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Physical map of the Kraichgau (outlined in brown)
View from Ravensburg near Sulzfeld over the Kraichgau hilly landscape to the highest point of Kraichgau, Steinsberg Castle (on the horizon in the center of the picture)
Steinsberg Castle on the mountain of the same name, the highest point in the Kraichgau
The distinctive Catholic parish church of Waibstadt
Ruin of the moated castle in Kraichtal-Menzingen

The Kraichgau is a hilly landscape in the north-west of Baden-Württemberg .


The landscape of the Kraichgau in north-western Baden-Württemberg is bordered by the Odenwald in the north, the Black Forest in the south and the Upper Rhine Plain in the west. In the east, the Kraichgau is delimited by the ridge of the Stromberg and Heuchelberg to the Zabergäu . The total area of ​​the area extends over 1630 km². In the northeast, when you reach the Neckar, it changes into building land and lowlands , in the southeast, when you reach the Enz, it changes into the Heckengäu . The Kraichgau area extends to parts of the districts of Karlsruhe , Heilbronn , Enzkreis , Rhein-Neckar-Kreis and Neckar-Odenwald-Kreis .

The largest cities in the Kraichgau are Sinsheim , Eppingen , Bad Rappenau , Bretten and Bruchsal . However, it is characterized by the large number of villages in the middle of the hilly landscape, which were predominantly settled in the Middle Ages. The five cities mentioned above already include over 40 such villages. Other larger towns are Dielheim , Mühlhausen , Knittlingen , Oberderdingen , Östringen , Rauenberg , Waibstadt and Schwaigern as well as the communities Angelbachtal , Kraichtal , Pfinztal and Walzbachtal , which emerged from the merger of many smaller villages.

The most important rivers in this landscape are the Kraichbach , which has its source at Sternenfels in the Enzkreis, then flows towards the northwest and flows into the Rhine at Ketsch , as well as the Elsenz , which rises at the village of the same name near Eppingen and at Neckargemünd into the Neckar flows out. Other important bodies of water are Pfinz , Saalbach and Leimbach in the western part and Lein and Schwarzbach in the east .

The Kraichgau is basically a deep basin that sank between the Odenwald and the Black Forest when these mountains rose in the Tertiary about 65 million years ago and formed today's Upper Rhine Plain between them and the more western Vosges and the Palatinate Forest . In the Ice Age, significant amounts of loess were blown out of the Upper Rhine Graben as silt and deposited again in the Kraichgau. With a thickness of over 30 meters, the loess in the Kraichgau reaches its greatest thickness in Germany. The loess and the resulting fertile soils are the basis for the intensive agriculture that characterizes the region to this day. Due to the relatively mild climate, the Kraichgau is often referred to as the Baden Tuscany , similar to the Markgräflerland .

The highest point in the Kraichgau is the castle hill of Steinsberg Castle near Sinsheim-Weiler at 333 m above sea level. The dungeon of the castle is also called compass of the Kraichgau referred. The Catholic parish church of Our Lady in Waibstadt is one of the most distinctive churches in northern Kraichgau . Its 65 m high tower is visible from afar and is known as the Kraichgau Cathedral .

Natural structure

Schwarzbachaue near Meckesheim

The Kraichgau is natural space in the system of the manual nature spatial structure of Germany , the main unit 125 of the with gäu plateaus (main unit group 12) of the Schwäbischen Gäue, one together with the Fränkischen Gäuen bulk region 3rd order forms, which in turn part of the bulk region 2. Order of the south-west German layer level country.

The Kraichgau is divided into partial landscapes as follows:

Origin of name

The name Kraichgau for today's entire area is of modern origin. Originally the name referred only to the part of the Kraichgau, which is now more widely understood, which belonged to the catchment area of ​​the Kraichbach, partly also to places on Waldangelbach and Saalbach . The other areas belonged to Elsenzgau , Pfinzgau or Gartachgau . Places in the area of ​​the Leimbach were included in the Lobdengau , and the term Salzgau was also used for the Saalbach catchment area .

In the early Middle Ages , Kraichgau, which was then still more closely understood, was first mentioned in the Lorsch Codex as Creichgowe (769), later also as Chrehgauui (773) or Craichgoia (778). A much later form of the name is Kreuchgau (1594).

The name Kraich probably goes back to the Celtic word Creuch for mud and clay. The term Gau describes an open, forest-free area and, in particular, landscapes determined by arable farming.


Early history

The Kraichgau is one of the oldest cultural areas in Europe. A distant relative of modern humans, Homo heidelbergensis, was at home in this area over half a million years ago . The discovery of a lower jaw in Mauer , between Sinsheim and Heidelberg, in 1907 caused a sensation worldwide; to this day, the lower jaw of Mauer is the oldest fossil of the genus Homo that has ever been found in Germany.

