Alte Mainbrücke, Würzburg (Roger Scase)
Horst Brunner
(Universität Würzburg)



Würzburg, first recorded in 704, was a spiritual principality in the Holy Roman Empire until 1803 (with the bishop acknowledged as duke of Franconia, as well as local overlord). Würzburg was the chief city of an extensive territory, boasting the only stone bridge along the important trade route connecting Nuremburg with Frankfurt am Main. Its artisanal crafts were of no more than local significance; its trading commodities included corn and wine. 

The most significant events in this period were as follows: 

1349: a Jewish pogrom

1356: the Black Death reaches Würzburg

1397-1400: conflicts between the city and the bishop, active throughout the fourteenth century, come to a head at Würzburg in urban warfare. Following the failure to establish a free city state, the greater part of the citizenry is either killed or wanders into exile; Würzburg thus cedes regional leadership in Franconia to Nuremburg.

1402: the first founding of a university 

Schools, University:

There were significant, clerically-guided educational institutions: the cathedral school, monastery and foundation schools, and, most famously, the school of the Neumunsterstift. The establishment of the University in 1402 counts as one of the earliest German foundations, although the energy of this originary moment was dissipated within a few decades, 


German and Latin literatures develop in close proximity to one another. The earliest literary witnesses date back as far as the 8th century; the celebrated lyric poet and composer Walther von der Vogelweide was buried in Würzburg in 1230. In 1235 the romancer and hagiographer Konrad von Würzburg was born in the city, although he died at Basle; in 1314 Johann von Würzburg completed his highly colourful romance Wilhelm of Austria. In the fourteenth century Würzburg, according to Joachim Bumke, counted as ‘the most interesting literature-producing city in Germany’. Die Minneburg (c. 1340), Germany’s most significant allegory of courtly love, is a text of particular importance. But eclipsing all else, and dating from the period 1340-1355, are the literary compilations of the jurist and cleric Michael de Leone (Manuale, Hausbuch). These bring together many German and Latin texts of all kinds from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, including the works of many Würzburg authors (Lupold von Bebenburg, Hermann von Schildesche,  Lupold Hornburg von Rothenburg, der König vom Odenwald, etc.). But older, ‘classical’ or canonical writers are also included (Walther von der Vogelweide, Reinmar der Alte, Konrad von Würzburg, etc.). There is also writing of a practical kind, such as the Pelzbuch or Book of Grafting  by Gottfried von Franken; there are Sangspruchdichtungen or didactical (?) sung poems, such as Der Krieg von Würzburg; and there is more political and topical writing, such as Vom Würzburger Städtekrieg; Stephans von Gumpenberg Pilgerreise nach Jerusalem.