Olpe, Germany

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Olpe Town Hall, one of the tallest buildings in the town
Olpe Town Hall, one of the tallest buildings in the town
Coat of arms of Olpe
Coat of arms
Olpe is located in Germany
Coordinates: 51°01′N 07°50′E / 51.017°N 7.833°E / 51.017; 7.833Coordinates: 51°01′N 07°50′E / 51.017°N 7.833°E / 51.017; 7.833
StateNorth Rhine-Westphalia
Admin. regionArnsberg
 • MayorHorst Müller (CDU)
 • Total85.6 km2 (33.1 sq mi)
Elevation307 m (1,007 ft)
Population (2013-12-31)[1]
 • Total24,592
 • Density290/km2 (740/sq mi)
Time zoneCET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Postal codes57462
Dialling codes02761, 02722, 02764
Vehicle registrationOE
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Olpe Town Hall, one of the tallest buildings in the town
Olpe Town Hall, one of the tallest buildings in the town
Coat of arms of Olpe
Coat of arms
Olpe is located in Germany
Coordinates: 51°01′N 07°50′E / 51.017°N 7.833°E / 51.017; 7.833Coordinates: 51°01′N 07°50′E / 51.017°N 7.833°E / 51.017; 7.833
StateNorth Rhine-Westphalia
Admin. regionArnsberg
 • MayorHorst Müller (CDU)
 • Total85.6 km2 (33.1 sq mi)
Elevation307 m (1,007 ft)
Population (2013-12-31)[1]
 • Total24,592
 • Density290/km2 (740/sq mi)
Time zoneCET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Postal codes57462
Dialling codes02761, 02722, 02764
Vehicle registrationOE
Detail of map of the County of Mark 1692 S. Sanson cartographer

Olpe is situated in the foothills of the Ebbegebirge in North Rhine-Westphalia, roughly 60 km east of Cologne and 20 km northwest of Siegen. It is part of the Regierungsbezirk of Arnsberg and is the seat of the district of Olpe.



Olpe lies in the Sauerland on the southern edge of the Ebbegebirge Nature Park. In the town’s north lies South Westphalia’s biggest reservoir, the Biggesee.

Rivers and mountains[edit]

The highest mountains are:

The inner town is ringed by the following hills:

The municipal area also has a few rivers or brooks that all empty into the Biggesee:

Other rivers in the municipal area:

The Veischedebach does not empty into the Biggesee, but rather into the Lenne near Grevenbrück.


Olpe is found in a broad stretch of hilly country. In the town’s north, the slopes are steeper and the dales narrower (for instance near the centres of Rhode and Neger); in the south, the hills have soft knolls and the dales are more spacious. There are also no plateaux there.

The area around the Biggesee and the main town of Olpe, as the Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung (“Federal Office for Construction and Regional Planning”) sees them, are included in the Mittelbiggebergland (“Middle Bigge Mountain Land”), while the eastern and southern portions of the municipal area are designated Südsauerländer Rothaarvorhöhen (“South Sauerland Rothaar Foothills”).

The municipal area is an integral part of the Rheinisches Schiefergebirge (“Rhenish Slate Mountains”).

The underlying minerals around the middle and upper Bigge are made up to a considerable degree of schistose, partly chalky clays and coarse clay. Furthermore, there are sandstones with quartzitelike characteristics.

Municipal area’s extent[edit]

Olpe’s municipal area has a total area of 86 km². Its greatest extent is in both the north-south and east-west directions, reaching 11 km. Olpe’s lowest point is the Biggesee lying at 307.5 m above sea level, and its highest point is the Engelsberg near Neuenkleusheim at 589 m above sea level.

