First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Würtzburg (Herbipolis), a distinguished and renowned city of the eastern Franks, or Franconia, is on the river Main, which has its source in the Bohemian Mountains; and there Diana, the pagan goddess, was worshipped until the time of Kilian, the martyr, who instructed the grand duke Gozbert (Gotzbertum) and his subjects in the Christian faith. His son, Duke Hetan, built the first church on an eminence at Würtzburg in veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Franconia is level in part, and in part mountainous. The peaks are not high, and the soil is not rich but largely sandy. In many places the hills are covered with vineyards, which bear a good vintage, chiefly at Würtzburg. Although this country is divided into many principalities, the Bishop of Würtzburg is called Duke of Franconia; and accordingly this noble city is an Episcopal see. When the bishop performs his holy office a bared sword lies before him on the altar. Here also is a hill called Mount of Our Lady[Called Unser Frauenberg in German.], upon which is a castle well worth seeing; and there the bishop generally resides. This castle, built on a high elevation, overlooks three plains, and is naturally protected. The fourth region has a bridge and a very deep moat; and here also is a tower, protected round about by bow-windows and breastworks. In the upper reaches of this tower lives a caretaker, who gives warnings by sounding his horn. In it is also a chapel, adorned in honor of God, and containing consecrated altars. Here also are many large and beautiful residences. Underneath the castle are large cellars and stalls. This distinguished city also has three prebendary churches in addition to the cathedral, and four mendicant orders; also the Benedictine Order at Saint Stephan’s; the Carthusian Order, the Order of the German Master, the Order of Saint John with the Scots. It also has five convents, an equal number of parsonages, and two hospitals; the Virgin Mary Chapel, with a tower, and wonderfully adorned; as well as beautiful houses and courts of the canons and the citizens. At this time the bishopric of Würtzburg is administered by the noble and distinguished bishop, Rudolf von Schernberg (Rudolphus de Schernberg), who now exceeds his ninetieth year, and has endowed the bishopric with countless wealth and a number of estates.

Würtzburg, university town and Episcopal see of Bavaria, capital of the province of Lower Franconia, is situated sixty miles southeast of Frankfurt on the Main. The site of the Leistenberg was occupied by a Roman fort, and was probably fortified in the 13th century. Wircebiegum is the old Latin form. The name Herbipolis (‘herb town’) first appears in the 12th century. The bishopric was probably founded in 741, although the town existed in the previous century. About the 12th century the bishops had ducal authority in Eastern Franconia, and quarrels broke out between them and the citizens. In 1400, after a long struggle, the citizens submitted. Several imperial diets were held here, chief among these being in 1180, when Henry the Lion was placed under the ban. By the peace of Luneville the bishopric was secularized, and in 1803 the city passed to Bavaria. By the peace of Presssburg, in 1805, it passed to Ferdinand, formerly grand duke of Tuscany, who joined the confederation of the Rhine and took the title of grand duke of Würtzburg. In 1815 the congress of Vienna restored the city to Bavaria.

A university was founded here in 1403, but existed only a few years. The present one was founded in 1582. Here W.K. Rüntgen discovered the “Rüntgen rays” in 1896. This city was for a long time the stronghold of the Jesuits in Germany, and the Roman Catholic theological faculty still attracts large numbers. The city is surrounded by vineyards that yield some of the best wine in Germany.

In Merian’s anmuthige Städte-Chronik, published in 1642, are to be found some interesting observations concerning the origin of the name of this city. As we place the name Würtzburg, the German version, beside the Latin Herbipolis, we are tempted to the conviction that this must have been an herb-town. The English word ‘herb’ and the Latin herba mean the same thing – springing vegetation, grass, green crops; or colloquially, the word has been applied to herbaceous plants used medicinally—a simple—as herb tea. The term is also applied to aromatic plants.

Speaking of the origin of this city, Merian informs us that the ancients call it Würtzburg, Beda Wirceburg, Sigebertus Wirtiburgum and Wirtziburgum. Those who write the name with the letter “U” (as in Würtzburg) say that the name is derived from herbs (or the German Gewurtz), or from the mosses which grow extensively about the citadel and on neighboring elevations, and which some also call Wurtz; but this derivation is excluded by the fact that in early times no herbs or vines grew on this site, which was occupied by a dense forest. Others say the name was derived from the citadel, whose lord was named Wiricus, or Wircus, according to existing custom. The ancients more frequently called the place Wirtzburg than Würtzburg.