Places of Interest - Town history

Town history

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The origins of Büdingen go back to the moated castle constructed in the 12th century. The civic community developed out of the settlement of castle servants which grew up outside the castle walls. In 1330, this community was granted the right to hold markets by the House of Ysenburg and, shortly afterwards, was granted its statute of liberty too (in the “Freiheitsbrief”).

In return, the town dwellers agreed to build a protective wall around the town which would help to secure it against attack. The New Town grew up on the other side of the city wall (which which completed in 1350) and remained separate for over three hundred years, until the ramparts and ditches between the Old and New Towns were partly removed. Enough space was created at the most important point of contact between the Old and New Towns to create a new Market Square: this Square, surrounded by half-timbered houses, remains the town centre today.

Parts of the original city wall still remained standing after the construction of a new fortification which surrounded the Old and New Towns. The longest stretch of original wall can be seen in the so-called “Kölsch Garden”, where plants and bushes throw the red colour of the stone into relief. Here, there is also an exhibition of massive stone blocks which date back over hundreds of millions of years. These provide visitors with an insight into the geological formations of the area around Büdingen and further afield.

For a long time, the residents of Büdingen were very reluctant to expand outside their town's defences. That attitude changed, however, as the time came when the sturdy walls (up to four metres thick in some places) could offer no defence against the firepower of mighty cannons. In the early eighteenth century, the area outside the Jerusalem Gate was developed and half–timbered houses were constructed according to a long term, unified plan. However, these houses do not only deserve our attention because they are so orderly and well-preserved.

They also represent freedom and enlightenment. This is where the refugees, fleeing from religious persecution, were allowed to settle under the so-called "Edict of Tolerance", granted by Count Ernst Casimir of Ysenburg in 1712. This was the first time in Germany that such religious refugees were given protection. Büdingen, and the fertile Wetterau valley around it, must have seemed like a paradise on earth, a new Jerusalem on earth, to the various groups of religious dissenters (Anabaptists, Hutterites, amongst others) attracted to the town. They named the entrance to Büdingen, the late-Gothic Lower Gate, the Jerusalem Gate. Another explanation for the name Jerusalem Gate is provided by a legend from Büdingen's history: a noble from Büdingen, a count's son on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, was miraculously ransomed from a prison in Palestine. As a gesture of gratitude, he had the double tower gateway built in 1503, on the model of the double gateway to Jerusalem.

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