Memmingen is a town in the Bavarian administrative region of Swabia in Germany. It is the central economic, educational and administrative centre in the Danube-Iller region. To the west the town is flanked by the Iller, the river that marks the Baden-Württemberg border. To the north, east and south the town is surrounded by the district of Unterallgäu (Lower Allgäu).
With about 42,000 inhabitants, Memmingen is the 5th biggest town in the administrative region of Swabia. The origins of the town go back to the Roman Empire. The old town, with its many courtyards, castles and patricians' houses, palaces and fortifications is one of the best preserved in southern Germany. With good transport links by road, rail and air, it is the transport hub for Upper and Central Swabia, and the Allgäu.
Due to its proximity to the Allgäu region, Memmingen is often called the Gateway to the Allgäu (Tor zum Allgäu). The town motto is Memmingen – Stadt mit Perspektiven ("Memmingen - a town with perspectives"). In recent times it has been frequently referred to as Memmingen – Stadt der Menschenrechte (Memmingen - the town of human rights). This alludes to the Twelve Articles, considered to be the first written set of human rights in Europe, which were penned in Memmingen in 1525. Every four years there is the Wallensteinfestspiel, with about 4,500 participants, the biggest historical reenactment in Europe. It commemorates the invasion of Wallenstein and his troops in 1630.
It is believed that on the site of present day Memmingen in Roman times there was a small military town, probably called Cassiliacum. In the 5th century an Alemanic settlement was established and in the 7th century there was here a palace belonging to the king of the Franks.
Memmingen was linked to Bohemia, Austria and Munich by the salt road to Lindau. Another important route through Memmingen was the Italian road from Northern Germany to Switzerland and Italy. Both roads helped Memmingen gain importance as a trading centre. In the Middle Ages, the place was known as Mammingin; in 1158 the Welfian Duke Welf VI founded the town of Memmingen. In 1286 it became an Imperial City, responsible only to the Kaiser.
Christoph Schappeler, the preacher at St. Martin's in Memmingen during the early 16th century, was an important figure during the Protestant Reformation and the German Peasants' War. His support for peasant rights helped to draw peasants to Memmingen. The city first followed the Tetrapolitan Confession, and then the Augsburg Confession.
The Twelve Articles: The Just and Fundamental Articles of All the Peasantry and Tenants of Spiritual and Temporal Powers by Whom They Think Themselves Oppressed was written (probably by Schappeler and Sebastian Lotzer) in early 1525. This was a religious petition borrowing from Luther's ideas to appeal for peasant rights. Within two months of its publication in Memmingen, 25,000 copies of the tract were in circulation around Europe. These are the first known set of human rights documents in the world.
In the 1630s Memmingen was at centre stage during the Thirty Years' War, and the Imperial generalissimo Wallenstein was quartered in the town when he was dramatically dismissed from service. From 1632 Memmingen was briefly garrisoned by the Swedish army, and became a base of operations for Swedish troops in Swabia.
Following the reorganization of Germany in 1802, Memmingen became part of Bavaria. The 19th century saw the slow economic deterioration of the town, which was halted only with the building of a railway following the course of the River Iller.
Since World War II Memmingen has been a developing town, with a rate of economic growth above the average for Bavaria.