In the course of the following millennia, climatic changes created a hilly landscape with loess soils, so that the entire Kraichgau, as a depression between the Odenwald and the Black Forest, became easy-to-build settlement areas that could be crossed without difficulty. Many individual finds of, for example, stone axes, grain graters, dagger blades, lance tips and Bronze Age burials point to the Neolithic and Bronze Age . The Celtic tribe of the Helvetii also left further traces of their traces of settlement from around 400 BC. Exist.

The Roman times in particular left lasting traces. Numerous finds testify to the importance of this area as the hinterland of the Upper German-Raetian Limes during the Roman occupation. An impressive example of Gallo-Roman art is the tallest Jupiter giant column in southern Germany, which came to light in Steinsfurt in 1959 .

Of the Germanic tribes searching for land , the Cimbri , Teutons and Sueven in particular penetrated south-west Germany. The Alemanni (traces east of Sinsheim), whose settlement area the Kraichgau belonged to until around the year 500, became settled since 260 . The Alemanni came into conflict with the Frankish Empire , as they wanted to expand their territory to the west and northwest. From the decisive battle of Zülpich 496/497 the Franks emerged victorious. At the latest after a failed uprising by the Alemanni in 506/507, they had to cede their previous dominion and settlement area to the Franks.

In the early Franconian Merovingian period , the Kraichgau was mainly populated with the large stream valleys. Important long-distance connections are likely to have run there, since a largely flat east-west passage between the Odenwald in the north and the Black Forest in the south is only possible in the stream valleys of the Kraichgau. Large-scale clearing activity also began along the stream valleys. Later settlements were essentially only founded where there was still enough space available between the settlement corridors of the stream valleys.

The Kraichgau as a county in the high Middle Ages

The Kraichgau as Frankish Gaugrafschaft was first in the 8th century in the Lorsch Codex as Craichgoia documented in records. The counts were appointed by the king or duke as deputies, whereby the boundaries of the administrative districts were essentially based on the natural areas, but a count could also have supremacy over various districts at the same time. So counted z. B. the Anglachgau administratively always to the Kraichgau, from the late 10th to the late 11th century Anglach, Elsenz, Gartach and Kraichgau were each administered by the same dignitaries. At that time the large moth Wigoldesberg near Östringen-Eichelberg was the central administrative seat. Until the early 12th century, the title of count was always linked to a person and not hereditary, but then became a hereditary title as the power of the count dwindled.

Gerold (* around 730; † around 784/786) is mentioned as one of the early Kraichgaugrafen . He was Kraichgaugraf from 777 at the latest until around 784/786. The son of a Frankish count and member of the Frankish imperial aristocracy was married to Imma, daughter of the Alemannic Duke Hnabi , and father of Hildegard , the wife of Charlemagne . The Kraichgaugraf Sieghard, who is mentioned from 858 to 861, was the progenitor of the Sieghardinger .

The Sinsheim Abbey was founded by Otto von Worms around the year 1000

Otto von Worms (* around 948; † 1004) was count in the Nahegau , count in Speyergau , Wormsgau , Elsenzgau , Kraichgau, Enzgau , Pfinzgau and Ufgau in 956 . He became Duke of Carinthia in 978 and was a candidate for the throne in the king's election in 1002 . Around the year 1000 he is considered to be the founder of the Sinsheim Monastery . He could be succeeded in office by his son Konrad († 1011), but possibly already a representative of the Zeisolf-Wolframe , since the Counts Zeisolf (probably the 1008 occupied Wormsgau-Count Zeisolf II.) And Wolfram (probably the 987 to 1006 as Count of Speyergaus appearing Wolfram I) appear as Otto's witness at the court day in Verona in 1001. For the Kraichgau, a tungsten is used several times between 1024 and 1056. From 1065 he was followed by Engelbert I von Spanheim . In 1067 the property of Count Zeisolf in Sinsheim is mentioned.

A Count Bruno is mentioned several times for the year 1100, who in older literature is erroneously equated with Archbishop Bruno von Trier . In the case of Count Bruno, it could rather be the Strasbourg Vogt Bruno, named in 1102, who, due to his proven duties, possibly came from the Michelbach-Steinsberger family, who were wealthy in Kraichgau. That Bruno united the counties in Anglach, Elsenz, Gartach and Kraichgau for the last time.

