It is situated on the little River Lauter close to the border between France and Germany approximately 60 km north of Strasbourg and 35 km west of Karlsruhe. Wissembourg is a sub-prefecture of the department. The name Wissembourg is a Gallicized version of Weißenburg in German meaning "white castle". The Latin place-name, sometimes used in ecclesiastical sources, is Sebusium.
Weissenburg Abbey, the Benedictine abbey around which the town has grown, was founded in the 7th century, perhaps under the patronage of Dagobert I. The abbey was supported by vast territories. Of the 11th-century buildings constructed under the direction of Abbot Samuel, only the Schartenturm and some moats remain. The town was fortified in the 13th century. The abbey church of Saint-Pierre et Paul erected in the same century under the direction of Abbot Edelin was secularized in the French Revolution and despoiled of its treasures; in 1803 it became the parish church, resulting in the largest parish church of Alsace, only exceeded in size by the cathedral of Strasbourg. At the abbey in the late 9th century the monk Otfried composed a gospel harmony, the first substantial work of verse in German.
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