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Rothenburg was a Free Imperial City from the late Middle Ages to 1803.
The name “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” means, in German, “Red fortress above the Tauber”. This is so because the town is located on a plateau overlooking the Tauber River. As to the name “Rothenburg”, some say it comes from the German words Rot (Red) and Burg (burgh, medieval fortified settlement), referring to the red colour of the roofs of the houses which overlook the river. The name may also refer to the process of retting (“rotten” in German) flax for linen production.