Around 1103, Anglachgau and Kraichgau came to the Counts of Lauffen . Although there is no direct documentary evidence, the Wigoldesberg moth passed from the extinct Zeisolf-Wolframen to the Lauffeners until 1123, while the county changed its name to Grafschaft Brettheim at the same time , which means that the main administrative seat is probably in the more centrally located Lauffen castle in the Burgwäldle had shifted at Bretten. In April 1138 Heinrich von Katzenelnbogen was taken over by King Conrad III. appointed Count of the Kraichgau. The title of Count von Katzenelnbogen is based on this increase in status . In the following years the influence of the Kraichgaugrafen decreased, named 1179 Berthold I. von Katzenelnbogen, 1237 Simon von Katzenelnbogen and 1268 Dieter von Katzenelnbogen.

Kraichgau knighthood

The donkey as heraldic animal of the knightly canton Kraichgau
Helmstatt-Neipperger alliance coat of arms from 1546 in Neckarbischofsheim

As early as the High Middle Ages, important regional lords were the Göler von Ravensburg and the Counts von Eberstein , who had important possessions in the Kraichgau from the end of the 11th century and were also responsible for the founding of the cities of Bretten and Gochsheim around 1250.

From the late Middle Ages on, imperial knightly families such as the Lords of Gemmingen , the Lords of Neipperg , the Lords of Helmstatt , the Lords of Venningen and the Lords of Mentzingen appeared, who joined the Swabian knightly circle as its knightly canton of Kraichgau in the 16th century , which had its seat in Wimpfen and from 1619 in Heilbronn .

The brothers Dietrich († 1526), Wolf († 1555) and Philipp von Gemmingen († 1544) were the first of their class to introduce the Reformation in Kraichgau in 1522 . The Kraichgau nobility, with their fragmented ownership, then mostly turned to the teachings of Luther, so that the Kraichgau communities are predominantly Protestant.

The region has an exceptionally high density of noble families, more than a hundred families are known. Sebastian Münster called the Kraichgau in 1550 the "land of the nobles". Franz Josef Mone (1796–1871), the first director of the General State Archives in Karlsruhe, counted 109 noble families.

After the devastation of the country in the Thirty Years' War, the Kraichgau knights sought a quick resettlement in order to gain new subjects and thus continue to have a tax income. Among the new settlers, Swiss from the cantons of Zurich and Bern formed the largest group. The Kraichgau, which was largely part of the Calvinist Electoral Palatinate of that time, was the closest reformed area north of the Alps for the Swiss who emigrated mostly for economic reasons. In the period after the Thirty Years' War there was also the arrival of some new Catholic aristocratic families in the Kraichgau, such as the Counts of Wiser or the Counts of Yrsch , who died out of the Electoral Palatinate, which at times became Catholic again in the course of numerous religious changes, with the freed fiefs Families were wealthy and those who preferred new settlers of Catholic origin in the repopulation of the devastated places and emphatically promoted recatholicization . Regarding the origin and the financial circumstances of the new settlers, however, there was little picky between the two denominations, but the poor colonies did not develop, as they developed in Swabia under the same circumstances. In contrast to most of the surrounding rulers, Jews were also able to settle in many knightly villages in the Kraichgau for protection money. These then lived scattered among the population or in certain residential areas, but there was no pronounced ghetto formation.

The Kraichgau knights were able to defend their imperial immediacy against the interests of the up-and-coming state of Württemberg , the margraviate of Baden , the bishopric of Speyer and the Electoral Palatinate , but with the mediation after the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1803, the knight associations were dissolved and the imperial knightly territories in Kraichgau were largely re-established country Baden slammed shut.

The manorial rights ( manorial rule ) mostly ceased due to ransom in the middle of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the descendants of the Kraichgau nobility continued to own a lot of property, which was still evident in some large farm estates such as in Grombach or Eichtersheim until after the Second World War . Many formerly knightly court estates have only recently been given up or leased. Südzucker , in particular, should be mentioned as an important tenant of formerly knightly goods . Some of the castles and palaces that have been preserved, the oldest of which probably date from the early 13th century, the youngest from around 1900, came into municipal and other public property and today serve as town halls or the seat of state or public administrations. However, some descendants of the Kraichgau knighthood such as the Neipperg and the Gemmingen still own numerous castles, palaces and lands to this day.

