Historical view of Barth in 1618, from the Lubin map made by Eilhard Lubinus
Former abbey of Barth
Barth dates back to the medieval German Ostsiedlung, before the area was settled by Wends of the Liuticians or Rani tribe. Jaromar II, Danishprince of Rügen, granted the town Lübeck law in 1255. In the same document, he agreed to remove his burgh, Borgwall or Neue Burg, then on the northwestern edge of the town's projected limits. Another Wendish burgh, Alte Burg near today's train station, was not used anymore. The German town was set up on empty space between the burghs. Not a member of the Hanseatic League, the town never grew to the importance and size of neighboring Hanseatic towns like Stralsund. The last prince of Rügen, Witzlaw III, erected a court at the site of former Neue Burg in 1315. He often resided in Barth.
In 1627, during the Thirty Years' War, Wallenstein's imperial army entered Protestant Pomerania and, after they were repelled from Barth, re-took the town and exacted revenge. Before the Swedish forces entered Barth in 1630, retreating imperial troops led by Maritzen looted the town. As the war went on, some women convicted as witches were burned in the town between 1645 and 1653, three had already been burned in 1611.
The town however recovered and in 1795 the number of houses had risen to 520, housing a population of 3,150. Yet, the town did not exceed its medieval limits. The fortifications surrounding the town were turned into a park in 1786.
In 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars, Barth was taken by French troops. A Swedish counterattack was repelled, and Barth was turned into a French garrison until the Swedish-French peace treaty.
In 1850, a Cholera epidemics lasted for seven weeks. In 1872, Barth was affected by a stormflood, that retreated only after ten days.
During the second half of the 19th century, the town expanded beyond its medieval limits for the first time. On 1 July 1888, Barth was connected to the Rostock-Stralsund railways, in 1902 a gas plant was built, and in 1920 electricity was introduced.
In 2005, Barth celebrated 750 years of its town ordinances and privileges. Since the local government reform on September 4 in 2011, Barth has belonged to the Vorpommern-Rügen district in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
According to a theory by Goldmann and Wermusch, Barth is the site of the sunken town of Vineta. Barth is attracting tourists with the Vineta legend. Nowadays, there is a Vineta museum and a Vineta festival in the town.