COLMAR, or Kolmar, a town of Germany, in the imperial province of Alsace-Lorraine, formerly the capital of the department of Haut-Rhin in France, on the Logelbach and Lauch, tributaries of the Ill, 40 m. S.S.W. from Strassburg on the main line of railway to Basel. Pop. (1905) 41,582. It is the seat of the government for Upper Alsace, and of the supreme court of appeal for Alsace-Lorraine. The town is surrounded by pleasant promenades, on the site of the old fortifications, and has numerous narrow and picturesque streets. Of its edifices the most remarkable are the Roman Catholic parish church of St Martin, known also as the Münster, dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, the Lutheran parish church (15th century), the former Dominican monastery (1232-1289), known as "Unterlinden" and now used as a museum, the Kaufhaus (trade-hall) of the 15th century, and the handsome government offices (formerly the Prefecture). Colmar is the centre of considerable textile industries, comprising wool, cotton and silk-weaving, and has important manufactures of sewing thread, starch, sugar and machinery. Bleaching and brewing are also carried on, and the neighbourhood is rich in vineyards and fruit-gardens. The considerable trade of the place is assisted by a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Imperial Bank (Reichsbank).
Colmar (probably the columbarium of the Romans) is first mentioned, as a royal villa, in a charter of Louis the Pious in 823, and it was here that Charles the Fat held a diet in 884. It was raised to the status of a town and surrounded with walls by Wölfelin, advocate (Landvogt) of the emperor Frederick II. in Alsace, a masterful and ambitious man, whose accumulated wealth was confiscated by the emperor in 1235, and who is said to have been murdered by his wife lest her portion should also be seized. In 1226 Colmar became an imperial city, and the civic rights (Stadtrecht) conferred on it in 1274 by Rudolph of Habsburg became the model for those of many other cities. Its civic history is much the same as that of other medieval towns: a struggle between the democratic gilds and the aristocratic "families," which ended in 1347 in the inclusion of the former in the governing body, and in the 17th century in the complete exclusion of the latter. In 1255 Colmar joined the league of Rhenish cities, and in 1476 and 1477 took a vigorous share in the struggle against Charles the Bold. In 1632, during the Thirty Years' War, it was taken by the Swedes, and in 1635 by the French, who held it till after the Peace of Westphalia (1649). In 1673 the French again occupied it and dismantled the fortifications. In 1681 it was formally annexed to France by a decree of Louis XIV.'s Chambre de Réunion, and remained French till 1871, when it passed with Alsace-Lorraine to the new German empire.
See "Annalen und Chronik von Kolmar," German translation, G. H. Pabst, in Geschichtsschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit (2nd ed., G. Wattenbach, Leipzig, 1897); Sigmund Billing, Kleine Chronik der Stadt Kolmar (Colmar, 1891); Hund, Kolmar vor und während seiner Entwickelung zur Reichsstadt (Strassburg, 1899); J. Liblin, Chronique de Colmar, 58-1400 (Mülhausen, 1867-1868); T. F. X. Hunkler, Gesch. der Stadt Kolmar (Colmar, 1838). For further references see Ulysse Chevalier, Répertoire des sources. Topobibliographie (Montbéliard, 1894-1899); and Waltz, Bibliographie de la ville de Colmar (Mülhausen, 1902).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)