The Kraichgau since the end of the imperial knighthood

After the end of the imperial knighthood and the dissolution of the knightly canton of Kraichgau, the term Kraichgau initially took a back seat and in the middle of the 19th century only referred to the area of ​​the Baden district of Bruchsal . The natural area, on the other hand, was called the Enz, Pfinz and Kraichgauer hill country , Neckar plateau or Neckar hill country . It was not until the geographers Friedrich Ratzel and Friedrich Metz referred to the entire hill country between Neckar, Enz and Rhine as Kraichgau again from 1900. This designation for the approximately 1,600 square kilometers large natural space unit was also adopted by the Federal Agency for Spatial Research (today: Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning ) between 1957 and 1963 when the spatial division of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Jewish life in the Kraichgau

The Kraichgau had the greatest density of Jewish communities in Baden at that time; in individual communities up to a third of the total population were of Jewish faith. Especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the people of the Jewish faith shaped the cultural and economic life in the Kraichgau. B. the largest South German Jewish association cemetery near Bad Rappenau , the Jewish cemetery Heinsheim or abandoned, but still existing synagogues like the one in Heinsheim .


Tobacco shed in Hoffenheim (demolished 2013)

The Kraichgau is particularly fertile due to its loess soil , which was created by ice age deposits, and is therefore one of the granaries of southern Germany. Even fruit and wine (esp. On the Keuper heights to Sinsheim and Sulzfeld ) are widespread. Similarly, potatoes , sugar beet and tobacco grown. In particular with tobacco cultivation and the establishment of numerous small cigar factories in Kraichgau, the local farmers tried in the 19th century to escape the prevailing poverty in large parts of the area, which led to heavy emigration in some places .

The traditional cottage gardens are also typical in Kraichgau . Work was carried out in and on them for centuries until they had their present-day splendor. The first cottage gardens had been laid out by the Teutons and were designed entirely for use. Various vegetables, various spices, medicinal plants (especially sage), but also a few ornamental plants were grown.

The Kraichgau remained strongly agricultural until the very recent past, with small farms and property that was severely fragmented due to real division in agriculture until the beginning of land consolidations in the 1950s. Industry initially only settled in the border regions of the Kraichgau because of the proximity to the larger cities. Significant economic impetus came from the expansion of the federal highways and motorways in the 1960s.

Protected areas

There are numerous nature and landscape protection areas in the Kraichgau . Three landscape protection areas are named after the Kraichgau:

  • LSG Kraichgau (No. 2.15.038) between Ubstadt-Weiher and Sulzfeld . The area is 4,086.2 hectares and was created by ordinance of the Karlsruhe district office on June 3, 1987.
  • LSG Brettener Kraichgau (Lohnwald and Talbach lowlands Neibsheim, Kuckucksberg and Aspe Büchig, Waldwingert Bauerbach, Großmulte Gölshausen, Dürrenbüchig vineyard, Sprantal and Salzachtal Ruit) (No. 2.15.070). Several sub-areas around Bretten with 529.2 hectares, ordinance of the Karlsruhe District Office of July 14, 2006.
  • LSG Westlicher Kraichgau (No. 2.26.046) near Rauenberg in the Rhein-Neckar district. The area with 930.0 hectares was created by ordinance of the Rhein-Neckar-Kreis district office on September 16, 2002.

The protection purpose in all cases is the preservation of the typical Kraichgau landscape with gentle loess hills, a pronounced valley system, steep Keuper slopes, numerous small geomorphological terrains such as hollow paths, terraces and embankments, a diverse land use with arable farming, grassland management, viticulture, fruit growing and forest as well as numerous interspersed in the fields Forests, single trees, field trees, field hedges, shrubbery, grass-herb fringes and grasslands. In addition, the special habitats of the native wild animals and plants, some of which are endangered, are to be preserved.


With the high-speed line Mannheim – Stuttgart , the Württemberg West Railway , the Karlsruhe – Mühlacker railway , the Kraichgau Railway and the Elsenz Valley Railway , the Kraichgau is crossed by main lines like hardly any other rural area in Germany .

In addition, the Katzbachbahn (Bruchsal – Odenheim (–Hilsbach)), the Kraichtalbahn (Bruchsal – Menzingen), the Meckesheim – Neckarelz and the Steinsfurt – Eppingen railway are branch lines in the Kraichgau . On the Krebsbachtalbahn (Neckarbischofsheim Nord – Hüffenhardt) normal passenger traffic has been stopped. There is currently also a museum railway in 2013 on Sundays and public holidays between May 1 and October 20, see Krebsbachtalbahn . Both branches of the Wiesloch – Meckesheim / Waldangelloch railway line have been completely dismantled.


