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Kathy of Heilbronn

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 fairytalelike 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. 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. It is widely believed in Heilbronn that Kleist found the material for his play in the medical records of a Heilbronn girl. There is no single historical character that the central figure of the play might be modelled on.











Kathy Contest and Festival
As early as in 1843, printed guidebooks referred to a medievalstyle building bordering the market square as “Käthchenhaus” (Kathy‘s House). It is said that Kathy jumped to her death through its bay window. “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. Since 13 April 2018, Jasmin Heyd and her stand-ins, Lisa Roth, Denise Fohr und Laura Scholl, have been the new Kathys of Heilbronn. Thus, in 2019, the year of the BUGA Federal Horticultural Show, Heilbronn has four Kathys as ambassadors who represent the city as its symbolic figure in an authentic and likeable manner at official events at home and abroad.