Neighbouring communities[edit]

Town of Olpe from the northwest
Olpe, inner town

Constituent communities[edit]

The municipal area is divided into the following centres:

Altenkleusheim, Apollmicke, Bruch, Dahl, Eichhagen, Fahlenscheid, Friedrichsthal, Griesemert, Grube Rhonard, Günsen, Hardt, Hanemicke, Hitzendumicke, Hof Siele, Hohl, Howald, Hüppcherhammer, Kessenhammer, Lütringhausen, Möllendick, Neger (divided into Unter-, Mittel- and Oberneger), Neuenkleusheim, Neuenwald, Oberveischede, Rehringhausen, Rhode, Rhonard, Ronnewinkel, Rosenthal, Rüblinghausen, Saßmicke, Siedenstein, Sondern, Stachelau, Stade, Tecklinghausen Thieringhausen and Waukemicke.


Owing to the location of the hills and the west wind, it rains often in Olpe. The clouds gather water vapour over the Atlantic Ocean, and when they run into the slopes in the hilly country around Olpe, they rise and the water vapour condenses into bigger droplets because of the cooler temperatures. These then fall as rain.

The coldest month is January, and the warmest July. The high humidity in the winter months often leads to fog.


Olpe supposedly got its name from an older name for the land at the forks of the Olpe and Bigge (“Ol-apa” = brook in moist meadowland)

The first archaeological finds in the Olpe area date to about AD 900: potsherds and slag (from iron mining and working) in the abandoned centre of Kimickerberg, coins in Dahl (from after 1005).

The only remaining part of Olpe's old town wall.

Olpe had its first documentary mention in 1220. In 1311 it was granted town rights on the Soest model by the Archbishop of Cologne, Count Heinrich II of Virneburg. In 1500, the Kreuzkapelle (“Cross Chapel”) was first mentioned. The first evidence of a shooting society followed in 1525.

History also records evidence of witch trials being held in the Olpe judicial area between 1587 and 1697.

In 1615, Olpe had its first schoolteacher, and in 1634 it had a great fire. The first vow to Saint Agatha of Catania for protection against conflagrations, however, was not recorded until 1665. Eight years later came the first vow to Saint Roch of Montpellier against the Plague and other pestilences. In 1696, the last “witch” was sentenced.

In 1711, the post first came to Olpe. In 1795, the Great Fire of Olpe destroyed 83% of the town. When the town was built once again, the old mediaeval appearance was cast aside in favour of a master plan that saw three broad, parallel streets built, connected by sidestreets running at right angles to them.

In 1819 Olpe became a district seat. At that time, it was the seat of the Bilsteiner Kreis; today it fills that place in the district of Olpe.

In 1828, the shooting club was refounded. Its name is “St.-Sebastianus-Schützenverein”. The Evangelical community was founded between 1842 and 1844. In 1863, the Arme Franziskanerinnen von der ewigen Anbetung (“Poor Franciscans of the Everlasting Worship”), a Catholic women’s order whose main work is in taking care of children and nursing, was founded. It is nowadays known as the Franziskanerinnen von der ewigen Anbetung zu Olpe (“Franciscans of the Everlasting Worship at Olpe”).

In 1864, there was a telegraph station in Olpe. In 1875, the railway reached Olpe, running at first to Attendorn and Finnentrop. Then came an Olpe-Rothemühle line in 1880, and in 1903, another to Bergneustadt. In 1888, the town had its first electric light.

In 1908, the St.-Martinus-Kirche (church) burnt down almost utterly owing to, it is believed, arson. It was built anew in 1909, but this time in the Gothic Revival style.

On 28 March 1945, in the Second World War’s dying days, Olpe was heavily bombed. In 1965, the Bigge Reservoir (Biggetalsperre) was created through damming.

The Bundesautobahn 45 and the Bundesautobahn 4 were opened in 1971 and 1976 respectively.


Olpe’s population is overwhelmingly Catholic. The town’s patron is Saint Martin of Tours.

ReligionAdherents %



Olpe belongs to the Archbishopric of Paderborn. At the middle level, Olpe is ecclesiastically administered by the Deanery of the South Sauerland, which was formed out of the former deaneries of Attendorn, Elspe and Olpe on 1 July 2006, and is coëxtensive with the district of Olpe.

At the lowest level, there are two parish clusters (Pastoralverbünde) in Olpe:

Once a year, in early July, at the Festival of the Assumption, hundreds take part in the town pilgrimage from Olpe to Werl.

