BAYREUTH   BAIREUTH  (older spelling).

  1. Principality in eastern Franconia;
  2. Nazi Party Gau in eastern Bavaria,
Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth

Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…taking their name from the city, which is on the River Roter Main, east of Bamberg and northeast of Nuremberg.  The city is now a Stadtkreis in the Land of Bayern and is the administrative headquarters of the Regierungsbezirk of Oberfranken;  the district around it forms the Landkreis of Bayreuth.

Bayreuth was part of the Franconian lands of the Bavarian Counts of Andechs, which they had acquired from the Margraves of Schweinfurt, who died out in 1157.   When the Andechs Counts were extinguished in their turn in 1248, Bayreuth passed to the Burgrave of Nuremberg, who was married to the sister of the last Count.  The Burgraves also later acquired lands around Culmbach (northwest of Bayreuth) and Ansbach, on the other side of Nuremberg.  In 1398 the brothers John III and Frederick VI partitioned the Franconian lands, the former taking Bayreuth and Culmbach, the latter, who became the Margrave and Elector of Brandenburg in 1415-7, holding Ansbach.

Frederick later acquired Bayreuth and Culmbach on his brother’s death in 1420.  From the connection with the Electorate came the title of Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth.   The Principality of Bayreuth belonged to the Franconian Imperial Circle.  It had two small exclaves, lying northwest and NNW of Nuremberg, which were both nearer to Ansbach than Bayreuth.

Bayreuth and Culmbach were several times held separately from Ansbach.   John III was ruler from 1398 until 1420, when his brother, already the Elector Frederick I of Brandenburg and ruler of Ansbach, succeeded him.   Frederick’s eldest son, John Alchymista, who had been passed over for the Electorate by his father, held Bayreuth between 1440 and 1464, when his brother, Albert Achilles, ruler of Ansbach, succeeded him.   Albert also became Elector in 1470.  When he died in 1486, Bayreuth passed to Sigismund, the younger son of his second marriage, who died childess in 1495, when his full brother Frederick reunited the Franconian lands.

Frederick’s mental health led his two elder sons to depose him in 1515.   Bayreuth and Culmbach were held by Frederick’s elder son and senior grandson, 1515-57 (during this period, the principality was called Culmbach).   In 1557 the Franconian lands were again reunited under George Frederick of Ansbach.   He died childless in 1603, when the lands reverted to the Elector, who promptly bestowed them on his two of his half-brothers.   Bayreuth and Culmbach were the share of Christian, the elder, and remained in the hands of his descendants until their extinction in the male line in 1769.   For the last time the Franconian principalities were reunited under their own prince until the last Margrave sold them to his kinsman, the King of Prussia, in 1791.

In 1806 Ansbach became Bavarian, and in 1807 Bayreuth was surrendered to the French Empire, which handed it over to Bavaria in 1810.

The city of Bayreuth, the home of the composer Richard Wagner, whom the Nazis hero-worshipped, was capital of the Nazi Party Gau first called the BAYERISCHE OSTMARK, but known as Bayreuth from June 1942.

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