ANSBACH THROUGH THE AGES
The City (Stadt) of Ansbach, a Margravial residential city in Middle Franconia is located approximately 25 miles southwest from the city of Nürnberg and sits in the northern part of Bavaria in a region known as Franconia, or Franken. Ansbach borders the Franconian Heights Nature Park which has extensive forests and open space and is also a point of interest on the historic German Castle Road, which begins in Mannheim in the German west and goes as far east as Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.
Ansbach is the seat of the district government of Middle Franconia, the former residency of the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and features more than 1270 years of dynamic history. The earliest known resident was a Franconian settler named Onold, who established a household around the year 740 AD near the Rezat River, which runs through what is now Ansbach. At that time the area was known as Onoldsbach. Not long after, a Franconian nobleman, Gumbertus, established a Benedictine monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary within the community. While the monastery is today a Lutheran church in the old town (Altstadt) of Ansbach, it still bears the name of its Catholic founder, who went on to be proclaimed a Saint of the Catholic Church. In the 11th century the monastery was upgraded to a chapter house, and in a document dated 1221, the community of Ansbach was first mentioned by name.
In 1331, the Hohenzollern, then Burggraves of Nürnberg, acquired Ansbach and chose the town as their residence. For more than 500 years the town and the surrounding districts were ruled by Hohenzollern Margraves. During that time, Ansbach developed as an international center of crafts and art and came to be known in many parts of the world due to its finely crafted porcelain.
Stadt Ansbach has hosted military garrisons for hundreds of years. The first military installation, known as Hindenburg Kaserne, was built in 1722. It housed German Soldiers until the end of World War II when it was occupied by the U.S. Army. It was returned to the German government in the early 1990s and is now home to a university and the Brücken-Center shopping mall.
In 1776, when the Bavarian state was facing bankruptcy, the margrave of Ansbach at that time decided to lend his soldiers to the British King who was in need of soldiers to fight in the Revolutionary War against the United States. On March 3, 1777, two infantry regiments with artillery and a total of 2,500 troops left Ansbach to road march to the Main River where they boarded a canal boat to start their journey to the United States; after eight weeks of travel they arrived in the United States where they were immediately thrown into battle. Word came back from the United States that the Ansbach soldiers were respected for their meritorious service and tough fighting; as a sign of appreciation the margrave sent several barrels of Sauerkraut to these soldiers.
After four years of fighting and the eventual surrender of the British, 1,000 of the troops returned to Ansbach in 1783. Only about 400 had perished from the original 2,500; most of those did not die from being wounded in action but from disease. Numerous troops deserted due to the miserable food and poor treatment by the British. The remaining number decided to settle in the United States after they were released from their prisoner of war camps.
Not long after, in 1791, the last margrave of Ansbach abdicated and went to England. The district was then adopted by the Prussian Empire. In 1806, French troops occupied Ansbach and Napoleon gave the area to the Bavarian Kingdom. Under French administration, Bavaria was divided into seven districts and Ansbach was nominated as the capital of the Middle Franconian District. As of today, Ansbach has maintained its character as an administration town, a garrison and a cultural center. During World War II Ansbach was upgraded to a garrison by the Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) regime, and between 1936 and 1938 four more installations were built in or around Ansbach. After World War II all of the installations were taken over by the U.S. Army. Many units were located here and from 1971-1992 Ansbach was the home of the 1st Armored Division with headquarters in Hindenburg Kaserne.
Today the city has a population of over 50,000 residents. Thanks to its abundance of historic sites and treasures, Ansbach ranks highly among Franconian towns. Impressive historic buildings, like the Court Chancellery, the Churches of St. John and St. Gumbertus, the Residenz with its 27 staterooms, the magnificent Orangerie (Orangery or Palatial greenhouse/conservatory) and its adjacent courtyard garden are witnesses to its glamorous past of a residential city of medieval nobility.
Modern educational institutions like the Ansbach University for Applied Science are attended by people from all over the world. Mid-sized businesses in the fields of polymer processing, food products and electrical engineering are located here. There are various administrative facilities of international companies within Ansbach. The Brücken-Center shopping mall and the many stores and restaurants within the old city (Altstadt) give distinction and individuality to the former border garrison town.