Old town hall of Wolgast
|Municipal assoc.||Am Peenestrom|
|o Mayor||Stefan Weigler (Ind.)|
|o Total||61.53 km2 (23.76 sq mi)|
|Elevation||5 m (16 ft)|
|o Density||190/km2 (500/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+01:00 (CET)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC+02:00 (CEST)|
|Vehicle registration||VG, WLG|
Wolgast (German pronunciation: ['v?l?ast]) is a town in the district of Vorpommern-Greifswald, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated on the bank of the river (or strait) Peenestrom, vis-a-vis the island of Usedom on the Baltic coast that can be accessed by road and railway via a movable bascule bridge (Blaues Wunder). In December 2004, the town had a population of 12,725.
The precursor of present-day Wolgast was a Slavic Wendish stronghold located on an island within the Peenestrom sound.:159 Contemporary sources called it Hologost(a), Ologost, Woligost, Woligast, Wologost, Wolegast, Wolegust, Walagost(um), Walogost(um), Waløgost(um), Waloguslum, Walagust, Walegusth, Walægust, Walgust, Wolgast, Valagust, Wo?ogoszcz or Valegust. Wilhelm Ferdinand Gadebusch traces the name through Wendish to mean a "large grove". It is unclear which of the tribes documented in the area the population belonged to, the Veleti/Lutici or Rani. In 1123/24, prince Henry of the Obodrites used the stronghold as a stepping stone in his campaign against the Rani.
In 1128, after the Pomeranian duke Wartislaw I had subdued the area, the Wends were baptized by Otto of Bamberg on his second Pomeranian mission, while Wartislaw was also present in the stronghold.:152, 160 In this context, Wolgast was described as a opulentissima civitas by the chronicler Ebo, it is however unclear whether this should be read as meaning opulent or mighty "castle" or "town".:157-158 Otto destroyed a local temple devoted to Gerowit, a god of war, and replaced it with a church.:158 The thesis that this first church was a predecessor of today's St. Peter's church has not yet been confirmed.:158
Wolgast was made the seat of a Pomeranian castellany,:159 and played an important role in the 12th-century warfare between Pomeranians, Rani and the Danes.:158 In 1162, Wolgast was targeted by an allied Danish-Rani fleet, and temporarily had to accept Danish suzerainty.:23-25 In 1164, in the context of the battle of Verchen, a Danish force under Wetheman took control of Wolgast, and left it to a mixed Rani-Pomeranian-Obrodite garrison after peace was restored. Yet, the Rani (the Danish allies) were soon expelled by the Pomeranians, and the Obodrites (also Danish allies) left the scene.:26 The Danes attacked Wolgast again in the summer of 1167, and again either in late 1167 or in 1168, and devastated the area.:27-28 In 1177, another Danish assault on Wolgast failed, but a campaign in 1179 was successful, though the Danish fleet accepted money instead of a surrender.:41 In 1184, Wolgast was unsuccessfully besieged by the Danes, but finally came under Danish control in 1185 when the Pomeranian duke accepted Danish suzerainty.:44-45 While the Danes lost control over most of Pomerania in 1227, Wolgast remained a Danish bridgehead until either 1241/43 or 1250.:48
On the mainland opposite to island with the castle, a new planned town was built in the course of the Ostsiedlung. It is not known when exactly this city of Wolgast was granted German town law, though its existence is confirmed by a letter written in or before 1259.:160 The original charter was issued by both Pomeranian dukes of the time, Wartislaw III and Barnim I, and a confirmation of the Lübeck law was issued in 1282 by duke Bogislaw IV.:160-161
Wolgast was residence of the Pomeranian dukes from 1285 until the ruling House of Pomerania became extinct in 1637. Capital of Pomerania-Wolgast, a longtime inner partition of the duchy, Wolgast Castle was built as a residential palace in Renaissance style on an island hence called Castle Island. The ducal line of Pomerania-Wolgast became extinct when Philipp Julius died without issue.
During the Thirty Years' War, the Swedish Empire occupied Wolgast in 1630 and kept it as a part of Swedish Pomerania until 1815. The former ducal palace decayed, and the town was burned down in 1713 by Russian forces during the Great Northern War, in retaliation for Swedish arson in Altona. Only the church, four chapels and four more buildings were spared by the fire. Most houses of the Old Town therefore date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, the townhall was renewed after the fire in baroque style.
After the Swedish withdrawal from Pomerania in 1815, the city was integrated into the Prussian Province of Pomerania. Last remnants of the palace were removed in 1849. Wolgast prospered throughout the 19th century as a port for grain trade.
The town's history is presented in the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum (Towns' historical museum) in a building at the market place nicknamed Kaffeemühle. The former house of painter Philipp Otto Runge is also a museum by now (Rungemuseum).