History of the City
The king Ludwig I of Bavaria loved the city for its mild climate and therefore made the donation of the Pompejanum to it. In addition to the Pompejanum, two representative buildings are the most noticeable cultural assets of Aschaffenburg throughout its history of more than 1000 years: the collegiate church "Stiftskirche" dating 974 and the palace "Schloss Johannisburg" which was erected between 1605 and 1614/19. It was the secondary royal seat of the bishops and electors of Mainz then.
Excavations in the upper town provided evidence for the population of Aschaffenburg already during the period of the migration of peoples, because the earliest finds date from the 3rd century. It may be assumed that a larger settlement existed from the 4th century onwards on a hill, which later became the hill of the collegiate foundation "Stiftsberg". In 975, Liudolf, duke of Swabia, founded the collegiate foundation of Aschaffenburg called St Peter, from the 12th century onwards St Peter and Alexander. At the end of the 10th century, it was passed on to the archbishopric Mainz governed by Willigis, archbishop and Archchancellor of the Empire.
The basis of the upper town, which developed around the collegiate church and was already referred to as the "civitas" settlement prior to the turn of the millennium, was a small triangular elevation between the Main river, the Löhergraben, the Landing and the Schloßgraben as well as the first wooden bridge across the Main, built in 987/989 by Willigis. As an important trading centre, situated at the old trading route through the settlement area called Maingau starting east of Frankfurt up to the Rhine, Aschaffenburg now had the character of a settlement. Around 1122 it was re-fortified by Adalbert I, archbishop of Saarbrücken.
In the 12th century, as the upper town expanded beyond the fortifications already existing, as the construction of the castle began, the right to hold markets (1144) and the right of minting (1155) was granted to Aschaffenburg, and the town was chartered in the late 12th century, a lower town developed as well thanks to these privileges. From the 14th century onwards, the city, equipped with its medieval walls, towers, gates and moats, became one of the most relevant bastions of the archbishopric, being the secondary royal seat of the archbishops/electors of Mainz and the centre of the archdeaconry.
After a passing provincial status in the 17th century, it was towards the end of the 18th century when Friedrich Carl Joseph von Erthal and Carl Theodor von Dalberg led Aschaffenburg to a new cultural and economic period of prosperity in the early 19th century, after the dissolution of the Electorate of Mainz in 1803, the foundation of the principality of Aschaffenburg (1803-1810) as well as the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt (1810-1813).
First Erthal had the parks Schönbusch, Schöntal, Fasanerie and the Schloßgarten built, following the examples of English gardens. Since the first third of the 18th century these gardens have conveyed the feeling of nature which was praised by their most important proponent, Jean Jacques Rousseau. Since then, these green spaces do not only contain historic buildings as witnesses of the past, they also provide places for relaxing and recreation to the citizens of the city and its visitors.
Erthal's successor, at the same time the last archbishop/elector of Mainz, prince primate of the Confederation of the Rhein, later Grand Duke, Carl Theodor von Dalberg, talented writer and politician, especially promoted the school and educational system, founded the university Karlsuniversität and the theatre and brought well-known artists to his court.
After the end of the Napoleonic wars, the dissolution of the centralised administration and the loss of several authorities and educational establishments (university), Aschaffenburg and its surroundings became part of the Bavarian Crown in 1814. The result was a short-term political, economic and cultural descent. Only with the German Customs Union "Deutscher Zollverein" (1834), the connection to the railway system (1854) and the development of an efficient industry in the second half of the 19th century (gentlemen's outer garments, paper and cellulose, motors and steering wheels, measuring tools) did the city return to its traditional economic and cultural importance.
The vast destruction of 1944/45, particularly in the ancient town centre and the Damm quarter could mostly be made forgotten thanks to the help of all citizens in the phase of reconstruction. New, enlarged living space was created, the economic and industrial potential grew with the increasing requirements. Especially the preservation of monuments and the reconstruction of the historic city centre were carried out with special care, although a few architectural aberrations could not be avoided. For example, a new way of construction-related thinking was shown with the new construction of the town hall in the fifties in the neo-classicist style. Allowance was made for modern architecture with different public and private buildings, for example a modern school-centre, residential and sports-areas, new industrial and trade buildings, as well as the City-Galerie, Aschaffenburg's shopping centre in the heart of the city, which was opened in 1974. By building the municipal hall and the f.a.n. frankenstolz arena (former Unterfrankenhalle) in 1991, Aschaffenburg with its approximately 67,000 inhabitants to date, has reached supra-regional importance as a site for conferences and events as well. Also the many sports facilities, especially the modern stadium "Schönbusch" are worth being mentioned.
In the meantime, the "gateway to the Spessart", the "bridge to Rhineland culture" or the "Bavarian Nice", as once supposedly called by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, has become the centre of the Untermain region again. It can keep up with the tasks of the present without forgetting the powers that especially flow to this city from a rich historic and artistic past.