Moreover, there are two monastic establishments:

The Pallottines’ provincial head has stated that his congregation will, at least in the medium term, stay in Olpe. For economic reasons, however, the order has sold the building to an investor who wants to set up 40 dwellings for the aged and 100 fully equipped nursing care places. The Brethren and the Father are staying in rented accommodations in town while the conversion is being done. They are to return to the Pallotti-haus afterwards as renters. Spiritual work is to continue unchanged.


There has been an Evangelical parish since 1844. To it belongs Olpe’s oldest church, which was built of red brick in 1898.

Other religious communities[edit]

An Evangelical Free Church community, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the New Apostolic Church, an Islamic community and the Greek Orthodox Church are all represented in town.


As a result of municipal restructuring on 1 July 1969, the “old town” (the older town of Olpe and the outlying former Amt) has now been joined by the formerly autonomous communities of Kleusheim, Olpe-Land and Rhode as well as by parts of the old communities of Helden (Oberveischede, Tecklinghausen, Neuenwald), Rahrbach (Fahlenscheid) and Kirchveischede (Apollmicke) to form a new, expanded municipal area swelling from a former 12.78 km² to 85.65 km² in area, and from 14,184 to 21,705 in population

Population development[edit]

(for 31 December in each case)

196914,148Before municipal restructuring
197021,164After municipal restructuring


Town council[edit]

2004 municipal election results
Party/Voter communityVotesSeats
UCW e. V.29.4%11

Youth parliament[edit]

The Jugendparlament has existed since late 2005. It represents youth’s interests with the goal of developing proposals for improving the situation for children in Olpe and of suggesting measures to be taken, so that the town’s council and administration can be more strongly responsive to children’s and youths’ wishes.

The youth parliament currently consists of 25 members, each elected for a two-year mandate by secondary schools. For every 150 students, one representative is elected, although each school gets at least two representatives. All students, even those from neighbouring communities, in Years 5 to 10 may vote at the schools in Olpe. Only students who live in Olpe, however, may stand as candidates.

The youth parliament sits, usually publicly, at least four times each year. If it is so wished, working groups can be formed at sittings for various projects in which even unelected member children and youths may work.

Mayors and Directors[edit]

From 1946 until 1997, the chief administrative office in Olpe was known as the Stadtdirektor (“Town Director”). The Bürgermeister (“Mayors”) were honorary and had mostly ceremonial duties.

Mayors (since 1800)Time in officeRemarks
Johannes Möllendik1802, 1804, 1806First Mayor
Dr. Johann Edmund Funcke1802Second Mayor
Dr. Johann Edmund Funcke1803First Mayor
Franz Josef Zeppenfeld1804, 1806, 1811Second Mayor
Jodocus Edmund Weber1811–1823Stadtschultheiß
Gottfried Anton Gerlach1825
Johann Adam Halbfas1825–1850Amtmann
Ernst Hermann Halbfas1861–1879
Louis Wilhelm Liese1880–1891
Ewald Röper1891–1896
F. Josef Caspar Hundt1896acting (deputy)
Franz Karl Dütz-Josun1897–1901
Heinrich Sommerhoff1901–1933
Theodor Schulte1933–1943
Josef Wurm1943–1945
Dr. Heinrich Otto SpiesApril 1945
Josef Schrage (CDU)1945–1946full-time
Dr. Adolf Bieker1946
Franz Adam1946–1947
Franz Stork (CDU)1948–1952
Ignatz Müller (CDU)1952–1964
Alfred Enders (CDU)1964–1979
Wilma Ohly (CDU)1979–1997
Horst Müller (CDU)since 1997full-time
Stadt- and Amtsdirektoren (1946–1996)Time in office
Josef Klein1946–1949
Paul Habbel1949–1968
Dr. Ernst Elbers1968–1988
Karl- Josef Leyendecker1989–1996

Coat of arms[edit]

Olpe’s town arms

The arms show an episode from Saint Martin’s life, when he gave a beggar half his coat. As early as 1360, this scene adorned the town’s oldest seal. In 1911, as a sign of the long membership in the Archbishopric of Cologne (1180-1802), the cross of the Elector-Archbishops of Cologne was added to the upper right corner.

