Because you demanded it. Last post, I mentioned that the little town of Ostheim had an interesting history. Here, we'll briefly glance at the what and why. First, the map. (Warning: not for the faint of heart.)
Go easy, it's not as bad as it looks. This is a map of central Germany around 1850 or so. Bavaria is on the bottom, Bohemia -- the modern Czech Republic -- down and to the right. See those awful green splotches? Those make up the Grossherzogtum, the Grand Duchy, of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Yup, it's broken up into pieces: three big ones, and eight or ten little ones. That was normal, back then. (Did a lot of Central European history suddenly just click into place for you? Yah, me too.) Now, look down and to the left. See the little green dot below the big green splotch? Ostheim. Ostheim was the, um, capital of an enclave of about 10 square miles. There was one small town -- Ostheim itself -- and three or four villages. The total population, in the 19th century, was maybe 2,000 or 3,000 people. But! While this enclave was small, it sat in a peculiarly strategic location. One, it straddled the valley of the Streu. The Streu is tiny -- more a creek than a river -- but its valley is the easiest north-south route into what would one day be called the Fulda Gap. Two, the enclave was inside the powerful kingdom of Bavaria. Bavaria was Catholic, and had a history of being chummy with certain foreign powers -- Austria, France. Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, though, was overwhelmingly Protestant, and was historically friendly with Prussia. So, S-W-E and Bavaria viewed each other with a certain suspicion. Hostility, even. The Streu runs through a region known as lower Franconia, which has been part of Bavaria since forever, but which remains culturally distinct and which has occasionally entertained secessionist yearnings. So, the Ostheim enclave wasn't just in Bavaria. It was a Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach foothold in an area which, while Catholic, was not too wild about being Bavarian. -- "Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach" is rather ungainly, isn't it. But it's important to distinguish it from the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen, the Principality of Saxe-Gotha, and the tiny Principality of Saxe-Coburg... that last, of course, being the ancestral home of the current British Royal Family. I couldn't make this stuff up. Anyway, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was by far the biggest and most important of all of these; it was not just a Duchy, but a Grand Duchy. It was nearly as big as Rhode Island, and by the mid-1800s it was home to around a quarter of a million people. Of course, that was only after Napoleon forced the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar (the two eastern pieces) to combine with the Duchy of Saxe-Eisenach (the western bit, including Ostheim). Before that, they'd been separate. Where were we... oh, yes, Bavaria. The Dukes and Grand Dukes of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach tended to be plump, conservative, strongly Protestant, and Prussophile. The Kings of Bavaria tended to be skinny, liberal, Catholic, Francophile, and Prussophobe. (Excepting the ones who were barking, raving mad. Story for another time.) One example. Back in the day, King Maximilian of Bavaria was Napoleon's most loyal ally. He stuck with the little Corsican for years, even through the disastrous Russian campaign. Didn't turn his coat until the eve of the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. And when he did, he sold his loyalty high: he demanded that Bavaria be treated as a full member of the anti-Napoleonic alliance, and not have to give up any territory or pay any indemnities. To countries like Britain and Austria, who'd been fighting Napoleon nonstop for a decade or more, this was pretty galling. They needed Bavaria to switch sides, so they agreed. But it left a rather bad taste. This was far from the first time. The Bavarians had a long, long history of this kind of thing, going all the way back to the 15th century when they first grabbed Franconia for no better reason than that they wanted it, and could. So, the plump solid Protestant Dukes of Saxe-whatever had no reason to like or trust their sly, Catholic neighbors to the south. Which brings us back to the slightly oversized architecture of Ostheim. Here we have a town of less than 3,000 people. In the 1600s, it was more like 1,000 people. But it already had a huge town hall -- big enough for a small city -- an enormous fortified church, and a castle sitting on a hill just a mile away, looking down over it all. Why? Because this was the Dukes' way of saying to the Bavarians, Don't even try it, creeps. The Ostheim enclave might be small, but it was heavily fortified, and it sat right on the best invasion route. It could even, in a pinch, appeal to Franconian separatism against the Bavarian crown. In a war, that big town hall could end up being a military headquarters for a surprisingly large region. It happened, more than once. I should add that there are still traces of all this today. Ostheim is still mostly a Protestant town; a Catholic church was built in the 1960s, but it's small. Just a few kilometers away, though, towns like Fladungen and Mellrichstadt are strongly Catholic. Even the architecture is slightly different. Oh, and Franconians still hate being called Bavarian. Especially Franconians here in Ostheim. But that's a story for another post.