Frankenthal ‑ A short Glance at History
Frankenthal, the modern and future-orientated town in the eastern Palatinate, has got a long history. The municipality has been a town since 1577 and since that time its urban life and business activities have marked its development.
It was on 29 October 1577, when Count Palatine, Johann Casimir, bestowed the municipal laws on the young municipality and thus admitted it into the circle of the other towns in his county, comprising Lautern, Neustadt, Alzey and Böckelheim.
Frankenthal was mentioned for the first time in a document at the monastery of Lorsch in the year 772. The village was of Franconian origin and at that time was still located directly on the Rhine, which moved its course eastwards only in the 9th century. In 1119 Erkenbert, a nobleman of Worms, founded the Augustinian Canon Monastery in Frankenthal that soon became an important religious, cultural and economic centre of the whole region. Remains of the ruins are still preserved today. As the monastery building was left standing empty after the Reformation, Elector Frederick II made it available to Dutch refugees who had had to leave their native country on account of their reformed faith in 1562. The young community, comprising numerous artists, gold- and silversmiths, Gobelin weavers, textile manufacturers and merchants rapidly prospered and finally received the status of a town on that 29 October 1577.
The precious deeds, on which the Charter of the town is written down comprises twelve parchment papers. They belong to the town archives of Frankenthal and are exhibited in the municipal Erkenbert Museum. They consist of three parts, firstly stipulating the rules of the ecclesiastical conditions, secondly the composition and grouping of the secular regiment, from the alderman beyond the lay assessors and councillors up to bailiffs and the master of a “Rotte” (a sort of sergeant leading a squadron), and finally, the conferment of privileges. Amongst other things Johann Casimir gave the young town 1000 guilders as a present for the construction of a channel to the Rhine, he released the inhabitants from every levy on the exportation of “corn, wine and cloth” and waived all customs duties on the necessities of life. The “birth certificate” of the town finishes with the words: “In witness thereof confirmed by our attached seal and given at Lautern on 29 October in the 1577th year after Christ’s birth, our beloved Master and Saviour, Johann Casimir, Count Palatine”.
At the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century Frankenthal was extended into one of the strongest fortresses of the Electorate Palatinate on the left bank of the Rhine. Therefore, it inevitably happened that the town got into the turmoil and battles of the Thirty-Years’-War and the Palatinate War of Succession. In September 1689 French troops set the town on fire and it was nearly completely destroyed. However, a new recovery soon followed the decline. In the 18th century Frankenthal, having been for some time the third capital of the Electorate Palatinate, became Elector Carl Theodor’s industrial town. More than 20 factories were built, amongst them many for the production of Frankenthal Porcelain, which had been founded in 1755, and which gained in importance. Today its products are traded as precious antiques and can be found in numerous museums all around the world.
From 1798 until 1815 Frankenthal was a cantonal capital under French administration. After the Congress of Vienna the Palatinate became Bavarian and Frankenthal remained “a little country town” for a long time, as a contemporary observer once wrote. Only with the industrialization in the mid of the 19th century did a new recovery begin. The start was made with the sugar factory built in 1843. By setting up the companies Albert, KSB, KKK and Bettinger & Balcke in the years 1859 until 1899 the town rapidly developed into an important centre for the metalworking industry.
Although Frankenthal was severely destroyed during the Second World War, losing a large part of its older baroque buildings, the town was able to quickly recover its economic and urban traditions in the fifties and sixties. Today Frankenthal is a flourishing cosmopolitan medium-sized town having preserved its own historical and cultural identity.