Town partnerships[edit]

Since 28 July 2001 there has been a partnership arrangement with the French town of Gif-sur-Yvette. The town Gymnasium in Olpe has for years been conducting student exchanges with a collège in Gif-sur-Yvette.

Culture and sightseeing[edit]

Culture plays an important role in the district seat. The town cultural office's regular events, as well as those staged by clubs from various fields form the portrait of cultural work in Olpe. Concerts of all kinds, plays, musicals, cabaret acts, exhibitions and other events appear regularly in the programmes.

The following venues are on hand:


Since 1997, the Förderverein Stadtmuseum Olpe (“Olpe Town Museum Development Association”) has been trying to establish a local museum. Owing to the town’s difficult financial situation, however, it has not yet been possible to realize this. Nevertheless, the Association’s goal is still to open such a museum in time for Olpe’s 700-year jubilee in 2011.


Town wall in Olpe (Weierhohl)

Seventy-three buildings are listed on the town’s list of monumental buildings, among them churches, rectories and chapels, but also houses and monuments. Not all the buildings listed here are protected monuments, but each has an important function for Olpe:

Natural monuments[edit]

Kölsches Heck (roughly “Cologne Hedge”) refers to what is now the administrative boundary between the districts of Olpe and Siegen-Wittgenstein. It once served as a border defence, consisting of ditches and walls with hedges cut to a man’s height and interlaced with each other. Beyond a space of 15 to 100 m there often followed another ditch or wall structure. Today, traces of this old fortification may be found above Altenkleusheim.


Locally, Olpe has a number of places where people can involve themselves in athletic activities. For example, there are eleven gymnasia, nine tennis courts, and ten football/soccer fields. Also, Olpe is the birthplace of Markus Obermeier, a professional footballer.

The indoor pool before renovations

Regular events[edit]

Many of the customs observed in town and in the outlying countryside are many hundreds of years old. They often have roots in church tradition.

Culinary specialities[edit]

Economy and infrastructure[edit]


The wealth of forest, ore and water was the foundation on which the iron foundries, hammerworks, tinsmithies and tanneries were built. Moreover, the town’s location between the Siegerland on one side and the Brandenburg-ruled Sauerland on the other favoured economic development. No later than the 18th century, Olpe and its outlying areas were one of the economic centres of the Duchy of Westphalia.


Midsize and nationally active businesses in various fields are the underpinnings of today’s economic life in the district seat. Among these are foundries, tube drawing factories, drop forges, valve factories, machine factories and electronics manufacture. Furthermore, there are many businesses in crafts, trade and service industries. Tourism is also important.

Important enterprises in Olpe are:


Rail and bus transport[edit]

Railway station building

Olpe’s railway station lies on the single-tracked Biggetalbahn (KBS 442) on which hourly runs the Biggesee-Express (RB 92) passenger service to Finnentrop with connections to the Ruhr-Sieg-Express (RE 16). In the outlying centre of Sondern is a “lake station” which allows a direct transfer from the railway to a passenger boat. It is the only one in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The central coach station with the railway station on the right

The line was built by the Bergisch-Märkische Eisenbahn (railway), going into operation between Finnentrop and Olpe on 1 November 1875. Originally it ran by way of Gerlingen and Rothemühle (both belonging to the community of Wenden) to Freudenberg in Westphalia where it joined to the Asdorftalbahn by way of Niederfischbach to Kirchen (Sieg) with a further connection to another line, the Siegstrecke (KBS 460). Another line ran from Olpe by way of Drolshagen and Bergneustadt to Dieringhausen with a connection to the Aggertalbahn (KBS 459).

