Located in the northeast corner of France along the German border, Alsace has been a contested region for most of its existence. Europe’s perpetually shifting alliances and balances of power hit Alsace especially hard; as a result, the region has been disputed almost since its inception.

Alsace was politically unimportant until around 800 A.D., when Charlemagne claimed the region as part of his vast Holy Roman Empire. After his death, Charlemagne’s land was given to his surviving son and soon thereafter divided among his grandsons. Alsace became part of Lotharingia, the territory of Charlemagne’s eldest grandson Lothair.

For the next 750 years, Alsace was completely German and was under the jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Emperor. The region became Christianized when Carolingian monks introduced the religion towards the beginning of Alsace’s German period.

1618 saw the first of four wars that would change the ownership of Alsace. This was the Thirty Years War, and it would end in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia, which gave Alsace to France.  Well over two hundred years later, the Franco-Prussian War ended with the creation of a German territory, Alsace-Lorraine, which included the formerly French Alsace. World War I allowed France to reclaim Alsace in the Treaty of Versailles; the Germans temporarily took back Alsace and Lorraine during World War II but both provinces were returned to France after Germany was defeated. Today, Alsace is French, but it has actually spent more time as part of Germany!