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The Ortenau (up to the 16th century: Mortenau ) is a historical landscape on the right Upper Rhine and in the foothills of the Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg . The name is still used today in the names Ortenaukreis and Ortenauer Wein, among other things .


The Ortenau extends over a length of around 70 km from the Oos near Baden-Baden or the lower reaches of the Murg in the north to the Bleichbach near Herbolzheim in the south, which is already part of the Breisgau . The metropolis of Ortenau and its economic and cultural center is Offenburg .

Landscape image

Ortenberg Castle

Typical of the Ortenau are the steep western slopes of the Black Forest, which merge into hilly vine, fruit and vegetable plantations. Some of these hills are also forested.


The landscape Ortenau goes on a Gaulandschaft back that already 763 as Mordunouva and Mori-dunum is mentioned (Celtic for swamp Fortress). It was named after a fortification on the protruding elevation guarding the Kinzig valley near Ortenberg , on which the Ortenberg Castle can be found today.

The landscape marked a territory from the Bleich, a tributary of the Elz , to the Oos or the lower reaches of the Murg . The Gaugrafschaft Mortenau , as it was called in German, belonged to the Duchy of Swabia . In 888 a certain Ebarhart appeared as the first certified Count of Mortenau.

Imperial county

In 1007 the imperial county of Mortenau came to the diocese of Bamberg, founded by King Heinrich II (Roman Emperor Ottone since 1014 ) . Since the bishops of Bamberg could not personally exercise their rights in the county located far from Bamberg, they awarded the county to the dukes of Zähringen .

After the ducal line of the Zähringers died out in 1218, a dispute arose between the heirs of the Zähringer (heirs of the allodial property , the Margraves of Baden , Counts of Freiburg , Counts of Fürstenberg , Dukes of Teck ), the Bishop of Strasbourg - in whose sphere of influence the Mortenau before 1007 - and King Friedrich II. (Roman Emperor from 1220 - Staufer ) for the imperial county.

The king finally prevailed, so that the imperial county from 1218 to 1254 was Staufer in a strange constellation. As Duke of Swabia, Friedrich II was a feudal man (ie, he had county rights) of the bishops of Bamberg; these were vassals of the German king - who in turn was Friedrich II.


Frederick II appointed Landvogt Hermann I von Geroldseck to administer the imperial county . After Konradin , grandson of Frederick II, was executed in Naples in 1268, the imperial county disintegrated during the interregnum .

During the double kingship between the Wittelsbacher Ludwig the Bavarian and the Habsburg Frederick the Fair from 1314 to 1330 , Mortenau stood on the Habsburg side. Government actions by Ludwig of Bavaria therefore only date from the death of Frederick the Beautiful and Ludwig's final reconciliation with the Habsburgs in the Hagenau Treaty of August 6, 1330. Since then, Ludwig the Bavarian has not used the bailiwick of Ortenau as a means of enforcing and implementing royal power , but used them to raise funds at short notice or to attract princes to his side. He pledged u. a. the Harmersbach valley to the Count of Fürstenberg. Landvogt was initially under Ludwig Rudolf von Baden, who u. a. mediated in conflicts between Gengenbach Abbey and the city of Offenburg. A few years later Rudolf's successor was Count Ludwig von Oettingen, who exercised the office together with his brother. As early as 1334, Margrave Rudolf IV appeared as bailiff of the Ortenau, of which he was also pledge. With this, the bailiff's office completely lost its original character: the bailiff was nominally still dependent on the king, but in fact he was no longer the king's depreciable agent, but a hereditary pledgee. The pledge was never redeemed for the empire even later, rather the pledge amount was increased further under Charles IV and the provincial bailiff was thus permanently alienated from the empire.

In 1551 and 1556, Austria took the entire pledge. In 1701 the Margraviate of Baden-Baden was enfeoffed with the Landvogtei.

A continuing fragmentation of power in this area from the late 15th century onwards favored the region's economic decline. A chronicler in the early 16th century even derived the name Mortenau from the criminal activities in this area. "The Mortnaw, so called, because there are even rabble of murderers and thieves ...". The denominational contradictions of the individual rulers during the Reformation did the rest.

