The Town of Baden in Baden

The German town of Baden-Baden acquired its name officially in 1931 with a formal decision of the town's council. Before that, it was simply called Baden and was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Baden until 1918. Baden was a bathing spa in Roman times and was known as Aquae like Bath in England. Aquae in Latin and Bath in English have the same meaning as Baden in German. How did Baden end up with the weird tautology of being called Baden-Baden?

The small town of Baden became the capital for the newly styled Margrave of Baden in 1112; Count Hermann of Breisgau had just acquired the town together with its Castle of Hohenbaden (‘Higher Baden’) in the course of a land swap between his family (the House of Zähringen) and the neighboring Habsburg and Hohenstaufen families. Hermann's father was the Margrave of Verona. Taking his father’s title of Margrave to reflect his now considerably larger land holdings, he combined that title with the name of the castle to define his new lands as the Margravate of Baden.

Baden was a provincial small town that had lost what little importance it ever had after the Romans had left. Count Hermann of Breisgau as the new owner now brought it back into history. To distinguish it from its geographical neighboring town of Baden im Breisgau (today Badenweiler) and from the other two important towns called Baden, Baden in Aargau (today in Switzerland, then part of the Habsburg lands), and Baden near Vienna, it was customarily called Baden in Baden.

Under Salian inheritance law, ruling families with more than one son split the inheritance lands and all between the sons. After that, the elder son's descendants would be known as the senior line. When such an inheritance split occurred in Baden in 1515, the younger brother took the title of Margrave of Baden-Durlach combining the name of the Margravate of Baden with the town of his main residence (the town of Durlach forms part of Karlsruhe today). The older brother took the title of Margrave of Baden-Baden following the same principle. The two parts of the country were reunited in 1771 when the junior line died out without issue and its name went back to Baden.

People are universally lazy. When Margrave Leopold made Baden in Baden a fashionable and sought after spot for summer residences and health seekers following his accession in 1830, people soon started to drop the ‘in’ between Baden and Baden. In the 19th century, Baden Baden got to mean the town, and not the historical Margravate of the previous century. The official renaming of the town from Baden to Baden-Baden in 1931 was just the acceptance of this fact.

What we end up with is a town with the added on name of the county which was named after the castle which got its name from the town. As good as a tautology as any you can think of. And if you want to drive someone really crazy, you might want to point out to them that the tautology of the town of Baden-Baden (name of town followed by name of county) is not identical to the one of the Margrave of Baden-Baden (name of county followed by name of town). Anyone preparing a pub quiz needing a killer question is welcome to the information.

Further reading
Robert Koch: With System Against Disease
Graffiti in the Church
Count Welf and His Descendents