggered the storm over Europe: the Prague Defenestration. Soon after, the catastrophe, slowly but steadily, approached the region between Windsheim and Nördlingen. On their way to the battlefields, the armies plundered and looted these regions. In 1624, for instance, the imperial regiments with 1,200 soldiers hat pitched camp outside the walls of Dinkelsbühl; their general commanders were billeted inside the town. Within three days, a group of mercenaries devoured the entire supplies and livestock of the hospital-owned sheep farm. When decamping, they plundered the courtyard, smashed the windows, cast grains of shot from the lead and with it shot the pigeons on the roofs. As of 1631 fighting also flared up around Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Dinkelsbühl, resulting in an unprecedented hemorrhage of population.
Epidemics raged through the cities. The communities lost up to 70 percent of their population. The French army entered the war after the defeat of the Swedish troops in the Battle of Nördlingen on September 6, 1634.
In 2018, there will be guided tours, historical festivals, as well as exhibitions in all four imperial cities demonstrating the impact of the Thirty Years' War on Windsheim, Nördlingen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and Dinkelsbühl. How did the population experience the suffering? What was the everyday life in towns and cities during this period like? Was it still possible to lead an ordinary life? What was the situation after 1648? These are the questions visitors can explore on their tours of the imperial cities.
Swedish King Gustav II Adolph or notorious generals such as Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, Octavio Piccolomini and Albrecht of Wallenstein - they all crossed this region with their armies.
Dinkelsbühl, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Nördlingen, and Windsheim, in their capacity as imperial cities, were directly subordinate to the Catholic Emperor. In these cities themselves, however, a large part of the population followed the ideas of Martin Luther. In Dinkelsbühl, a Catholic minority of magistrates even decided on the needs of Protestant majority. This dilemma is also part of the story told in the Kinderzeche (Children's Bill) pageant. It takes up an episode from the Thirty Years' War and is staged in Dinkelsbühl every Year.
In Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the dramatic siege of 1631 by General Tilly is commemorated by the Meistertrunk (Master Draught) pageant. Every year at Pentecost, the city is transformed into a huge field camp.
The cruel times of the Thirty Years' War are remembered in the imperial cities until today - which, among other things, is proof of what an important caesura the epoch marks in the development of the region. Be it agriculture and culture, be it the population that assimilated catholic refugees from Austria - way beyond the Thirty Years' War the disaster shaped the development of both Southern Germany and Europe as whole.
"By heaven! He drinks it off"! exclaimed the generals of the dreaded Catholic field marshal Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, when Rothenburg's former mayor Georg Nusch slugged down 3.25 liters of wine, thus avoiding, according to legend, the burning and looting of his town in 1631, then besieged by the Catholic League. Each year at Pentecost, the event commemorated by Rothenburg's citizens with a moving stage play performed at the Kaisersaal (Imperial hall) and with an impressive pageant on Pentecost Sunday. The fairground outside the gates of Rothenburg buzzing with activities all through the weekend.
For more information please visit: www.meistertrunk.de!
What was the daily life of the common people who lived far away from the horrors of war? Why were there so many witch trials during the heyday of the Thirty Years' War? On 365 days of the year, the Medieval Crime Museum offers answers to these and other questions.
More information: www.kriminalmuseum.eu