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Customs and Traditions of Rothenburg

Hardly any other town lives its traditions and old customs like Rothenburg. The Imperial past is well articulated throughout the year, nonetheless finding its peak between May and autumn. In a credible and authentic manner, the citizens re-live their history and bring back to memory famous historic events, like the Master-Draught-Saga “Meistertrunk”, the Imperial Town Festival or the Shepherds Dance “Schäfertanz” – all staged on the original grounds, rather than merely a facade – and all with full enthusiasm. All Rothenburg generations are united in their affection and identification with their hometown. Hundreds of citizens, young and old, women and men, participate with great fervor in the festival of the “Imperial Town”. A charming habit left from times gone by: Every evening, a real night-watchman starts his patrol along the alleys and lanes. Nowadays though not so much to look after the town’s security, but to guide visitors, to show the town’s gems and to chat about the old, and sometimes quite dismal times.

The Master Draught “Meistertrunk” Saga and Imperial Town Festival. The historical spectacle is certainly amongst the most popular ones in Germany. An ornate tankard, an unusual deal and a brave deed turn the town’s fate from threatening destruction to rescue. Since 1881 the town’s citizens have been performing the play in Town Hall’s Kaisersaal. With a bit of luck, one may meet them at breakfast in Master Builders House “Baumeisterhaus” before the spectacle commences – of course fully capped and gowned.

Every year, first weekend in September, Rothenburg celebrates the reception of the “Imperial Privileges of 1274”. These privileges boosted the town’s importance immensely during the late medieval era. Today, this golden era has a redundant meaning – as hundreds of citizens engage in historic societies to revive certain epochs or professions of the time.

Shepherd’s Dance “Schäfertanz”. Its origins are dating far back into the past. Ever since 1472 the Shepherds Fraternity gathers around the time of “St. Bartholomew” to celebrate their fraternity. Once, the day began with a church service, to be followed by lots of cheerful music, wine and selected foods – and the young shepherds invited the citizens’ daughters to dance. Ever since 1517 the Rothenburg Shepherds Guild has been enjoying the privilege of an own special holiday. The tradition was eventually restored in 1911. Every Easter, and also during the Imperial Town celebrations, the colorful spectacle is staged on the historic Market Place.


Nocturnal Rothenburg: An exploration with the night watchman may very well leave mixed feelings – on one side the view over charming Tauber-Valley in the dusk – on the other side the description of the fears and hardships of the inhabitants, of the medieval times that were frequently perceived as cold, bleak and backwardly minded. The term Torschlusspanik, literally translated the “panic of being locked out after gate closure” has its roots in these times – people panicking because they couldn’t get back into the safety of the town. A tiny gap for emergencies, taking care of the “panic cases” is still to be found at the big castle gate.

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