The history of Coburg

 

 

 

 

 

by Claudia Lindenlaub-Sauer

The history of Coburg. From the beginnings until today.

The Veste Coburg is located high above the rooftops of the Franconian town of Coburg in northern Bavaria and can be seen far into the distance. © Claudia Lindenlaub-Sauer

The origins of numerous European royal houses are not to be found in a metropolis of millions, but in a tranquil town in the far north of Bavaria. Shaped by the centuries-long reign of noble ruling families, the picturesque cityscape offers a historical image of times gone by. Magnificent palaces, stately homes, enchanted palaces and castles, everywhere you can feel the history and live with and in it.

One of the most famous royal weddings took place in February 1840 with Coburg participation, when the Queen of England married a Coburg prince. The connections of the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha with the English royal family continue to this day. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, on the advice of his uncle and King of Belgium, Leopold I, married his cousin Victoria, Princess Alexandrina of Kent by birth. However, the British royal family has only borne the name Windsor since July 17, 1917, when George V, the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II, decreed that his family would henceforth be called Windsor Castle after the royal residence. The name change was intended to reflect the British antipathy towards Germany during the First World War. Without this change, Queen Elizabeth II’s full name today would be Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Numerous mementos of the English monarch have been preserved in Coburg to this day, from her favorite place, the birthplace of her beloved Albert in the Rosenau, to a carriage in the art collections of the Veste Coburg, which she used for excursions and trips.

The city of Coburg is located in the heart of Germany. Embedded in the hilly landscape of the Thuringian Forest, the long mountains and foothills of the Main Valley. Situated on several idyllic bodies of water, the city is 296 meters above sea level. The nearest large cities are Erfurt (80 km to the north), Würzburg (90 km to the southwest), Erlangen and Nuremberg (75 km and 90 km to the south). The independent city has held the epithet “European City” since 2005.

The history of the city of Coburg is closely linked to the history of its buildings, with the Veste Coburg as a magnificent castle complex playing a significant role and still visible in the distance due to its exposed location. To this day, the castle is considered the landmark of the city, which for centuries has been enthroned as the “Franconian crown” high above the roofs of the city.

Today, Coburg is a district-free city that has belonged to the Free State of Bavaria since July 1920. For many centuries, the city’s affiliation was based on denomination; until the introduction of the Reformation in 1524, the city belonged to the diocese of Würzburg. After that, Coburg was almost exclusively dominated by Protestantism; at the beginning of the 20th century, over 96 percent of the population was Protestant. How closely the history of the city is connected with the history of the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was particularly evident in the confessional question. Until 1921, the respective reigning duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as “summus episcopus” was the head of the Protestant regional church, who appointed the church governments; the seat of the spiritual leadership was also located in Coburg. Since the merger in 1921, the Protestant regional church has belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran Regional Church of Bavaria.

Since the early 19th century, Catholics also settled in the Franconian region again, since 1802 church services were again permitted, from 1860 the Catholics got their own church again with St. Augustin, in 1826 the incorporation into the diocese of Bamberg took place. Today, 41,120 inhabitants live in the city area, of whom 53.3 percent are Protestant, 19.8 percent Catholic and 26.9 percent belong to another denomination or none at all.

The development of the town’s population is similar to that of comparable small German towns. In 1480, 2000 people lived in the area of the city of Coburg, in the 19th century there was a strong population growth, in 1843 the city counted 10,000 inhabitants. The population reached a peak in 1946 with 50,000 inhabitants, of which, however, about 15,000 were refugees.

One of the first documented mentions of the town name “Kobuck” is found in a deed of donation from the 11th century. In 1056, the Polish queen Richezza bequeathed her possessions in the Coburg region to her uncle, Archbishop Arno of Cologne.

In 1331 Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian granted Coburg town charter and its own jurisdiction. In 1353 the dominion passed from the Counts of Henneberg to the House of Wettin.

