Heilbronn / Kathy of Heilbronn
Kathy of Heilbronn
It is thanks to the five-act drama “Kathy of Heilbronn or the Ordeal by Fire”, written by poet Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) in 1807-08 and first staged in Vienna in 1810, that the City of Heilbronn became known all over the world.
The superb historic knight play combines a wealth of fairytale-like and romantic elements with a fairly colourful and impassioned plot. The play’s fifteen-year old main character, Kathy, is one of Heinrich von Kleist’s most endearing dramatic characters, who has been both a symbolical and real personification of female beauty, virtue and unconditional devotion for a long time.
The question as to why Heinrich von
Kleist chose the city of Heilbronn of all
places to set his play in has not been
convincingly answered to this very day.
Karl August Böttiger, an acquaintance
of Kleist’s, wrote in 1819 that Kleist
had found “the entire story of Kathy as
a folk legend” and had kept “the
printed pamphlet”, “which he had
bought at a funfair”.
However, said pamphlet has not been
found so far. Instead, researchers have
compiled a wealth of alleged sources.
It is widely believed in Heilbronn that
Kleist found the material for his play in
the medical records of a Heilbronn girl.
This, however, is nothing but one of the
many unsubstantiated assertions.
There is no single historical character
that the central figure of the play might
be modelled on, even though Julie
Kunze from Dresden was named as
one as early as 1848, followed by
Lisette Kornacher and Charlotte Elisabethe Zobel, both of Heilbronn, at later stages.
“Real” girls, acting as Kathy and dressed up in historic costumes, have represented the city since at least 1872. During the 1920s and 1950s, “Kathy Festivals” were held on the Deutschhof grounds, Heilbronn‘s former monastery. From 1950 onwards, Kathy has been re-established as a symbolic figure for the city. Since 1970, a new Kathy girl and her two stand-ins have been elected every two years on the occasion of a festive ball.
Since 12 April 2014, Theresa Drauz (large picture) and her stand-ins, Franziska Müller and Anna Dünger, have been representing Heilbronn on official occasions, both at home and abroad.
A flyer "Kathy of Heilbronn" (in English, French and German) is available for free from the Heilbronn Tourist Information Centre. Or you can use the broschures order form to order the flyer online.
Tip The current “Kathys” may be booked for events:
Verein der Freunde des Verkehrsverein Heilbronn e. V.
Marktplatz 1, 74072 Heilbronn, Germany
Phone +49 7131 56 2227, Fax 56 3140