Situated in a hilly region to the north of the Harz Mountains, the villa Quitilingaburg is first mentioned in 922 in an official document of Henry I (the Fowler), who was elected German King in 919. He built a castle on what became known as the Castle Hill (Burgberg), one of the two sandstone hills that overlook the Harz valley, and this became one of his favourite residences. It became the capital of the East Franconian German Empire and was the place where many important political and religious assemblies and festivals took place. The town owes its wealth and importance during the Middle Ages to Henry I and his successors. German Kings are known to have stayed at Quedlinburg on 69 occasions between 922 and 1207.
On the death of Henry I in 936 his widow Mathilde remained in Quedlinburg at the collegiate church of St Servatius on the Castle Hill, founded by Henry's son and successor Otto I as a collegial establishment for unmarried daughters of the nobility. It was to become one of the most influential foundations of its type in the Holy Roman Empire. From 944 the abbesses (many of whom were members of the Imperial family and were buried in the crypt of the church) had the right to mint coins at Quedlinburg.
Westendorf, the area around the Burgberg, quickly attracted a settlement of merchants and craftsmen, which was granted market rights in 994, and these were confirmed in 1040 and again in 1134. Several other settlements also developed in what was to become the early town centre, which was granted special privileges by the Emperors Henry Ill and Lothar IV in the 11th and 12th centuries. A Benedictine monastery was founded in 946 on the second hill, the Mtinzenberg.
The Quedlinburg merchants were given the right to trade without restriction or payment of duties from the North Sea to the Alps, being subject only to their own law-courts. The resulting prosperity led to a rapid expansion of the town. A new town (Neustadt) was founded in the 12th century on the eastern bank of the river Bode, laid out on a regular plan - a familiar pattern in medieval European towns. The two towns were merged in 1330 and were surrounded by a common city wall. Suburbs such as "Am neuen Weg" and "In den Gropem" quickly grew up outside the city walls.
The new, enlarged town joined the Lower Saxon Town Alliance (Stiidtebund) in 1384. and in 1426 it became a member of the Hanseatic League. It seemed destined to play a major role in 15th century Germany, but it joined the losing side in one of the many political and economic conflicts that characterized this period and as a result it lost its franchises and communal privileges in 1477. However, despite this setback Quedlinburg retained an important economic role, as evidenced by the many elaborate timber-framed houses from the 16th and 17th centuries.
The protectorate (Vogtei) of the town was sold by its hereditary owner, the Elector of Saxony, to the house of Brandenburg-Prussia in 1698, and in 1802 its special free status as an Imperial foundation came to an end when it was formally incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia. During the 19th and 20th centuries it developed steadily, with the addition of new residential and industrial areas and important administrative buildings.