During the plundering of the Hussites in 1430, parts of the Coburg environs were devastated and robbed, while the town of Coburg was spared. Since the same year, the town’s coat of arms has been adorned by St. Mauritius, who was venerated as the patron saint of the Kingdom of Burgundy since the end of the 9th century. In the 15th century, the Order of Knights of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus was founded as a merit order of the Counts of Savoy, which still exists today and has about 3000 members worldwide.

After the Leipzig partition, a division of land in August 1485, Coburg fell to the Ernestines, a line of the Wettin dynasty.

The window of a Coburg church emphasizes the importance of Martin Luther and the relationship of the Coburg dukes to the reformer. © 11333328

Coburg gained special significance during the time of the Reformation. Because the Saxon electors supported Martin Luther and his teachings very early on, Coburg became a refuge for the reformer during the landmark Diet of Augsburg in 1530, a time of serious state policy and social upheaval throughout the country.

The 16th century continued to be characterized by a spirit of awakening. In 1586 Coburg became the residence of the Saxon dukes and the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. Duke Johann Casimir (1564 – 1633), from the Ernestine family, was born in the year in which Michelangelo died; the spirit of the Italian Renaissance was also felt over the Alps. Duke Johann Casimir led the city to new prosperity. In the spirit of the Italian Cinquecento, the duke had magnificent, representative buildings erected, created a flourishing community with central buildings, promoted science and was the founder of the first Coburg grammar schools. But private quarrels and personal fates also accompanied the actually open-minded duke, whose life had already been shaped by the fate of his parents; his father Johann Friedrich II the Middle (1529-1595) died after 28 years of imprisonment in Upper Austria.

However, the greatest European religious war did not stop at Coburg and the imperial troops under the Bohemian commander Wallenstein occupied the town and unsuccessfully besieged the fortress. In 1634, however, imperial troops managed to capture the castle complex by trickery. At the end of the 30 Years War (1618 – 1648), half of the houses in Coburg were destroyed and the number of inhabitants was reduced to half.

From 1680 Coburg was again elevated to the status of a royal seat, but in the course of the following centuries its status changed again and again.

In 1755 the principality of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was founded and the inheritance disputes between the Wettins, Ernestines and Albertines were settled.

From 1826, the Dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha ruled until the end of the monarchy in Germany in 1918, Coburg now remained a royal seat.

One of Coburg’s advantages, recognized as early as the 12th century, was its central location on important trade routes that led from Italy to the north. Since the late Middle Ages, this strategic location was used several times, the customs law was established, which was underlined by the accompanying power and wealth. However, not much was left of the wealth already in the 18th century, numerous ducal houses became impoverished, among them also the ducal house Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. However, individual members of the family were not deterred by this and sought connections to the greatest European and international royal houses. Thus began the rise of Coburg and the dynasty of the ducal family. A renewed building activity of Coburg dukes produced magnificent buildings and representative squares in the city, which still characterize the cityscape today. However, the dukes did not only pursue personal, memorial thoughts, they always had the city and its inhabitants at heart. In 1806, a Coburg prince succeeded in saving the city from plundering by Napoleon’s troops during the war against Prussia due to good relations.

Durch die Eisenbahnanbindung wurde Coburg ein beliebtes Ziel. © geraldfriedrich2

Not only ducal, power-political decisions had an influence on the cityscape and the city’s development, but also the industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century and increasingly in the 19th century did not stop at the Franconian city. As in the whole country, the construction of the railroad and the associated connection from 1858 to important and significant connections became groundbreaking for Coburg. The good connection increased its popularity enormously. Not only wealthy citizens took advantage of the newly created rail network, but above all numerous emperors, tsars, kings and princes came to Coburg during the years, which was also favored by family ties.

The 19th century was generally characterized by the emerging industrialization and a spirit of optimism. The dynastic connections of the ducal family took their further course and the rise to a major European power began. But the population also played a significant role in the city’s upswing. By 1824, among other things, 40 trades were listed, which ensured good income for many years, and new factories and manufactories were established. The people of Coburg also received a ducal cabinet of art and natural history (today’s natural history museum) starting in 1844. Now a broad population had access to some of the art treasures. In 1825, the foundation of the ducal school of building trades laid the foundations for the later university at Coburg.

