HISTORY OF THE TOWN
WISSEMBOURG was founded 13 centuries ago by Benedictine monks who built an abbey here. This abbey developed over the centuries to become the most important in the region. Its exceptional influence made it known to all the sovereigns.
In 868, a Frankish monk from Lower Alsace, OTFRIED, a scholar in WISSEMBOURG, produced a rhyming version of the Gospels (15 000 verses) in Franco-Teutonic. This poem entitled "Christ" was essential to the development of the German language. This monk is depicted in the bas-relief on the facade of the "Grange aux Dîmes" (Tithe Barn).
The stained-glass window "The Christ of Wissembourg", dating from around 1070, is the oldest figurative stained-glass window in the world. It was discovered in Wissembourg in 1880 and is now on display in the "Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre Dame" in Strasbourg.
The village developed around the Abbey and thanks to its prosperity became a fortified town surrounded by walls. The Abbots built castles at the four cardinal points. The town joined the League of Rhineland Towns in 1254 and was part of the “Décapole” in 1354, the alliance of ten free Alsatian towns.
The inhabitants of Wissembourg were often subjected to looting and deprivation due to wars and brigands. The most renowned among the latter was Jean de Drott, a Palatinate Count, otherwise known as Hans Trapp, the legendary figure of Alsatian Christmases.
The Reformation came to the town in 1522 when the priest of the St Jean parish called the preacher Martin Bucer to his side.
After the Treaty of Wesphalia, which placed the town under French sovereignty, Wissembourg had the privilege of welcoming the exiled King of Poland, Stanislas LESZCZYNSKI. Here, Mary, his daughter, received Louis XV's proposal of marriage which was proclaimed at the Church of St. Jean in 1725.
The people of Wissembourg suffered greatly from wars and reprisals. As a result of conflicts between the Abbey and the Palatinate Elector, and the Wars of Religion in the 16th and 17th centuries, the town was ruined by looting and deprivation. Successive armies followed one another – French, Imperial, Swedish, Austrian as well as troops from Würtenberg.
The battle of 4 August 1870, decisive for the fate of the Second Empire, raged at Geisberg where the Abel Douay Division succumbed to the superior number of German soldiers. Nor was Wissembourg spared in the battles of the 1944-45 Liberation during which the town was liberated a first time in December 1945, but lost again to the Allies until 18 March 1945.
The removal of borders, the most recent step in the construction of Europe, has boosted Wissembourg, the capital of the "Outre-Forêt" (Outer Forest), and given it an important regional role.