Via Regia

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Course of the Via Regia and Via Imperii in Europe; the longest is the one in east-west direction between Kiev (today's Ukraine ) or Moscow and Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

The Via Regia ( Latin for “Royal Road” or “Royal Road”) or Hohe Straße was an important west-east running trade and military route in the Holy Roman Empire and a pilgrimage route in the Middle Ages and early modern times . It connected the Rhineland with Silesia via Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig . The Via Regia has been recognized as a cultural route by the Council of Europe since 2005 .

Via Regia as a status

Via Regia “was originally a legal status in medieval roads. In the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation it was trade routes that were under the protection of the royal central authority ”. They were also under special peace protection, see Reichsstrasse or Altstrasse . In the general sense, the term originally did not designate a specific street, but a type of street (as in Spanish the Camino Real ).

There were many such country and military roads in the Holy Roman Empire , for example the Via Regia from Stettin via Menzlin to Wismar , Lübeck and Hamburg , the "most important east-west road in the north" of the medieval West Slavic settlement area. At Menzlin she crossed the Peene Valley .

In the most famous Via Regia from the Rhine to Silesia , the street type designation became the name of this particular street over time. Via Regia or Via Regina is also called the road along the western shore of Lake Como .

In science and politics , the term is also used as a metaphor for a “golden path” or a “path to optimal problem solving”.

History of the Via Regia Rhine-Silesia

Street sign in Leipzig.

In 1252 the Via Regia is mentioned for the first time in a document from Margrave Heinrich von Meißen as Königsstraße ( (strata regia) ). But their beginnings go back to the 8th and 9th centuries. Over the centuries the Hohe Strasse shifted to the river valleys to include the cities. After the decline of the royal central authority in Central Germany as a result of the Battle of Lucka in 1307, it lost its royal function; Since the 14th century, this route can no longer be referred to as a Via Regia.

Despite the decline, the street continued to exist in the individual sections under the name Hohe Straße . It was now under sovereign supervision, including the King of Bohemia in Upper Lusatia , the Saxon electors in Central Germany , the Fulda abbey in Hesse , the Archbishopric of Mainz on the Rhine and was privileged by road constraints.

Trade route

The road was of great economic importance for the national trade and exchange of goods. The cloth of Flanders came from the west, wood, hides, wax and honey from the east and the woad of the Thuringian Basin and the mining products of Upper Saxony from the middle . The Via Regia also established the direct connection between the two large German trade fair cities, Frankfurt am Main ( Frankfurter Messe ) and Leipzig ( Leipziger Messe ). Two other important roads between the trade fair cities were “ through the short Hessen ” and “through the long Hessen”.

Military road

The road was repeatedly used by armies. Major battles took place in their catchment area ( Breitenfeld 1631 and 1642 , Lützen , Roßbach , Hochkirch , Bergen , Jena and Auerstedt , Bautzen , Großgörschen , Leipzig and Hanau ). After the defeat of Napoleon , the importance of the street disappeared when the downsizing of the Saxon national territory after the Congress of Vienna made it impossible to keep the street in favor of Leipzig. The death march from the Adlerwerke concentration camp in Frankfurt to the Buchenwald concentration camp ran in March 1945 from Frankfurt to Hünfeld via the Via Regia.


Pilgrims who took part in the Aachen Shrine Tour have used the road in large numbers . To do this, they turned in Eisenach onto the trunk road through the long Hesse to Marburg and Cologne . Testimonies of pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela are known from Breslau, Görlitz, Großenhain, Leipzig, Erfurt, Gotha, Vacha, Fulda, Frankfurt am Main and Mainz, among others.


Via Regia, Alte Heerstraße between Fulda and Neuhof

The Via Regia ran from the Rhine via Frankfurt am Main , Hanau ( Kinzigtalstraße ), Gelnhausen , Steinau an der Straße , Neuhof , Fulda , Hünfeld , Eisenach , Erfurt , Eckartsberga , in Bad Kösen over the Saale bridge to Naumburg (Saale) , Weißenfels , Leipzig , Grimma , Eilenburg , Grossenhain , Königsbrück , Kamenz , Bautzen and Görlitz to Breslau in Silesia.

Today the historical course of the Via Regia is marked by several streets:

The only section of the former Via Regia in Central Germany that is no longer used as a road is the dirt road between Nermsdorf and Oberreißen north of Weimar.