As for local road transport, many buslines run, joining Olpe to the neighbouring towns and communities. The operators are the Verkehrsbetriebe Westfalen-Süd (VWS, “Westphalia-South Transport Services”) whose seat is in Siegen, a daughter company to the Stadtwerke Bonn, and the Busverkehr Ruhr-Sieg (BRS, “Ruhr-Sieg Bus Transport”). Also, lines of the Regionalverkehr Köln bus company run to Olpe.

Local rail and road transport are integrated with the Westphalia South Transport Community (Verkehrsgemeinschaft Westfalen Süd, VGWS).

Streets and roads[edit]

There are three traffic thoroughfares in the town of Olpe. Bruchstraße carries north-south traffic to the Autobahn interchanges. Westfälische Straße leaves the historic Old Town towards the northeast while Martinstraße, which is barred to heavy vehicles, leads out of the town centre towards the east. The inner town has at its disposal four free parking garages.

At almost every street junction within the town, a roundabout has been installed. Bundesstraße 55 serves as a northern town bypass and comes together with Bundesstraße 54, which serves as an eastern town bypass, near Rhode. In the south and west, the Autobahnen A 4 and A 45 surround the municipal area. It is thereby possible for heavy traffic to bypass the town altogether on any side.

The town of Olpe is connected to two Autobahnen:

as well as to the Bundesstraßen 54 (Münster–Lünen–Dortmund–Hagen–Olpe–Siegen–Limburg–Wiesbaden) and 55 (Olpe-Lennestadt-Meschede).

Water transport[edit]

Boat tours can be taken on the Biggesee. The waters are plied from April until late October by two boats run by the Personenschifffahrt Biggesee. A trip round the reservoir lasts roughly two hours, and may be boarded at any of five docks. A few years ago there were still four boats in this Weiße Flotte (“White Fleet”), as it is known. Along with the still available MS Westfalen and MS Bigge, a further boat plied the reservoir. In the reservoir’s forward basin (called the Obersee, or “Upper Lake”) was a canal boat by the name of Olpe. Its low-slung design was necessary so that the boat could get under the low railway bridge.

Cycling paths[edit]

Around the Biggesee and the Lister Reservoir (Listertalsperre) is a closed cycling path network. This leads to the Biggedamm in Attendorn. Furthermore, Olpe is connected to the North Rhine-Westphalia Cycling Transport Network (Radverkehrsnetz NRW).

Hiking paths[edit]

Through Olpe runs the 1 080 km-long Wanderweg der Deutschen Einheit (“Hiking Path of German Unity”). Also, there are many smaller, well marked hiking paths that lead around the town.



The following newspapers publish local editions daily:

Furthermore, each of these newspapers also has a local office in Olpe. Currently, all three publish in the morning, although until 2000, the Siegener Zeitung was an afternoon paper. The Siegener Zeitung is a midsize family business with its headquarters in Siegen. The other two papers both belong to the WAZ newspaper group.

Also published, on Wednesdays and Sundays, is the free advertising sheet Sauerlandkurier with information from the whole Sauerland. Further advertising sheets are the Sonntags-Anzeiger – as the name suggests, appearing Sundays – and the Sauerländer Wochenanzeiger, which comes out Wednesdays and Sundays, each of which is produced by the Siegerländer Wochen-Anzeiger GmbH & Co. KG, a daughter company of the Siegener Zeitung.

On special occasions such as the shooting festival, the Sauerländer Börse, a glossy DIN-A-4-format advertising sheet, appears.

Until about 2000, there was also a Wednesday advertising sheet called the Stadtanzeiger published by a WAZ daughter company, and until some time around 1980, Olpe was the publishing site of the Sauerländisches Volksblatt.


The Olpe district has no local transmitter or radio station at its disposal. Current news about Olpe is to be had only through the WDR 2 programme from the Siegen regional studio, sending out news from south Westphalia on the half-hour. With a decision on 28 April 2006, however, Olpe was chosen by the Landesanstalt für Medien Nordrhein-Westfalen (LfM), the responsible overseeing authority for radio broadcasts in North Rhine-Westphalia, as a possible area for expansion of local broadcasting. An organizing association has existed for many years.