When the ducal residence was divided between two residential towns, the spirit of optimism seemed to stagnate. From 1826, Duke Ernst I ruled the duchies of Saxe- Coburg-Gotha in personal union, making both Coburg and Gotha residence towns.

In the course of the rising nationalism, some reconstructions of individual buildings in Coburg took place in the spirit of historicism. In 1859, the German National Association was founded with headquarters in Coburg; the organization existed until 1867 and aimed to create a liberal small German state under Prussian leadership with a national parliament.

Not only ducal, power-political decisions had an influence on the cityscape and the city’s development, but also the industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century and increasingly in the 19th century did not stop at the Franconian city. As in the whole country, the construction of the railroad and the associated connection from 1858 to important and significant connections became groundbreaking for Coburg. The good connection increased its popularity enormously. Not only wealthy citizens took advantage of the newly created rail network, but above all numerous emperors, tsars, kings and princes came to Coburg during the years, which was also favored by family ties.

The 19th century was generally characterized by the emerging industrialization and a spirit of optimism. The dynastic connections of the ducal family took their further course and the rise to a major European power began. But the population also played a significant role in the city’s upswing. By 1824, among other things, 40 trades were listed, which ensured good income for many years, and new factories and manufactories were established. The people of Coburg also received a ducal cabinet of art and natural history (today’s natural history museum) starting in 1844. Now a broad population had access to some of the art treasures. In 1825, the foundation of the ducal school of building trades laid the foundations for the later university at Coburg.

When the ducal residence was divided between two residential towns, the spirit of optimism seemed to stagnate. From 1826, Duke Ernst I ruled the duchies of Saxe- Coburg-Gotha in personal union, making both Coburg and Gotha residence towns.

In the course of the rising nationalism, some reconstructions of individual buildings in Coburg took place in the spirit of historicism. In 1859, the German National Association was founded with headquarters in Coburg; the organization existed until 1867 and aimed to create a liberal small German state under Prussian leadership with a national parliament.

Statue of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on the Coburg. The monument was inaugurated on August 26, 1865, four years after his death, in the presence of Queen Victoria. © geoworld

The first German gymnastics and youth festival took place in 1860 in the ducal riding hall, in 1862 the German Singers’ Association was founded in Coburg, and at many subsequent events there were now usually several thousand participants and spectators in the Veste city.

An absolute innovation was the first water closet of British manufacture in the Ehrenburg, the former city castle of the Coburg dukes. This was built especially for Queen Victoria, as she did not want to do without modern conveniences during her visits to the princely residence. By the end of the 19th century, Coburg already had a water supply network with a drinking water system of wooden pipes.

At the beginning of the 20th century, electricity also came to Coburg, which became an advantage in numerous newly constructed buildings, such as the indoor swimming pool, which was built under the patronage of the beautiful widow of Ernst II and sister-in-law of the English Prince Consort Albert, Duchess Alexandrine. From 1907 to 1916 the construction of the sewerage system took place and in 1913, to support military aviation, the Coburg air base with hangars, landing and take-off runways was opened by the German Air Association.

The end of the ducal government came after the so-called November Revolution and the abdication of the German Emperor in November 1918 with the resignation of the last acting Duke of Coburg and grandson of Queen Victoria Carl-Eduard of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1884 -1954). After centuries of state independence, Coburg was incorporated into the Free State of Bavaria.

The 20th century was strongly influenced by national currents. Alongside this, an economic boom began with Brose, founded as a metal works and now a vehicle manufacturer, which attracted numerous other industrial firms.

