Entered into the duchy of Swabia in around 782, Schwäbisch Gmünd is probably the oldest Staufer town in the Württemberg region today. The Staufer, or members of the nobility of the Hohenstaufen empire, were promoters of community, cultivating it within the medieval heart of Gmünd, and were awarded the town charter by King Konrad III (1138-1152).
Following the demise of the Staufer in Italy, Gmünd became a free city, retaining its status until its transition into the duchy of Württemberg in 1802. It blossomed culturally and commercially in the era spanning the 13th to 16th centuries, corresponding roughly with the construction of the Romanesque Church of St. John (Johanniskirche) and the Gothic Holy Cross Minster (Heilig-Kreuz-Münster).
Until 1803, there were four monasteries and two convents in the town. At the time of the Reformation, Gmünd remained one of the few catholic-free cities in Germany. Its predominantly Baroque features were realised in the 18th century by the principal architect Johann Michael Keller (1721-1794) who remodelled the market-place and converted several churches as well as the miniature rococo palace in the Stadtgarten (the Town Gardens).
Trade and industry flourished from the middle ages onwards in Gmünd, more recently earning it the name “The Gold and Silver Town” due to the predominance of gold and silver craftsmanship. The town was widely recognised in this area of expertise from the 18th century onwards, yet frequently experienced difficulties caused by economic extremes. Numerous industries began to establish themselves thereafter, in the first half of the 20th century. These ranged from metal industries to production of lenses for glasses. The population of the town rose from 6,000 in 1918, reaching 63,000 in 1994 following the incorporation of several surrounding districts. The medieval and early modern heart of the town is fully intact despite the Second World War, emerging as a jewel for tourists.