Alsfeld (German pronunciation: [ˈalsfɛlt] ( listen)) is a town in the center of Hesse, in Germany. Large towns nearby are Bad Hersfeld about 33 km to the east, Fulda 36 km to the southeast, Gießen 47 km to the west and Marburg an der Lahn about 36 km to the northwest. Alsfeld is located on the upper part of the Schwalm in the northern Vogelsberg Mountains and just to the south of the Knüll Mountains at the western edge of the Alsfeld basin. In 1961, the town hosted the first Hessentag state festival, in 1985 the 25th.
Alsfeld borders on the following towns, listed here clockwise starting in the north: Willingshausen, Schrecksbach, Ottrau (all Schwalm-Eder district), Breitenbach (Hersfeld-Rotenburg district) and Grebenau, Schwalmtal, Romrod, Kirtorf and Antrifttal (all Vogelsbergkreis).
In addition to Alsfeld (proper) the town includes the following boroughs: Altenburg, Angenrod, Berfa, Billertshausen, Eifa, Elbenrod, Eudorf, Fischbach, Hattendorf, Heidelbach, Leusel, Liederbach, Lingelbach, Münch-Leusel, Reibertenrod and Schwabenrod.
In the 5th century the Huns under Attila came through the region around Alsfeld as the higher than average occurrence of the Mongolian spot around Alsfeld evidences to this day.
Alsfeld was first mentioned in an official document in 1069. Excavations in the Walpurgiskirche have discovered that a Roman church existed here already in the 9th and 10th centuries. It is therefore estimated that the town was founded in Carolingian times. Between 1180 and 1190 the Counts of Thuringia built a castle along the historic trading route of the Kurze Hessen. That location favored the development of Alsfeld and it was subsequently documented as a town as early as 1222.
Since 1247 Alsfeld has been part of Hesse and in 1254 the town joined the Rheinischer Städtebund. Hermann II built himself a castle here in 1395 and for a time turned the town into his official residence. From 1567 Alsfeld belonged to Hesse-Marburg and from 1604 on to Hesse-Darmstadt. Until 1972 it was the seat of Alsfeld district until the district was merged with neighboring Lauterbach district and the Schotten region into the present-day Vogelsberg district. At that time, the decision to designate Lauterbach as seat of the new district led to bitterness in Alsfeld that put a damper on the relationship between the two towns for years. This went so far that because of protests in and around Alsfeld the motor vehicle registration office in Alsfeld, for instance, would not issue licence plates with the code "LAT" (for Lauterbach) and instead continued to issue plates sporting the code "ALS" for Alsfeld until 1978 when the licence plate code "VB" was agreed on for the entire district of Vogelsberg.
One of the many legends about how Alsfeld came to its name and location goes as follows: Around 1200 the Margrave of Hesse/Thuringia went riding his horse over the Vogelsberg. When he got to the Homberg (a hill near Alsfeld) a very strong wind was blowing. Supposedly at this point the Margrave said: "Als fällt mir der Hut vom Kopp." (trans. I keep losing my hat.) The "Als fällt" in that statement supposedly became the name "Alsfeld" – it has the same pronunciation.
As a result of the district reform that took effect on July 11, 1972 the villages of Berfa, Hattendorf, Liederbach and Lingelbach were merged into the town of Alsfeld.
Town council and executive
After the municipal elections of June 26, 2006 the town council was made up of 37 councillors:
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The town's executive has nine members:
The current mayor, Ralf Becker, was elected on September 9, 2007 with a 54,3% share of the vote.
Coat of arms
The Coat of Arms depicts a red lion with golden claws and crown facing right on blue background. To the right of it is shown a silver sword with a golden grip.
The oldest seal of the town features the Count of Hesse as judge with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. That shield depicted the lion of Hesse. The combination used today has been seen since the late 14th century; since then there have only been some minor variations in color.
People, culture and architecture
Theatre and museums
- The Theater Regional performs in the community centre
- Annual theatre productions take place in local high schools
- The Regionalmuseum Alsfeld, located in the former Patrician homes Neurath-Haus (built in 1688) and the Minnigerode-Haus (built in 1687), hosts speaking events and other occasions and often puts on small exhibitions
- Alsfeld Toy Museum
- Alsfeld Fairy Tale House: opening hours and event calendar are available at the Alsfeld Tourist Centre in the marketplace
The town is known for its Altstadt, the historic town centre, with its uninterrupted blocks of historic buildings. The Altstadt has a typical layout for a medieval town. The town wall was built in an almost perfect circle centred on the market place (for strategic reasons). Roads lead mostly straight from the gates in the wall to the town centre. One can deduce where the town wall was from the picturesque narrow streets which remain in their original state: their bends and curves in those small streets follow the original town wall.
