Via Regia and Via Imperii Via Regia between Fulda and Neuhof in Hesse, Germany Via Regia, i.e. "Royal Highway", denotes a medieval historic road. The term, in the usual sense, means not just a specific road, rather a type of road. It was legally associated with the king and remained under his special protection and guarantee of public peace.
There were many such roads in the Holy Roman Empire e.g. the King's road from Menzlin to Wismar in present-day Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was the "most significant East-West road in the north" of the medi val west Slavic Lutici settlement areas. The best known Via Regia, from the Rhine river via Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig (where it intersected the Via Imperii) to Silesia, with time, came to be called Via Regia itself. In 2005 it was awarded the title of a European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe.
The "Via Regia"
It ran west-east through the centre of the Holy Roman Empire, from the Rhine at Mainz-Kastel (Elisabethenstra e) to Frankfurt am Main, trade city and site of the election of the King of the Romans, continuing along Hanau, the Kaiserpfalz at Gelnhausen, the towns of Steinau an der Stra e, Neuhof, Fulda and Eisenach to Erfurt, a centre of woad production. It ran further eastwards to Eckartsberga, crossing the Saale river between Bad K sen and Naumburg and reached Leipzig, another trade city. The eastern part continued through Upper Lusatia (Via Regia Lusatiae Superioris) along Gro enhain, K nigsbr ck, Kamenz, Bautzen and G rlitz to Breslau (Wroc aw) in Silesia with further connection to Krak w in Poland.
The road was first mentioned as strata regia in a document issued by Margrave Henry III of Meissen in 1252, while its origins date back to the 8th and 9th century. After the downfall of the Imperial power in Central Germany in favour of the Saxon House of Wettin following the 1307 Battle of Lucka, the road lost its royal status; from the 14th Century this route could no longer really be spoken of as a "Via Regia".
The "High Road"
Elisabethenstra e at Mainz-Kastel Nevertheless the important section of the road between Frankfurt and Leipzig continued to exist under the name Hohe Stra e ("High Road"). It remained under sovereign control of e.g. the Bohemian Crown in Upper Lusatia, the Saxon electors, the Abbey of Fulda, as well as the Archbishopric of Mainz and was chartered through tolling. Also the branch-off from Frankfurt am Main to Cologne via Wetzlar was called Hohe Stra e.
The road had a large economic significance for interregional trade and bartering. From the west came Flemish blankets, from the east wood, pelts, wax and honey, and the middle section controlled the German indigo (Isatis tinctoria) of the Thuringian Basin as well as the mining products of the Saxon Ore Mountains. The High Road also provided the direct route between the largest German trade fairs of Frankfurt and Leipzig.
Pilgrims, who took part in the Aachen Cathedral shrine pilgrimage used the road in large numbers. Thereto they turned off the trunk road at Eisenach along the "Long Hesse" road to Marburg and Cologne. Testimonies of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela are known from Gro enhain, Leipzig, Erfurt, Gotha, Vacha, Fulda, Frankfurt am Main and Mainz.
The road was repeatedly used by armies. Some large battles came to pass in its catchment area (e.g. Breitenfeld 1631, L tzen 1632, Rossbach 1757, Hochkirch 1758, Jena-Auerstedt 1806 as well as the Battles of Bautzen, L tzen (Gro g rschen) and Leipzig in 1813). After the final defeat of Napoleon, the significance of the road declined, since, as a result of the reduction of the Kingdom of Saxony by large parts of its Lusatian territories at the Congress of Vienna, the toll on behalf of Leipzig was no longer continued.
Parts of the historic Via Regia route are today marked by major national roads: between Eisenach and Erfurt by the Bundesstra e 7 (B7); between Leipzig and Wroclaw (Breslau) by the Bundesstra e 6 (B6); and the Polish Autostrada A4. In Hanau the Birkenhainer Stra e branches off the Via Regia crossing the Spessart mountain range towards Gem nden am Main in Franconia, also as a high road.
- Ludwig Steinfeld: Chronik einer Stra e. Die alte Stra e von Frankfurt nach Leipzig; Geschichte, Ereignisse, Reiseberichte. Geiger-Verlag, Horb am Neckar 1994, ISBN 3-89264-360-1
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