Olpe belongs to WDR Fernsehen’s Siegen studio’s broadcast area. The Lokalzeit Südwestfalen reports on the region.

Public institutions[edit]

Olpe courthouse

Since 1 August 2007, there has been this current forest office made up of the former Attendorn (partly) and Olpe forest offices. The first time that a forest office in Olpe was mentioned was in 1810.

In a former school on 31 August 1982, the Olpe branch was officially opened. The main task is taking care of monuments in the Regierungsbezirk of Arnsberg. This is done through undertaking to propose monumental protection, taking part in procedures as sponsors of public concerns, onsite studies, publishing work and “small monument care” (exchange with interested persons or groups).


The hospital was founded in 1856 under the St. Martinus Olpe parish’s sponsorship and at first it was run by two Vincentine sisters. Each year, just under 11,000 patients, mainly from Olpe, Wenden and Drolshagen are treated. A staff of roughly 800 full-time and part-time workers have 385 beds in their care. The hospital has a surgical clinic, a medicinal clinic, a women’s clinic, an anaesthesia department, an intensive care unit whose main task is pain control and diagnostic radiology, and a psychiatric department. Sisters of the Olpe Franciscan congregation took over nursing duties in 1900. As of 1997, the St.-Martinus-Hospital was run as a not-for-profit limited company (GmbH), and it merged in 2000 with the Catholic St.-Josef-Hospital in Lennestadt-Altenhundem into the Katholische Hospitalgesellschaft Südwestfalen gGmbH (gemeinnützige Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, or “not-for-profit company with limited liability”). Attached to the hospital are, among other things, a nursing school, a course in geriatric care and a mobile dialysis centre. Since that time, the Franciscan sisters have no longer been working at the St.-Martinus-Hospital, and the convent found there was dissolved in late 2005.

Kinderhospiz Balthasar[edit]

When this children's hospice opened in 1998, it was the first of its kind in Germany. “A second home for the whole family” is one of the hospice’s guiding principles. As well as living and laughing, dying and weeping can take place here. The whole family is to some extent guided over years until the child’s death. Each year, several stays of up to four weeks each are possible.

The sponsor is the Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft der Franziskanerinnen zu Olpe mbH (“Not-for-profit Company of the Franciscan Sisters at Olpe, limited”, or GFO). It is one-third financed by sponsors such as longterm care insurance and two-thirds by donations and by the families themselves.


Olpe is a regionally important school centre. There are many different educational institutions here.

Schools and educational institutions in Olpe
Elementary schoolsSecondary schools
Katholische Bekenntnisgrundschule HohensteinHauptschule: Hakemickeschule Städt. Gemeinschaftshauptschule
Gemeinschaftsgrundschule DahlRealschule: Realschule Olpe-Drolshagen
Katholische Bekenntnisgrundschule Auf dem GallenbergGymnasien: Sankt-Franziskus-Gymnasium; Städtisches Gymnasium Olpe
Katholische Bekenntnisgrundschule DüringerschuleProfessional schools
Gemeinschaftsgrundschule HakemickeBäckerfachschule
Katholische Franz-Hitze-Bekenntnisgrundschule RhodeBerufskolleg des Kreises Olpe (vocational college)
Special schoolsFortbildungsakademien für Gesundheitshilfe
Pestalozzischule, Förderschule Lernen des Kreises OlpeNursing schools
Max-von-der-Grün-Schule, LWL special school with emphasis on bodily and motor developmentOther
Michael-Ende-Schule, LWL-Förderschule, emphasis on speechRettungsfachschule des DRK (Red Cross rescue school)
LWL-Förderschule, emphasis on sightMusic school
LWL-Förderschule,. emphasis on hearing and communicationFolk high school

Famous people[edit]

Sons and daughters of the town[edit]

Famous people connected with the town[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Amtliche Bevölkerungszahlen". Landesbetrieb Information und Technik NRW (in German). 4 September 2014. 
This article incorporates information from the revision as of 2006-10-09 of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

External links[edit]