Town Hall was constructed in medieval, Rähmbau style timber framing between 1512 and 1516. It is next to the market place in the center of the Altstadt. Its ground floor, built of stone, was once used as a market hall.
Next to the Town Hall is the Weinhaus ("Wine House"), built in 1538 by Hans von Frankfurt as the town's wine storage and distribution facility. It has a Staffelgiebel (a gable that rises to the top of the roof in the form of a staircase). Its original windows were modified in 1840.
At the corner of the Weinhaus is the Pranger, a lockable iron collar into which mediaeval law-breakers were locked. They then had to suffer the verbal and physical abuse of their fellow citizens without any means of defending themselves. The Pranger is much photographed by tourists.
Leaning up against the Weinhaus is the oldest timber-framed house in Alsfeld. It was built in Ständerbau style beginning in 1350 and then expanded and again modified in 1403 and 1464. Underneath the house are two cellars with barrel vaults that date back to the foundation of the town.
The Walpurgiskirche is located behind these three buildings. It was built in the second half of the 13th century. The church choir was built in 1393, and the tower was rebuilt in 1394 after an earlier collapse. It was not finished until 1543 and was reduced by one floor in 1836. The Gothic long house was remodelled into a church nave from 1472 onwards. The extensive stained glass art in the church was created in 1963 by Charles Crodel.
The late Gothic Beinhaus is located in the immediate vicinity of the Walpurgiskirche. This ossuary is first recorded in 1368, and was expanded in 1510.
The Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Trinity Church) was built as an Augustinian monastery church around 1435 with two asymmetric naves. As was customary in churches built for Mendicant orders, it has no steeple. Again, the stained glass windows were fashioned by Charles Crodel in 1962 and 1963.
Only a small section of the town wall remains, together with the Leonhardsturm (Leonard's Tower), which was one of the gate towers built as part of the town fortifications in 1386.
- Regular rock, Pop and traditional concerts held in the Hessenhalle community center
- Regular alternative concerts held in the former Youth Center
- Ascension Thursday: academic Marktfrühschoppen (Studentenverbindung festival)
- Alsfeld Whitsun Fair
- Alsfeld Town Festival (1. Saturday in August)
- Marktspiel with a historic market (2nd weekend in September)
- Alsfeld Christmas Market
- Vogelsberg Specialties: Various popular activities staged by the citizens of Alsfeld on the first Saturday of each month
- Farmers and specialty market on the third Saturday of each month
Alsfeld is situated right off the Alsfeld East and Alsfeld West exits on the Autobahn A 5 The Rimberg rest area near Alsfeld is the second highest rest area (in altitude) along the A 5 and also a popular meeting place for travelers coming from the B 49.
Visitors can reach Alsfeld also by train via the Vogelsberg Railway (Gießen–Alsfeld–Fulda). In addition, from April 1, 1916 until 1974 the Gründchen Railway connected Alsfeld with Niederaula. Passenger traffic on the Gründchen line was discontinued on May 25 and the last freight train left Alsfeld on May 28, 1974. Since then the right-of-way between Alsfeld and Breitenbach has been returned to nature to varying degrees.
Sons and daughters of Alsfeld
- Samuel Spier (born April 4, 1838, died November 9, 1903), one of the founders of the German Social Democrats
- Rudolf Stammler (Philosopher)
- Henny Koch (born September 22, 1854; died June 13, 1925), author
- Peter Gruss (born June 28, 1949), President of the Max Planck Society (2002- )
- Thomas Freitag (born June 17, 1950), German comedian
- Manfred Stumpf (born November 25, 1957), German draftsman, sculptor and digital artist
- Stephan Weidner (born May 29, 1963), lyrics, bass and vocals for Böhse Onkelz
- Gerd Ludwig (born March 17, 1947), German-American documentary photographer and photojournalist
- Lothar Hennighausen (born August 22, 1952), Geneticist at NIDDK at the National Institutes of Health