The centre of the town of Feldkirch is a medieval settlement that was founded and laid out by the Counts of Montfort at the foot of the Schattenburg. Feldkirch is first mentioned in a document in 1218.The main axis of the medieval town consists of the market square (Marktplatz) and the former house of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Johanniter-Ordenshaus) with St John’s Church.
In the 14th century, the town was expanded southwards towards the river Ill. There, in 1379, the first town hall was built.
As a junction for trade and traffic routes, the town possessed great geopolitical significance for the Habsburgs who had ambitions regarding Switzerland; but there were also multifarious links with the regions of Graubünden and northern Italy.
Notable changes were made about 1500 during the reign of the powerful Emperor and King Maximillian I, when the fortificationswalls, towers and gates-were extended and the town attained the appearance that it still today apart from losses in the 19th and 20th century. The town with its area of 1.30 km remained very small for a long time. It bordered directly on purely agricultural communities like Göfis, Tisis, Tosters and the larger Altenstadt.
Since the citizens of Feldkirch had capital and were also agriculturalists, they bought a large amount of land in neighbouring communities-fields, meadows, pasture and forestland-and this became the Basis for urban expansion in the 19th century. Just one hundred years ago the slopes of Ardetzenberg and Blasenberg still bore extensive and intensively cultivated vineyards.
The early industrial phase began to emerge around 1800 shortly after the Napoleonic Wars, which had not left Feldkirch unscathed. Indeed, the wars had demonstrated all too clearly how useless the medieval fortifications were. Largescale new industrial sites demanded land and better Transport infrastructure. As a result, in the first third of the 19th century a major part of the city walls was demolished and the defensive ditches were replaced by wide streets, lined with new buildings.
Industries such as weaving, spinning and metal processing spread in the medieval artisanal area along the Mühlekanal, thus extending from Felsenau, over Leonhardsplatz and into the Vorstadt.Change was ushered in by the construction of the Vorarlberg railway (1871) and its extension, the Arlberg railway, which meant that from 1884 the municipality was connected with therest of the empire. At this time two branches of local industry wich had existend since the Middle Ages, lost their significance-the grain trade and the salt trade. The population’s outward Expansion became more and more evident in the second half of the 19th century. Industrialisation and a building boom led to a rapid increase of the number of the town’s inhabitants. In this period the industrialists’ villas were built along the Bahnhofstraße. The events of 1910 were decisive for the further development of Feldkirch. In this year the town suffered catastrophic flooding from the river Ill, which necessitated substantial urban alterations: embankments were built along the Ill, the Kapfschlucht was enlarged and the municipal sewage system was regulated. These measures brought the town such prestige that the surrounding communities were incorporated with Feldkirch in 1925, giving the town an area of 34.34 km². The 1950s and 1960s saw a great deal of residential construction, and in the 1970s the town acquired its distinctive road Network with the Hirschgraben road and Walgaustraße in the Felsenau gorge.