Mainz – Leipzig

Hohe Straße, view of the Kleine Loh above Maintal

In Mainz beginning, the road led parallel to Main to (Frankfurt-) maximum (old Elizabeth street ) by kurmainzisches area. From there, an older route led over the Nidda near (Frankfurt-) Nied and through the Niedwald (Rödelheimer Straße, today Oeserstraße), past Rebstock through the Biegwald (Biegweg), then north past (Frankfurt-) Bockenheim , over the Ginnheimer Höhe ( Diebsgrundweg ) and via Dornbusch ( Marbachweg ) and Lohrberg to (Frankfurt-) Bergen (through the county , later the principality of Hanau ). From there the path ran on the ridge between the Nidder and the Kinzig . The road led from Bergen between Kilianstädten and Roßdorf via Ostheim (Nidderau) to Marköbel , where it led in Roman times through the Marköbeler Kastell and the Limes out of the formerly Roman controlled area. The alignment of long, straight Limes stretches on this crossing is remarkable, which suggests a pre-Roman existence of the road.

Over the hills between Langen-Bergheim and Altwiedermus , the route continued via Diebach am Haag and Herrnhaag . From there, the Hohe Straße ran as a Reffenweg between Lorbach and Vonhausen over the Großer Reffenkopf through the Büdinger Forest . Coming out of the forest, the path continued between Rinderbügen and Waldensberg , past Leisenwald , Hitzkirchen and Hettersroth and between Oberreichenbach and Unterreichenbach through the Isenburg area ( county Isenburg ) to Radmühl , where the salt was exceeded, where it crossed the local path . Between Salz and Freiensteinau , Reichlos and between Hauswurz (Neuhof) and Brandlos , the route (Alte Straß) led further north past Giesel to Fulda near Kämmerzell , where the river was crossed by a ford. At Hünfeld , the Hohe Strasse reunited with the younger route via Frankfurt and through the Kinzig valley . The Werra was crossed at Vacha with its stone bridge and several fords.

View of the ascent to the Clausberger Pass

Several routes led from Vacha to Eisenach: via the Vitzerodaer Kreuz and Marksuhl or Berka / Werra - Herda - Oberellen , the main routes reached the Thuringian Forest with the passes at Vachaer Stein and Clausberg . From Eisenach, the road initially led on the edge of the Nessetal and the Hörselberg via Lupnitz and Haina (fortifications in the Hainaer Holz) or Sättelstädt to Gotha . The route through the Hörseltal only became usable all year round with the expansion of the valley-side roads. From Sättelstädt the road, still clearly recognizable in the terrain, led past Mechterstädt , Teutleben , Aspach and Neufrankenroda to the Krahnberg east of Gotha and further into the city, where it met the Brühler Tor at Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz, the northwest exit of the medieval City. From there it led through today's streets Brühl, Hauptmarkt, Marktstraße, Neumarkt and Erfurter Straße to Siebleber Tor, the east exit of the city.

From Gotha the road continued through Siebleben , Tüttleben , Gamstädt and Frienstedt to Erfurt , which it crossed from the Lauentor in the west via Domplatz, Marktstrasse , the Krämerbrücke and the Kaufmannskirche to the east and left through the Krämpfertor to the east. It led north past Ettersberg via Eckartsberga to Naumburg and on via Weißenfels to Leipzig, which was reached on Ranstädter Steinweg .

Leipzig – Silesia

Overview map of the course of the Via Regia Rhein-Schlesien in Eilenburg

The road led further east from Leipzig via Eilenburg or Grimma to Oschatz , Großenhain , Königsbrück , Kamenz , Bautzen , Löbau , Görlitz or Zittau , Lauban (today Lubań ), Naumburg (Nowogrodziec) , Bunzlau (Bolesławiec) , Haynau (Chojnów) , Liegnitz (Legnica) , Neumarkt (Środa Śląska) to Wroclaw . Continuations led east to Krakow . In addition to the Hohe Strasse (also called Hohe Landstrasse), secondary roads developed that competed with the road through Upper Lusatia. Niederstraße in particular offered an alternative to avoid tariffs. However, a system of escort centers ensured compliance with the road constraints. Bypassing the escort centers was associated with high penalties up to the confiscation of the goods.

The Via Regia in the present

Sculpture made of steel plates at the entrance to Hohe Strasse in Frankfurt am Main

In 2005, the Via Regia was the Euro Council to the Great Cultural Route of the Council of Europe declared. The Via Regia - Cultural Route network of the Council of Europe has existed since 2009, coordinating initiatives and cultural projects along the route. It is based on an expanded understanding of the route and continues the Central German Via Regia in a westerly direction to Belgium, France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela , and in an easterly direction to Poland, Belarus, Lithuania and the Ukraine (to Kiev or Vilnius ). According to this understanding, the Via Regia is 4500 km long and crosses eight European countries.

The Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Central Germany follows the course of the Via Regia from Görlitz via Leipzig and Erfurt to Vacha.

In Frankfurt am Main's eastern district of Bergen-Enkheim, the artistically designed Entrée Hohe Straße square is reminiscent of a branch of the Via Regia / Hohen Straße running there. Several steles , memorial stones and information boards are set up on site to provide information about the course and history of this section of road. The site is shown on regional official maps as a destination in the Frankfurt Green Belt and in the Rhine-Main Regional Park .


  • Friedrich Kofler: Old streets in Hessen. Trier 1893.
  • Edwin Redslob : The Empire's Road. The route of German culture from the Rhine to the east, shown on the Frankfurt – Berlin route. Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig 1940.
  • Gustav Hildebrand, Ludwig Kramarczyk: The realm's road. Old Frankfurt-Leipzig trade route. Weidlich, Würzburg 1990, ISBN 3-8035-1334-0 .
  • Kamen Pavlov: Via Regia, Königsstrasse or Hohe Strasse. Thuringian impressions. Booklet accompanying the traveling exhibition Erfurt - Bonn - Eisenach Gotha. Erfurt 1998.
  • Christian Speer: Pilgrimage as a cultural contact: Görlitz and the Via Regia. In: Hartmut Kühne u. a. (Ed.): Pilgrims from the East. Medieval pilgrim signs between the Baltic Sea, Danube and Seine. Contributions to the conference »Perspectives on European Pilgrimage Research« April 21 to 24, 2010 in Prague (European Pilgrimage Studies 10). Frankfurt (Main) 2013, pp. 361–379.
  • Christian Speer: Piety and Politics. Urban elites in Görlitz between 1300 and 1550 (Halle contributions to the history of the Middle Ages and the early modern period, 8). Berlin 2011, pp. 298-306.
  • Christian Speer: A Görlitzer makes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The pilgrimage of Georg Emerich in 1465. In: Winfried Müller, Swen Steinberg (Ed.): People on the move. Via regia and its actors. Volume of essays on the 3rd Saxon State Exhibition, Dresden 2011, pp. 196–203.
  • Christian Speer: From Görlitz to Rome. Regesta on the history of the pilgrimage in Upper Lusatia. Addendum to NLM NF 10 (2007), pp. 93–132. In: New Lusatian Magazine . New series, Volume 13, 2010, pp. 137-142.
  • Christian Speer: From Görlitz to Rome. Regesta on the history of the pilgrimage in Upper Lusatia. According to the Görlitz town books, council bills and wills (1368–1545). In: New Lusatian Magazine . New episode, Volume 10, 2007, pp. 105-144.
  • Manfred Straube : Trade routes as pilgrimage routes. In: Klaus Herbers , Enno Bünz (Ed.): The Jacobus cult in Saxony. Tübingen 2007 (Jakobus Studies 17), ISBN 978-3-8233-6332-3 , pp. 249-271.
  • Thomas Nitschke: I'd rather stay here - on the Way of St. James through Saxony. traveldiary Verlag, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-941796-99-7 .
  • Ludwig Steinfeld: Chronicle of a street. The old road from Frankfurt to Leipzig; History, events, travelogues . Geiger-Verlag, Horb am Neckar 1994, ISBN 3-89264-360-1 .
  • Europa-Haus Görlitz eV / European Capital of Culture office 2010 (Ed.): Via Regia controvers - Dialogue of the horizons. Documentation on the international workshop in the European city of Görlitz-Zgorzelec. Goerlitz 2006.
  • Roland Enke, Bettina Probst (ed.): Via regia - 800 years of movement and encounter. Volume of essays and catalog for the 3rd Saxon State Exhibition (Görlitz May 21 to October 31, 2011). Sandstein Verlag, Dresden 2011, ISBN 978-3-942422-40-6 .
  • Main-Kinzig-Kreis (ed.): Hohe Straße: from Bergen-Enkheim to Hammersbach ( Entdeckerwelt 3). Gelnhausen 2011 ( online ).

Web links

Commons : Via Regia  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Via Regia  - travel guide

Individual evidence

  1. Deutschlandfunk , Long Night , 7./8. February 2015, Harald Brandt, The royal road between East and West. The long night over the Via Regia .
  2. What is the VIA REGIA? Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  3. ^ Regional park RheinMain Hohe Straße GmbH c / o Stadtverwaltung Maintal (ed.): The Hohe Straße - From Frankfurt-Bergen to Hammersbach - leisure map . Maintal, 2006
  4. ^ City of Frankfurt am Main, Environment Agency (ed.): The green belt leisure map . 7th edition, 2011