Weingarten (German for "vineyard") is a town with a population of 24,000 (as of 2005) in Württemberg, in the District of Ravensburg, in the valley of the Schussen River. Together with the southern neighbour cities of Ravensburg and Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance (Bodensee), it forms one of 14 medium-sized infrastructural centres in Baden-Württemberg. The town is seat of the University of Applied Sciences of Ravensburg-Weingarten (Hochschule Ravensburg-Weingarten) and of the Teachers' College of Weingarten (Pädagogische Hochschule Weingarten).
The town was formerly known as Altdorf and was renamed to Weingarten in 1865. Before that, Weingarten was the name of Weingarten Abbey only, which lay on the Martinsberg (St. Martin's hill) above the town. The name "Altdorf" is derived from the Frankish alach for "church". So "Altdorf" does not mean "old village" but "village/thorp with the parish church".
Near the old town, an Alemannic burial place was excavated in 1954–1957, dating from the 5th century. In the 8th century the region became part of the Frankish empire. Around the 9th century the Elder Welfs became counts of the Schussengau and established their seat in Altdorf.
In 1056 Welf IV transferred the ancestral seat of the Welfs to the newly built castle of Ravensburg. He founded a new Benedictine abbey at the Martinsberg in Altdorf; this abbey was named Weingarten Abbey.
By a contract of inheritance, in 1191 the Hohenstaufen Frederick Barbarossa acquired the ownership of the Schussengau (including Altdorf, Weingarten and Ravensburg) from Welf VI, Duke of Spoleto and uncle of both Frederick Barbarossa and Henry the Lion.
About seventy years later, with the death of Conradin in Naples in 1268, the line of the Hohenstaufen became extinct. Their former estates were confiscated as imperial property of the Holy Roman Empire. While the small town of Altdorf was ruled by the Reichslandvogt (imperial steward) of Swabia, the abbey of Weingarten won the status of an "Imperial Abbey" with privileges similar to those of an Imperial Free City.
The Vogt's seat was first located at the castle of Ravensburg (most often called "Veitsburg" to distinguish it from the Imperial City of Ravensburg) until 1647 when Swedish troops destroyed the castle and the Vogt moved to a palace in Altdorf.
The abbey of Weingarten became one of the wealthiest monasteries in southern Germany, owning about 306 km² of rich estates, before it was confiscated during the secularization following the Reichsdeputationshauptschluß bill in 1803. Weingarten was first allotted to the House of Nassau, Altdorf to the dukedom of Württemberg. In 1806 Weingarten, too, was incorporated into Württemberg.
During the 19th century several barracks were placed in Altdorf-Weingarten, making the city an important military site. As in neighbouring Ravensburg, a significant engineering industry evolved during the second half of the century.
During Nazi Germany Weingarten was incorporated into Ravensburg; after the war, the rival cities were separated again.
Since 1949, most of the former abbey buildings have been occupied by a teachers' college. A smaller part of the main building is leased to the Catholic Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart which runs the Catholic Academy for adult education there. New buildings were erected in the neighbourhood by the University of Applied Sciences of Ravensburg-Weingarten.
During the municipal reforms of the 1970s, a renewed attempt to fuse Ravensburg and Weingarten failed due to massive resistance on the part of Weingarten's citizenry.
Every year, the Fasnet season starts with the Gumpige Dunnschdig (Jumpy Thursday) a week before Ash Wednesday. In the evening, the Hemedglonkerumzug (from "hemed" = nightgown in local dialect) takes place, so everybody runs through the streets in pyjamas or nightshirts. This custom symbolizes the awakening of carnival fools.
The main pageant takes place at Sunday. Typical carnival characters of Weingarten are the Plätzler (in a red and white costume, first depicted in 1868), the Lauratal ghosts and the Bockstallnarren ("buck stable fools"). In addition to these local groups, many other carnival groups from the region take part in the pageant.
On the Friday following Ascension, Roman-Catholics from Weingarten and from most parts of Upper Swabia take part in the annual Blutritt, a huge equestrian procession. The procession of about 3,000 riders and dozens of local music bands leads through the town centre and some surrounding villages to bless houses, farms and fields with a relic of the holy blood of Jesus Christ. During the rest of the year, the relic is on display in the Weingarten abbey church.