A Brief History of Ladenburg

Ladenburg is a town with an eventful history: Originally built as Roman military settlement to control access to the river Neckar, it soon develops to one of the most important centres of the Roman culture east of the Rhine. In medieval times, the town is subject to influences of both the diocese of Worms and the Count Palatines of the Rhine. Many important events in Germany left their marks in Ladenburg: The Protestant Reformation divides the then bishop’s see; during both the Thirty Year’s War and the Napoleonic Wars the town is taken by French soldiers. In the aftermath of the German March Revolutions of 1848 Prussian reactionary troops and revolutionaries from the Grand Duchy of Baden fight over the control of the town’s bridge. Ladenburg is spared from destruction in World War II, but its Jewish community, dating back to the 13th century, falls victim to the terror of the Nazi regime.

Celebrating its 1900-year anniversary, Ladenburg counts among the oldest towns in Germany

Antique – Celts, Romans and Germans

The origins of Ladenburg are obscure – the Celts settled the region in the 1st Millennium BC., at this time they also built a so-called “Keltenschanze” that served religious purposes. Besides that there is nothing known about the early history of the city.

From 40 AD. the Romans initially settled in German farmers. 34 Years later forts for Roman auxiliary units and a military settlement followed. These formed the nucleus for the subsequent city: In 98 AD. Emperor Trajan recognized it as a city with the name “Lopodunum”. In the following two centuries, the city experienced its first heyday and was one of the most important Roman centers of the Rhine, which still many tracks lead to. (see also: forum, basilica, theaters…etc.)

After the Romans gave up the right bank side of the Rhine territories, the Alemanni attacked the city in 260 and destroyed most parts of it. But some Roman settlers remained and preserved the cities name. 369 AD. the city fell again under Roman rule under Emperor Valentinian. That same year at the former “Neckarufer”, a harbor (Roman: “Burgus”) was built, whose purpose it was in combination with other similar structures, to ensure the free shipping on the Neckar River and the upper reaches of Rhine

In the middle of the 5th Century the Roman episode of Ladenburg ended shortly before the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Middle Ages – Palatine, Bishop and Reformation

More than a century after the end of Roman rule, the Merovingians built a royal palace in former “Lobdenburg”. The town became the center of the surrounding Lobdengaus. 628 the Frankish Kind Dagobert I. gave the city and district to the Bishopric of Worms as a gift, not knowing that this was to be the cornerstone of a later centuries-long feud.

During the early and high Middle Ages numerous construction activities were in Ladenburg: the first city was built in the 10th Century. During the 13th Century the constructions for the gothic St. Gallus Church began on the foundations of the Roman basilica. 1370 the Palatine Elector Ruprecht I. became the temporal power over the city, which still remained in the possession of the diocese of Worms. Thus began the era of so-called “Kondominats”, whose contract was settled in 1385. 15 years later, the situation got even more explosive again: The citizens of Worms expelled the bishop, who subsequently moved its headquarters to Ladenburg and built a new diocese.

The reformation which took place in the 16th Century has also not spared Ladenburg: 1564 on Christmas Eve in the church it came to fisticuffs between the Reformer Pastor and Bishop Eckard Bettendorf, who then sought reconciliation with Worms and left Ladenburg. The following season, the Calvinist Elector of St. Gallus Church gave permission to plunder and destroy all catholic portraits of the now unprotected church.

In the 17th Century, the city’s witnessed two robberies: Both in the Thirty Years War as well as in the Palatine War foreign armies raided the city.

1705 Ladenburg finally fell completely into the possession of the Palatine: Elector Johann Wilhelm and Bishop Franz Ludwig, who were brothers, agreed to a land swap. The condominium thus ended after 320 years.

Modern Times – March Revolution, Carl Benz and Nazi-Regime

After the French Revolution, Ladenburg was occupied in 1799 during the Napoleonic Wars and fell under Napoleonic reorganization in the hands of “Baden”.

During the German Revolution in 1848/1849 Ladenburg also played a rather important role: The Neckar Bridge in the city was hotly contested during the suppression of the Baden revolutionaries. Meanwhile, the freedom fighters were able to defend the city against the reactionary Prussian troops. Ultimately the efforts of the freedom fighters were in vain.

From 1904 until his death in 1929, the inventor of the automobile, Dr. Carl Benz lived in Ladenburg. His house and his workshop are now home of the museum.

1933-1945, Ladenburg was under rule of the Nazis. The Jewish community who lived in Ladenburg since the 13th Century emigrated in large parts to the U.S., England and Palestine. The final 27 members of the Jewish community were deported in October 1940 into the internment camp Gurs and later on sent into various extermination camps. Since this time there is no Jewish community life in Ladenburg anymore, the synagogue and the community center had already been destroyed in the pogrom of 1938. By the destruction of the Allied bombing, Ladenburg remained largely unaffected. In March 1945 American troops occupied the city without a fight.

Since 1973, Ladenburg belongs to the newly created “Rhein-Neckar-Kreis“. 1998 the town celebrated its 1900th anniversary.