After the Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund (German People’s Protection League) established itself in Coburg starting in 1922 and members of the NSPAD as well as Adolf Hitler were invited to a meeting in October 1922, the city developed into a stronghold of National Socialist groups in the following years. In February 1932, Coburg became the first German city to bestow honorary citizenship on Adolf Hitler. Anti-Semitic attacks now took place more frequently, and the National Socialists also used the castle complex of Veste Coburg as a backdrop for marches and propaganda events; the first swastika flags in the country were hung here. By the end of 1942, not a single Jewish citizen lived in the town.

In the course of the Second World War, Coburg was spared from air raids for a long time, the whole of Coburg was declared a fortress. In 1940 the first bombs hit several buildings, by the end of the war hundreds of houses and apartments were completely destroyed, over 100 people lost their lives. After 1945, Coburg belonged to the Zonenrandgebiet, it was located between the American and Soviet occupation zones.

In the course of reconstruction after the devastating world war, numerous companies settled in the city, the best known of which is still the HUK Coburg insurance company.

Even after the reunification in 1990 Coburg benefited from the upswing, mutual relations have always shaped the people and the cityscape.

The Coburg Samba Festival attracts thousands of fans every year and has become the largest festival outside Brazil. © val_th

Today, Coburg hosts the famous annual Samba Festival, which since its inception in 1992 has established itself as one of the largest samba events outside of Brazil, attracting over 100,000 visitors annually. Prominent representatives support the festival, and high-ranking statesmen and politicians also regularly visit Coburg to admire the extraordinary treasures in the Veste’s art collections. Numerous fraternities and sororities also meet annually in the Veste city, making it popular and well-known.

Since 2005 Coburg has also been a European city, the special significance of the former royal seat is strengthened and caused by an increasing popularity and the recognition of international relations.

machine-translated from German

Literature

Brockhoff, Evamaria / Henker, Michael (Hrsg.): Ein Herzogtum und viele Kronen. Coburg in Bayern und Europa. Aufsätze zur Landesausstellung 1997 des Hauses der Bayerischen Geschichte und der Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg in Zusammenarbeit mit der Stiftung der Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha`schen Familie und der Stadt Coburg, Augsburg 1997.

Brockhoff, Evamaria / Wolf, Peter / Franz, Alexandra / Groth, Constantin (Hg.): Ritter, Bauern, Lutheraner (Katalog zur Bayerischen Landesausstellung 2017 Veste Coburg und Kirche St. Moriz 9. Mai bis 5. November 2017) (=Veröffentlichungen zur Bayerischen Geschichte und Kultur, Bd. 66), Darmstadt 2017.

Sandner, Harald: Coburg im 20. Jahrhundert. Die Chronik über die Stadt Coburg und das Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha vom 1. Januar 1900 bis zum 31. Dezember 1999 – von der „guten alten Zeit“ bis zur Schwelle des 21. Jahrhunderts. Gegen das Vergessen, Coburg 2000,

Schneier, Walter: Coburg im Spiegel der Geschichte. Von der Urzeit bis in die Gegenwart. Auf den Spuren von Fürsten, Bürgern und Bauern, Coburg 1985.

Volkert, Wilhelm (Hrsg.): Handbuch der bayerischen Ämter, Gemeinden und Gerichte 1799– 1980, München 1983.

Weschenfelder, Klaus: Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg: Die Schausammlungen, Coburg 2004.

Weschenfelder, Klaus: Veste Coburg. Geschichte und Gestalt, Coburg 2005. Weschenfelder, Klaus: Die Veste Coburg und ihre Sammlungen, Coburg 2015.

Coburg. In: Heinrich Gottfried Gengler: Regesten und Urkunden zur Verfassungs- und Rechtsgeschichte der deutschen Städte im Mittelalter. Erlangen 1863, S. 506.

Coburg, Edition Bayern. Hrsg. Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst; Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte. Augsburg 2013.

https://www.statistikdaten.bayern.de/genesis/online?operation=previous&levelindex=1&step=1&titel=Ergebnis&levelid=1642500203865&acceptscookies=false#abreadcrumb

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