KIRCHHEIMBOLANDEN (population 8400) is the administrative, economic and cultural centre of the Northern Palatinate and historically one of the most noteworthy towns in the region. Its picturesque old turreted city wall and gates , its graceful church spires and its numerous delightful settings and quiet nooks, project the image of a typical small German town, in which the surrounding residential areas harmonise tastefully with the old town centre.
Kirchheimbolanden has the advantage of being easily accessible: it can be reached by the A63 motorway, as well as by the old B40 highway (which has recently been re- designated the L401), not to mention the newly re-established rail link to the neighbouring town of Alzey.
The earliest recorded mention of the town goes back to the year 774, when it was still a village known simply as "Kirchheim" and when , together with Frankfurt, it was alluded to in the Codex of Lorsch. However there were settlements in the area long before then, as evidenced by the discovery of Celtic and Roman remains.
In 1368, while Kirchheim was still a village, it was granted town rights by Emperor Charles IV; and "the Kirchheim located near Bolanden" became Kirchheimbolanden.
The granting of these rights led to the fortification of the town by a defensive wall, a section of which has survived to this day and has recently been restored.- With its battlement, walk, its turrets and gates, this vestige of the past constitutes one of the most picturesque features of present-day Kirchheimbolanden.
In 1393 the town fell to the Princes of Nassau-Saarbrücken, later Nassau-Weilburg, who ruled over it for 400 years. In 1741 Prince Karl August of Nassau-Weilburg made Kirchheimbolanden his summer residence, while retaining his administrative capital at Weilburg in Hessen. Then in 1769 his son Karl Christian decided to establish his main residence here. It is to these two princes that Kirchheimbolanden owes its baroque character. Numerous baroque and classical buildings have survived to our day, including the so-called "Cavalier Houses" - recalling what is still refered to as the period of the "Kleine Residenz".
As a consequence of the devastation inflicted during the French Revolution and a disastrous fire that raged in 1871, all that remains of the Palace of the Princes is the substantially modified East Wing, which nowadays forms part of a modern old people's home. The beautifully laid out Palace Park still contains many rare and magnificent trees.
The building that has most faithfully preserved the character of its time is St Paul's, the former Court Church. In 1778 Mozart played on its magnificent baroque organ, while he was spending a few days at the Court of Princess Caroline, Karl Christian's wife. For this reason the organ at St Paul's is still popularly referred to as "the Mozart Organ".
The last Prince, Friedrich Wilhelm, who succeeded his father in 1788, had to flee when French troops invaded the town in 1793. For most of the following twenty years this entire region was occupied by the French, who knew it as the Département du Mont Tonnerre" ("Mont Tonnerre" being a literal translation into French of "Donnersberg", the name of the mountain that dominates the region, the highest in the Palatinate, its peak being 687 metres above sea level).
The charm and attraction of Kirchheimbolanden, however, do not only derive from it's historical past. Thanks to it's proximity to the Donnersberg and because it is within easy reach of a number of major German cities, local building sites are in great demand, as is reflected in the many new comfortable villas and neat housing estates that have sprung up locally in recent years.
The town nowadays provides such modern public facilities as schools of all educational levels, a hospital, two old people's homes, two swimming pools (one indoor and one open-air) and a four-storey car park; and, to administer everything, the community ha a recently built Town Hall, as well as a new District Council office building.
In the industrial domain, Kirchheimbolanden prides itself on being an ever expanding manufacturing base, producing such items as turbo chargers for passenger and commercial vehicles, high precision measuring instruments, safety shoes, industrial tubing and superstructures for commercial vehicles.
No brief portrait of Kirchheimbolanden would be complete without reference to it's busy calendar of popular festivals, the most noteworthy of which are the "Residenzfest" (three days and nights of jollification), the Bierwoche" (Beer Week) and the Christmas Fair, all of which attract large crowds, from near and far alike. Quite apart from festival periods, however, visitor will quickly discover that they can count on the hospitality of the people of Kirchheimbolanden whenever they care to drop by, at no matter what time of the year.