HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF SCHWETZINGEN
OF DOCUMENTS AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS
The document book of the Lorsch Abbey mentions Schwetzingen for the first time in a gift from 21 December 766. The town's name at the time, Suezzingen, is derived from the proper name Suezzo, roughly meaning "belonging to the site of Suezzo“. Archaeological finds prove, however, that the area of today's town was settled even earlier than that.
The traces of one of the largest Linear Pottery culture graveyards in South-Western Germany were found in Schwetzingen's new construction area Schälzig in 1988. The first sedentary people from this Neolithic culture settled here more than 7000 years ago and farmed the land. From this period on, finds from many prehistoric and early history cultures from the Celtic epoch have been found, as well as those from the time of Roman occupation and from the local Germanic tribe of the Neckar-Suebi. Grave finds from the Merovingian period, supported by entries in the Lorsch Codex, prove that Schwetzingen was made up of an upper and a lower village. The Schwetzingen castle was built between the two settlements, probably in the 13th century.
The Schwetzingen castle - then still a fortified moated castle belonging to the knights' family, the Erligheimers - was first mentioned in a deed in 1350. In it, Elsbeth von Schonenberg granted Count Palatine Rupert permanent residential rights in the "Veste" Schwetzingen. The castle and its possessions thus slowly became the property of the Electoral Palatinate. The Counts Palatine and later Electors Palatine, who resided in Heidelberg, liked to come to nearby Schwetzingen often to hunt in the Hardtwald forest, which was abundant with game.
DESTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION AND FIRST HEYDAY
Like almost any town in the entire Electoral Palatinate, Schwetzingen was nearly destroyed in the Thirty Years' war, and again in in 1689 during the Nine Years' War. Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm had the castle rebuilt before his successor Charles Philip turned it into his summer residence in 1720. He had the road to Heidelberg, which started at the castle’s cour d'honneur, developed into a straight avenue and planted with mulberry trees. Its course, from the foot of the Königstuhl near Heidelberg to Schwetzingen, and its Western continuation along the line of sight to the Kalmit, the highest mountain of the Palatinate Forest, is still clearly visible.
Under Prince-Elector Charles Theodore, who reigned from 1742, the mulberry tree avenue that is now called the Carl-Theodor-Strasse became the characterising element in the baroque redesign of the summer residence. The "new town" with its market place, today's Castle Square, and the four building squares towards the east were developed along this avenue, which also became the basis for the further development of the castle garden after 1748. The plan was to combine the previously separated parts of the town to create a new urban centre that was fully focussed on the castle. Schwetzingen was declared a market town in 1759. The license to hold a weekly market and two annual markets led to an economic upturn.
The largest building project of the 18th century was the construction of one of the most beautiful gardens of Europe, the Schwetzingen castle garden. The English landscape garden created by Ludwig von Sckell borders the strictly geometric baroque garden created by Nicolas de Pigage in a unique symbiosis. Many buildings, such as the temple to Apollo and the mosque, bear witness to the enlightened ideas of its ruler.
SCHWETZINGEN BECOMES A TOWN OF ASPARAGUS
In the early 19th century, Schwetzingen passed to the Grand Duchy of Baden and became the seat and centre of the new district of Schwetzingen. This function as a town-like administrative centre, the great controlling power and the castle with its already-famous garden, which required some administrative work, were the reasons that Grand Duke Leopold declared Schwetzingen a town in 1833.
Industrialisation commenced around 1850, brought on by the agricultural intensive cultures of hops, tobacco and asparagus. Particularly Asparagus, which was first grown in the castle garden in 1668 and improved with breeding towards the end of the 19th century, developed into a high-quality product of global renown. Renowned companies, such as canned-food factory Bassermann and cigar factory Neuhaus, settled here once Schwetzingen was connected to the Rheintalbahn railway in 1870. They distributed their goods around the world.
The commercial structure of the town changed after World War II, which Schwetzingen survived with relatively little damage. The large and staff-intensive operations of the food and luxuries industries were replaced by high-performance medium-sized operations and a strong service industry, in large part due to the tourist attractions of Schwetzingen. Contact the town administration for more information/brochures on the town and its history. For detailed historical aspects, check out the series at the Schwetzingen town archive. Book retailers also offer many publications on the town and castle of Schwetzingen.