The name Mortenau lost its first popular consonant by the end of the 16th century at the latest, so that the area it designated has been known as Ortenau ever since .

In 1789 various gentlemen had shares in the Ortenau. Around 1800, the Margraves of Baden ruled over the Mahlberg rule , the Counts of Nassau over the Lahr rule , the Bishop of Strasbourg over areas in the Renchtal as well as around Ettenheim and Ettenheimmünster, the Counts of Hanau-Lichtenberg over the Hanauer Land , the Counts of Geroldseck , from 1634 the Counts von der Leyen over the Geroldseck areas in the Schuttertal, the Princes von Fürstenberg over areas in the upper Kinzig Valley and the Habsburgs as successors to the Counts of Freiburg over the remains of the local bailiwick of Ortenau. Offenburg , Gengenbach and Zell in the lower Kinzigtal were imperial cities, the Harmersbachstal formed the imperial Harmersbach valley . There were also various small imperial knights such as Schmieheim , Rust , Altdorf - Orschweier , Meißenheim , Meersburg - Schopfheim or Windeck (see also Ortenau Imperial Knighthood ).

Between 1803 and 1806, the entire Ortenau was transferred to the Grand Duchy of Baden . This did not apply to the county of Hohengeroldseck , which only became Baden in 1819.

Governors in the Ortenau

  • Hermann I. von Geroldseck , 1261 bailiff in Alsace , Breisgau and Ortenau, X 1262 near Hausbergen
  • Walter III. von Geroldseck called Broegelin, 1310 bailiff in the Ortenau, † before 1323
  • Hermann II von Geroldseck, 1296/97 Landvogt in the Ortenau, X 1298 in the battle of Göllheim
  • Otto V. von Ochsenstein , † 1327, 1291/1302 Landvogt der Ortenau, 1315/27 Landvogt in Alsace, 1318 Landvogt in Speyergau
  • Georg von Bach , documented in 1449 and 1460
  • Bernhard von Bach , † approx. 1486; 1476 u. Recorded as governor of the Electoral Palatinate in 1489
  • Wolfgang von Fürstenberg , † 1509, around 1507 captain and governor in Alsace and the Ortenau region
  • Franz Freiherr von Mörsperg, † before 1567, 1555 bailiff in the Ortenau
  • Peter Freiherr von Mörsperg, † 1594, 1555 and 1587 Landvogt in the Ortenau


Two meteorites fell in the Ortenau in historical times . In 1671 a stone meteorite weighing "10 pounds" (about 4.5 kilograms) fell here , but it is considered lost. 2018 fell at Renchen a Chondrit type L5-6 with a total weight of almost one kilogram.


  • The Ortenau : Journal of the Historical Association for Central Baden . Offenburg, 1910–, ISSN  0342-1503 (online)
  • Ulrich Coenen: The architecture of the northern Ortenau. Monuments in Bühl, Bühlertal, Ottersweier, Lichtenau, Rheinmünster and Sinzheim. Verlag Badische Latest Nachrichten, Karlsruhe-Neureut 1993, ISBN 3-927725-14-5 .
  • Otto Kähni: The Landvogtei Ortenau. In: Friedrich Metz (Ed.): Vorderösterreich. A historical geography. 2., ext. u. improve Edition. Freiburg 1967, pp. 491-503.
  • Theodor E. Mommsen: The Landvogtei Ortenau and the monastery Gengenbach under Emperor Ludwig the Bavaria. A critical examination of the documents. In: Journal for the history of the Upper Rhine . 88th volume (new series, 49th volume), 1936, pp. 165-213.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg on the Landvogtei Ortenau and their archive
  2. ↑ Genealogical table of the von Bach family , from: Julius Kindler von Knobloch: Oberbadisches gender book. Volume 1, Heidelberg 1898, p. 26.
  3. Ibid
  4. Ortenau. Meteoritical Bulletin, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  5. Renchen. Meteoritical Bulletin, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  6. Peter Meier: 955 grams heavy meteorite landed. baden online, October 9, 2018, accessed June 7, 2020 .