The settlement Heidenfeld was most likely founded in the course of the Franconian aquisition of land in the first half of the 8th century. The name is said to be derived from "field of Heidino". Starting point of the settlement was the little hill near the Main, where a church and a wall-enclosed churchyard were built in subsequent years. Supposedly before the year of 855, likely even before 775, Heidenfeld was acquired by the Holzkirchen Monastery, which at the time belonged to the Abbey of Fulda. From then on, there were close relations between Holzkirchen and Marktheidenfeld for several centuries. The Holzkirchen Monastery owned sizeable areas in Heidenfeld and was co-owner of the village court.
The Counts of Wertheim, which had the bailiwick of the Holzkirchen Monastery, at the end of the 13th century also acquired the bailiwick of Heidenfeld, annexed the settlement into their shire and enlargened it. In the year of 397 Marktheidenfeld is first referred to as "oppidum", meaning town of Heidenfeld. Since the middle of the 15th century there are documents furnishing evidence for a sheriff, a town hall is first mentioned in the 16th century and also the separation of the town into municipal districts, which is a feature of urbanization. Apart from the right to built a wall around the town they had the right to hold a market.
Reformation and counter-reformation
After 1522 the reformation was introduced in the shire of Wertheim.
In Heidenfeld the existence of protestant priests is documented after 1530, a few years later they become the pastors in charge. The 16th century was the zenith of the settlement's development. The poplulation increased in the mostly trade-oriented town from 530 in 1542 to approximately 800 around the end of the 16th century. At that time, the start of a school, a latin school presumably, is mentioned.
After the male line of ther Counts of Wertheim died out in 1556, Count Ludwig of Stolberg-Königstein-Rochefort and his successors took over. Due to the unclear legal situation, the Diocese of Würzburg took the chance to claim old rights. In the year of 1612 Heidenfeld was acquired as tenure of Würzburg. Now the counter-reformation under the pastor Johannes Molitor began. At that time, the parish church St. Laurentius is rebuilt. The name Marktheidenfeld came into use, first documented in the year of 1649.
The Thirty Years' War and times of destitution
After 1631 the Thirty Years' War came to Franconia; between 1632 and 1634 Marktheidenfeld was reappropriated by the Shire of Wertheim. For this period the Evangelican-Lutheran religion was reintroduced.
The war resulted in a steep decline in population. Only about 500 citizens lived at Marktheidenfeld at the end of the war in 1648. Sheriff at that year was Sebastian Stöber, who is remembered today by the cross in the churchyard, dating of 1624 and his gravestone with the date of 1672.
Center of the region
After 1648 the town soon recovered and increasingly became the economic center of the region. This was due to the varied craft and the annual fairs, which were held at Walburgis (1st of May), at Bartholomäi (24th of August) and Katharina (25th of November).
From 1790 on, there was the summer fair at the festival of the church patron Laurentius. After 1948 this fair developed into Laurenzi-Fair, which is celebrated in the week around the 15th of august as a large folk festival for the entire region.
In the years of 1648 to 1651 Marktheidenfeld was the center of the introduction of the guilds of dressmakers and traders, fishermen and sailors, shoemakers and tanners, barrel-makers, quarrymen and masons, bakers and in the early 18th century the smiths, carpenters and wainrights. These guilds underline the regional significance of the market town.
In the second half of the 17th century Marktheidenfeld saw a brisk pace of construction and the settlement was enlargened by the settlement in Mitteltorstraße and by the river. In 1720 Marktheidenfeld had already around 1,100 citizens. In the first half of the 18th century the parish church St. Lautius war annexed, in 1745 the wine merchant Frank Valentin Franck built his gorgeous smalt blue house in Untertorstraße, where today the cultural center is situated. Legend has it, that in his vaulted cellars the first German sparkling wine was produced. Another important economic factor, a beer brewery, was established in 1796. The special crafts of shipbuilding, organbuilding and sculptoring are documented at Marktheidenfeld at the end of the 18th century.
Marktheidenfeld becomes Bavarian
In 1803 the Diocese of Würzburg was secularized and Marktheidenfeld became part of the electorate Bavaria. Between 1806 and 1814
it belonged to the grand duchy of Toskana-Würzburg and was then absorbed by the kingdom of Bavaria. In the context of these changes Marktheidenfeld became the seat of the county court in 1806. In 1862 jurisdiction and administration were separated. Apart from the county court the district administration was introduced, named the Landratsamt, the district office, in 1939. in 1831 the first official building was the prison in Würzburger Straße. The resolution to build a Main bridge was made 1835. This bridge - one of the oldest and most beautiful of the Bavarian Main - was opened for traffic in 1846.
The increased amount of traffic resulted in the demolition of the city gates, only the street names remind of them: 1845/46 the upper gate (Obertor) fell, 1860 the middle gate (Mitteltor) and 1863 the lower gate (Untertor). In 1865/66 the town hall was built in the market place, housing also the school.
The "Gründerjahre" (founding years)
In 1870/71, at the times of the German-French War, Marktheidenfeld had 1,860 inhabitants.
After 1880 there was a local newspaper, the "Marktheidenfelder Bote" (Messenger); there was an atmosphere of departure in those times, the Gründerjahre (founding years), starting with the construction of a railway from Lohr to Wertheim. The railway was finished in 1881, connecting Marktheidenfeld until the year of 1970.
In 1884 a hospital was built in today's Petzoltstraße, in 1885 the forestry office was built nearby, in 1887 the prestigious building of the local court was finished in Würzburger Straße.
In 1890 the Kreuzbergkapelle (chapel) was built above the town, in 1896 the protestant church. The catholic church of St. Laurentius was annexed with two aisles in 1897/98. A Jewish community formed at Marktheidenfeld around 1909, by Jews moving there from the country. This community existed until the prosecution during the terror regime of the Third Reich.
1948 - Marktheidenfeld becomes a city
World War II ended on April 2, 1948, when the Americans blew up the Main Bridge and invaded the town. In 1948 there were around 4,300 inhabitants at Marktheidenfeld. Many refugees, mainly from the new Czech Sudentenland and Silesians, found a new home here.
Towards the end of the 1960s the immigration of foreign workers began. They came from former Yugoslavia, from Turkey, but also from Portugal, Spain and Italy. In the 1980s and 1990s many re-settlers, ethnic German immigrants (from countries belonging to the Old Sovjet Union and Romania) came to Marktheidenfeld. The constant designation of building areas brought a brisk pace of construction of private houses, new industrial zones were established and many jobs were created. The town changed completely. New housing areas became characteristic, the new parish church St. Josef was officially opened in 1967, a new hospital in 1968. At the end of the 1960s Marktheidenfeld became a school city, providing middle school, college, occupational colleges and "Förderschule", a school for handicapped children.
Territorial reform and incorporations
In 1972 the administrative district of Marktheidenfeld was cancelled, the town lost the position of administrative capital and all functions which had been linked with this status. At that time 6,600 people lived at Marktheidenfeld.
The village of Glasofen was incorporated in 1972, Zimmern in 1974, Marienbrunn in 1975 and Altfeld, Michelrieth and Oberwittbach in 1976, extending the city limits towards the Spessart region and Marktheidenfeld, which depicted the bridge and the lucky star in its coat of arms, now became the bridge between the vineyard and the forest.
Marktheidenfeld, which has strengthened ist position as industrial and craft location during the last few years, has (on June 30, 2009) 11,400 inhabitants, 8,718 of them live in the original town.