For the literary reception of the Kraichgau see also: Kraichgau Library Gochsheim

  • Thomas Adam: The Kraichgau. A little story . (Regional history - well-founded and compact) , 3rd, updated edition, Lauinger-Verlag, Karlsruhe 2017, ISBN 978-3-7650-8433-1
  • David Chyträus : About the Kraichgau . Rostock 1561 (lat. De craichgoia oratio)
  • Ludwig H. Hildebrandt (Ed.): Archeology and desert research in the Kraichgau . (Ed. By Heimatverein Kraichgau e.V. , special publication No. 18). Regional culture publishing house, Ubstadt-Weiher 1997. ISBN 978-3-929366-34-1
  • Ludwig H. Hildebrandt: The counties of Elsenz and Kraichgau in the high Middle Ages, their counts and their castle seats with special consideration of Bretten . In: Bretten Yearbook for Culture and History . NF 5. Bretten 2008, p. 55-85 .
  • Wolfgang Martin: Extent and nature of the "Kraichgau" in the high Middle Ages . In: Bretten Yearbook for Culture and History 1964/65 , Bretten 1964, pp. 19–27
    • Extent and nature of the Kraichgau in the late Middle Ages . In: Bretten Yearbook for Culture and History 1967 , Bretten 1967, pp. 125–134
  • Arnold Scheuerbrandt: The Kraichgau - Natural Area or Cultural Area? In: Heimatbote Bad Rappenau No. 14 , Bad Rappenau 2003
    • Imperial knights' places in Kraichgau . In: Heimatbote Bad Rappenau No. 15 , Bad Rappenau 2004
  • Roland Thomann: Fate of a Landscape. A reader on the history of the Kraichgau and its places. regional culture publisher, Ubstadt-Weiher 1999. ISBN 978-3-929366-21-1
  • Ludwig Vögely : Life in the Kraichgau in the past . Regional culture publishing house, Ubstadt-Weiher 1997, ISBN 3-929366-56-8 .
    • Kraichgau figures. 36 historical personalities from politics, church, science and art. Regional culture publishing house, Ubstadt-Weiher 1994, ISBN 3-929366-07-X .

Web links

Commons : Kraichgau  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Federal Agency for Nature Conservation: Landscape Description 12502 Northern Kraichgau , Federal Agency for Nature Conservation: Landscape Description 12502 Southern Kraichgau
  2. ^ Historical Atlas of Baden-Württemberg, Map II.4: Map of the natural spatial structure of Baden-Württemberg
  3. ^ Emil Meynen , Josef Schmithüsen (editor): Handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany . Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Remagen / Bad Godesberg 1953–1962 (9 deliveries in 8 books, updated map 1: 1,000,000 with main units 1960).
  4. Josef Schmithüsen : Geographical land survey: The natural space units on sheet 161 Karlsruhe. Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Bad Godesberg 1952. →  Online map (PDF; 5.1 MB)
  5. ^ A b c Friedrich Huttenlocher , Hansjörg Dongus : Geographical land survey: The natural spatial units on sheet 170 Stuttgart. Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Bad Godesberg 1949, revised 1967. →  Online map (PDF; 4.0 MB)
  6. The small northern part on sheet Karlsruhe is marked there as 125.31 Pfinztal .
  7. ^ Historical Atlas of Baden-Württemberg, Map IV.3: Map of the district names from the 8th to 12th centuries
  8. ^ Friedrich Metz: Der Kraichgau , Karlsruhe 1922, p. 148ff.
  9. ^ Karl Banghard: Archaeological aspects of the early medieval cultural landscape genesis in Kraichgau , in: Ludwig H. Hildebrandt (Ed.): Archeology and desert research in Kraichgau , Heimatverein Kraichgau , special publication No. 18, Ubstadt-Weiher 1997, pp. 35-46.
  10. Hildebrandt 2008, pp. 60–63.
  11. Hildebrandt 2008, p. 54.
  12. Hildebrandt 2008, p. 55
  13. Thiele, Andreas: Narrative genealogical family tables on European history Volume I, Part 2 German Emperor, King, Duke and Count houses II, RG Fischer Verlag 1994, plate 495
  14. Hildebrandt 2008, p. 56.
  15. Hildebrandt 2008, pp. 58/59.
  16. Konstantin Huber: Swiss immigrants between the Rhine, Neckar, Enz and Pfinz 1648–1740, in: Kraichgau 17, 2002, pp. 283–298.
  17. ^ Jewish life Kraichgau e. V., traveling exhibition. Retrieved December 10, 2017 .
  18. ^ Wilfried Biedenkopf: Some things about the history of the timetable in Kraichgau . In: The railway in Kraichgau. Railway history between the Rhine and Neckar . EK-Verlag, Freiburg (Breisgau) 2006, ISBN 3-88255-769-9 , p. 253 .

Coordinates: 49 ° 7 ′ 0 ″  N , 8 ° 43 ′ 0 ″  E