Villmar lies in the Lahn River valley between the Westerwald and the Taunus, some ten kilometres east of Limburg. In terms of the natural environment, the southwestern part of the municipal area comprises the eastern part of the Limburg Basin (this part known locally as the Villmar Bay or Villmarer Bucht), a nearly even two- to three-kilometre-wide plain that opens to the west lying at elevations of 160 to 180 m into which the Lahn’s winding lower valley has cut a channel about 50 metres deep.
Conditioned by the mild climate and the extensive loess soils, intensive crop production prevails here. To the north, the somewhat higher (220–260 m), more richly wooded Weilburger Lahntalgebiet (“Weilburg Lahn valley area”) joins up with the Weilburger Lahntal (“Weilburg Lahn valley”) and the Gaudernbacher Platte (“Gaudernbach Tableland”), where cropland is limited to scattered loess islands. In the southeast rises the likewise more thickly wooded northwestern part of the Eastern Hintertaunus (or Langhecker Lahntaunus) with the Villmarer Galgenberg (277 m) as its westernmost outpost, visible from a great distance. The municipal area’s highest point (332 m) is found southeast of the outlying centre of Langhecke, and the lowest point (114 m) is on the community’s western limit where the Lahn flows into the town of Runkel.
Lying in the geologically significant Lahnmulde (“Lahn Hollow”), Villmar is rich in mineral deposits from the Middle Devonian period: silver, iron ore, slate, and limestone. As the reef limestone (called Lahn marble) could be cut and polished, it was of economic importance to the area. In addition to the reef limestone, the extensively mined, mostly greenish diabasetuff was used for many purposes (for instance, ringwall, parish house and most older buildings’ cellars.)
The later deposits from the Tertiary, however, are of lesser importance. Small amounts of sand and gravel are quarried near the Villmarer Galgenberg. Tertiary vulcanism left behind sporadic basalt deposits near Falkenbach, Seelbach and Weyer. These deposits are no longer worked.
Villmar borders in the northwest on the town of Runkel, in the northeast on the community of Weinbach, in the east on the community of Weilmünster, in the south on the communities of Selters and Brechen, and in the west on the town of Limburg (all in Limburg-Weilburg).
Villmar’s Ortsteile are Aumenau, Falkenbach, Langhecke, Seelbach, Villmar and Weyer.
Villmar’s main centre had its first documentary mention in 1053 when Emperor Heinrich III donated the royal estate of Villmar to the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Matthew in Trier. The landholding bound to this and the abbey’s earnings was more closely circumscribed in later confirmations. Of particular importance in this is the abbot’s right, already falsely appended to the donation document, to employ a secular Schutzvogt, which amounted to a noble title. In 1154, the abbey’s ownership rights were assigned by Archbishop Hillin of Trier to the Villmar Church. A list was drawn up of places owing tithes, among them the current constituent communities of Seelbach, Aumenau and Weyer.
It is believed that in the same year, a falsification of the original document, backdated to 1054, appeared, which dealt with the Vogt rights as well as the parish’s extent, and thereby with tithes. The centres of Aumenau and Weyer were already being mentioned in writing in the 8th century, and Falkenbach and Langhecke followed in the 13th and 14th, respectively. Scholars have concluded, indirectly from other documents, that an autonomous parish of Villmar must already have arisen by 910. Even the placename “Villmar” suggests that the community had its beginnings before Frankish times.
In 1166 a Trier ministerial family named “von Villmar”, who had apparently moved to the community not long before this, was living here. The name “von Koblenz” for this family also crops up later, although by the late 13th century, the former seems to have definitively become the family’s name. Their coat of arms was quartered in gules (red) and argent (silver or white). In the 14th century, a side-branch of the family formed in Hadamar. There is evidence that the family’s holdings lay around Limburg, Montabaur and Delkenheim Castle in the Rheingau, and in the Wetterau. In 1428, the family died out.
Acting as Vögte (plural of Vogt) beginning in the 13th century were counts from the House of Isenburg, in whose service also stood the House of Villmar. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the House of Solms also had Vogt rights. The Landeshoheit (roughly, “territorial sovereignty”) over Villmar’s municipal area, to which today’s constituent community of Arfurt also belonged, was contested in later times by the Gaugrafen (“Regional Counts”) of Diez, and later, as their successors in the tithing area (Cent) of Aumenau after 1366, by the Counts of Wied-Runkel. As of the 13th century, the historical record also shows Trier’s ambition to wrest ascendancy over Villmar from the local overlords.
In 1346, in a move instigated by Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg, Villmar was granted town rights in the Archbishop’s hopes that this might further his goal of annexing the town. In the end, though, this ambition never came to fruition, as a basis for this deed in law could not be established. Trier did not succeed in conquering Villmar in 1359 despite the would-be conquerors’ attack of the fortifications. The conflict with the Villmar Vögte reached its high point in 1360 when the Trier coadjutor bishop Kuno von Falkenstein destroyed the Burg Gretenstein (castle), built near Villmar by Philipp von Isenburg.
The dispute over the territory’s overlordship was settled in the 16th century when, with Saint Matthew’s Abbey’s (Abtei St. Matthias) consent in 1565, the Villmar Vogt rights held by the Isenburg-Büdingens and the Solms-Münzenbergs were sold to the Electorate of Trier for 14,000 Frankfurt guilders. In 1596, the area was united with Wied-Runkel, which forwent Ascendancy over the Villmar-Arfurt municipal area. It was made into a Trier bailiwick. This also had consequences for religious affiliation: while Villmar (and Arfurt) remained uninfluenced by the Reformation, the centres of Seelbach, Falkenbach, Aumenau and Weyer in the Runkel domain were converted, first in 1562 to Lutheranism, and as of 1587 and 1588 to Calvinism. Despite the Reformation, the Abbey continued to derive income as the landlord, including church tithes, until 1803.
After the Electorate’s and the Holy Roman Empire’s fall between 1803 and 1806, Villmar passed in 1806 to the newly created Duchy of Nassau. In 1866 it was annexed by Prussia. After the Second World War, Villmar became part of the new state (Bundesland) of Hesse.
Within the framework of municipal reform in Hesse, the above-named constituent communities (all former self-administering communities in the old Oberlahnkreis district) merged in 1970 and 1971 to form the new collective community of Villmar. Since 2002 it has been designated a Marktflecken (“market town”).