Wissembourg (Weisseburch or Wisseburi in South Franconian, Weißenburg in German ; pop. 8,000) is a historic town located on the little River Lauter, right on the Franco-German border. The town is renowned for its late Medieval and Renaissance architecture. Its name means 'white fortified town'.
Wissembourg is surrounded by hills and forests to the north and west. The Northern Vosges Regional Nature Parks extends from the western edge of town. Haguenau is located 40 km to the southwest, Karlsruhe 35 km east, and Landau in der Pfalz 25 km to the northeast.
Wissembourg developed as a town in the 12th and 13th centuries, around a Benedictine abbey founded in the 7th century, perhaps under the patronage of Merovingian King Dagobert I. The Abbey-Church of Saint-Pierre et Paul was constructed the 13th century.
In 1354, Emperor Charles IV made of Wissembourg a member of the Décapole, an alliance of ten Alsatian Imperial cities.
The Protestant Reform was readily embraced by the population in the 16th century. The German Peasants' War (1524-1526), then the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) led to periods of hardships, so that in 1648 Wissembourg's population had shrunk to only 140 inhabitants.
The Peace of Münster (1648) officially ceded Alsace to France. The independent Décapole towns, however, refused the annexation. Louis XIV then started a brutal military campaign to subdue the Alsatian population. Wissembourg was sacked and burnt on 25 January 1677, and eventually accepted to join France in 1680.
Stanislas Leszczynski, stayed in Wissembourg in 1725 after his first loss of the throne as King of the Poland. This is where he arranged for his daughter Maria to marry King Louis XV and thus become queen of France. The marriage by proxy took place on 15 August 1725 at the cathedral of Strasbourg, Louis XV being represented by his cousin the Duke of Orléans.
Noteworthy buildings include:
- The Gothic St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, dating from the 13th to 15th centuries.
- The 18th-century grange dîmière (tithe barn)
- Hôtel Stanislas
- Maison de "l'ami Fritz"
- Maison du Sel
- Maison Vogelsberger (built in 1540)
- Musée Westercamp
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