Fritzlar is a small German town (pop. 15,000) in the Schwalm-Eder district in northern Hesse, 160 km (100 miles) north of Frankfurt, with a storied history. It can reasonably be argued that the town is the site where the Christianization of northern Germany (north and east of the Roman Limes) began and the birthplace of the German empire as a political entity.
The town has a medieval center ringed by a wall with numerous watch towers. Thirty-eight meters (125 ft) high, the Grauer Turm (“Grey Tower”) is the highest remaining urban defense tower in Germany. The city hall, first documented in 1109, with a stone relief of St. Martin, the town’s patron saint, is the oldest in Germany still in use for its original purpose. The Gothic church of the old Franciscan monastery is today the Protestant parish church, and the monastery’s other buildings have been converted into a modern hospital. Many houses in the town center, notably around the market square, date from the 15th to 17th centuries and have been carefully maintained or restored. The town is dominated by the imposing Romanesque-Gothiccathedral from the 12th-14th centuries.
Fritzlar lies in westhern Hesse on the north bank of the Eder river, south of the Habichtswald mountains and north of the Kellerwald mountains. The surrounding area is characterized by fertile farmland and many, mostly wooded basalt peaks, many of which are topped by mediaeval castles or castle ruins. Examples of these can be found at Gudensberg, Homberg, Felsberg, Heiligenberg, Altenburg, Jesberg, and Naumburg, among others.