Landau, or Landau in der Pfalz, is an autonomous (kreisfrei) town surrounded by the Südliche Weinstraße ("Southern Wine Route") district of southern Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is a university town (since 1990), a long-standing cultural centre, and a market and shopping town, surrounded by vineyards and wine-growing villages of the Palatinate wine region. Landau lies east of the Palatinate forest, Europe's largest contiguous forest, on the German Wine Route.
It contains the districts (Ortsteile) of Arzheim, Dammheim, Godramstein, Mörlheim, Mörzheim, Nussdorf, Queichheim, and Wollmesheim.
Landau was first mentioned as a settlement in 1106. It was in the possession of the counts of Leiningen-Dagsburg-Landeck, whose arms, differenced by an escutcheon of the Imperial eagle, served as the arms of Landau until 1955 . The town was granted a charter in 1274 by King Rudolf I of Germany, who declared the town a Free Imperial Town in 1291; nevertheless Prince-Bishop Emich of Speyer, a major landowner in the district, seized the town in 1324. The town did not regain its ancient rights until 1511 from Maximilian I. An Augustinian monastery was founded in 1276.
Landau was later part of France from 1680 to 1815, during which it was one of the Décapole, the ten free cities of Alsace, and received its modern fortifications by Louis XIV's military architect Vauban in 1688–99, making the little town (population in 1789 was still only approximately 5,000) one of Europe's strongest citadels. In the War of the Spanish Succession it had four Sieges. After the Siege in 1702 that was lost by the French, an Imperial garrison was installed in Landau. After the 2nd Siege from 13 October to 15 November 1703 the French had regained the city, caused by their victory in the Battle of Speyerbach. The 3rd Siege began on 12 September 1704 by Louis, Margrave of Baden-Baden, and ended on 23 November 1704 with the French defeat. During this siege King Josepf I arrived at Landau coming from Vienna in a newly developed convertible carriage. It became very popular, named Landau in English, or Landauer in German. The French got Landau back after the 4th Siege which lasted from 6 June to 20 August 1713 by Marshal General Villars.
Landau was part of Bas-Rhin department between 1789 and 1815. After Napoleon's Hundred Days following his escape from Elba, Landau, which had remained French, was granted to the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1815 and became the capital of one of the thirteen Bezirksämter (counties) of the Bavarian Rheinkreis, later renamed Pfalz.
In 1840 famous political cartoonist Thomas Nast was born in Landau.
Landau's large main square (Rathausplatz) is dominated by the town hall (Rathaus) and the market hall (Altes Kaufhaus). in the 19th-century, the former fortifications gave way to a ring road that encircles the old town centre, from which the old industrial buildings have been excluded. A convention hall, the Festhalle, was built in Art Nouveau style, 1905–07 on a rise overlooking the town park and facing the modernist Bundesamt, the regional government building. The "Protestant Collegiate Church" in Landau in der Pfalz is one of the oldest buildings in the town. With the construction of the church started in the 14th century, was completed in the mid 16th Century. The zoo is located close to the center of Landau alongside the historical fortifications. Animals are held in natural enclosures. The zoo contains numerous exotic species such as tigers and cheetahs, but also seals, penguins, kangaroos and flamingos and many more.
Wine-making continues to be an important industry of Landau.
The "landau," a luxury open carriage with a pair of folding tops, was invented in the town.
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