[hes-uh for 1; hes for 2]
Hesse (Hessen) is a state of Germany with an area of 21,110 km² and just over six million inhabitants. The state capital is Wiesbaden. Hesse's largest city is nearby Frankfurt am Main. Hesse contributes the largest share to the Rhine Main Area.


Situated in west-central Germany, Hesse borders on the German states (starting from the northwest and proceeding clockwise) of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

The principal cities of Hesse include Frankfurt am Main, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Offenbach, Hanau, Gießen, Wetzlar and Limburg in the greater Rhine Main Area, Fulda in the east, and Kassel and Marburg an der Lahn in the north.

The most important rivers in Hesse are the Fulda and Eder rivers in the north, the Lahn in the central part of Hesse, and the Main and Rhine in the south. The countryside is hilly and there are numerous mountain ranges, like the Rhön, the Westerwald, the Taunus, the Vogelsberg, the Knüll or the Spessart.

Most of the population of Hesse is in the southern part of Hesse in the Rhine Main Area. The Rhine borders Hesse on the southwest without running through the state, only one old arm – the so-called Alt-Rhein – runs through Hesse. The mountain range between the Main and the Neckar river is called the Odenwald. The plain in between the rivers Main, Rhine and Neckar, and the Odenwald mountains is called the Ried.

See also List of places in Hesse.

Hesse is divided into 21 districts and 5 independent cities:

  1. Bergstraße (Heppenheim)
  2. Darmstadt-Dieburg (Darmstadt, Ortsteil Kranichstein)
  3. Groß-Gerau (Groß-Gerau)
  4. Hochtaunuskreis (Bad Homburg)
  5. Main-Kinzig-Kreis (Gelnhausen)
  6. Main-Taunus-Kreis (Hofheim am Taunus)
  7. Odenwaldkreis (Erbach)
  8. Offenbach (Dietzenbach)
  9. Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis (Bad Schwalbach)
  10. Wetteraukreis (Friedberg)
  11. Gießen (Gießen)
  12. Lahn-Dill-Kreis (Wetzlar)
  13. Limburg-Weilburg (Limburg)

  1. Marburg-Biedenkopf (Marburg)
  2. Vogelsbergkreis (Lauterbach)

  3. Fulda (Fulda)
  4. Hersfeld-Rotenburg (Bad Hersfeld)
  5. Kassel (Kassel)
  6. Schwalm-Eder-Kreis (Homberg (Efze))
  7. Werra-Meißner-Kreis (Eschwege)
  8. Waldeck-Frankenberg (Korbach)

    Independent cities (with their acronyms, as used on vehicle registration plates):


An early Celtic presence in what is now Hesse is indicated by a mid 5th century BC La Tène style burial uncovered at Glauberg. The region was later settled by the Germanic Chatti tribe in ca. the 1st century BC, and the name Hesse is a continuation of that tribal name. In the early Middle Ages, a Frankish gau comprising an area around Fritzlar and Kassel and a Saxon one further north were known as Hessengau. In the 9th century the Saxon Hessengau also came under the rule of the Franconians. In the 12th century it was passed to Thuringia.

In the War of the Thuringian Succession (1247-64), Hesse gained its independence and became a Landgraviate within the Holy Roman Empire. It shortly rose to primary importance under Landgrave Philip the Magnanimous, who was one of the leaders of German Protestantism. After Philip's death in 1567, the territory was divided up among his four sons from his first marriage (Philip was a bigamist) into four lines: Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Rheinfels and the also previously existing Hesse-Marburg. As the latter two lines died out quite soon (1583 and 1605, respectively), Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Darmstadt were the two core states within the Hessian lands. Several collateral lines split off during the centuries, such as in 1622, when Hesse-Homburg split off from Hesse-Darmstadt. In the late 16th century, Kassel adopted Calvinism, while Darmstadt remained Lutheran and subsequently the two lines often found themselves on different sides of a conflict, most notably in the disputes over Hesse-Marburg and in the Thirty Years' War, when Darmstadt fought on the side of the Emperor, while Kassel sided with Sweden and France.

During the American Revolution, Great Britain hired mercenaries from Hesse, commonly known as Hessians, to fight the rebels in America.

Hesse-Kassel was elevated to the rank of an Electorate in 1803, but this remained without effect as the Holy Roman Empire was disbanded in 1806. The territory was annexed by the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1806, but restored to the Elector in 1813. While other Electors had gained other titles, becoming either Kings or Grand-dukes, the Elector of Hesse-Kassel alone retained the anachronistic dignity. The name survived in the term Kurhessen, denoting the region around Kassel. In 1866 it was annexed by Prussia, together with the Free City of Frankfurt, Hesse-Homburg and the duchy of Nassau, which established the province of Hesse-Nassau.

Hesse-Darmstadt was elevated to the rank of a Grand Duchy in 1806. In the War of 1866, it fought on the side of Austria against Prussia, but retained its autonomy in defeat, because a greater part of the country was situated south of the Main river and Prussia did not dare to expand beyond the Main line as this might have provoked France. But the parts of Hesse-Darmstadt north of the Main river (the region around the town of Gießen, commonly called Oberhessen) were incorporated in the Norddeutscher Bund, a tight federation of German states, established by Prussia in 1867. In 1871 the rest of the Grand Duchy joined the German Empire. Around the turn of the century, Darmstadt was one of the centres of the Jugendstil. Until 1907, the Grand Duchy of Hesse used only the Hessian red and white lion as its coat-of-arms

The revolution of 1918 transformed Hesse-Darmstadt from a monarchy to a republic, which officially renamed itself to "Volksstaat Hessen" (People's State of Hesse). The parts of Hesse-Darmstadt on the western banks of the Rhine (province Rheinhessen) were occupied by French troops until 1930 under the terms of the Versailles peace treaty that officially ended WWI in 1919.

After World War II the Hessian territory left of the Rhine was again occupied by France, whereas the rest of the country was part of the US occupation zone. The French separated their part of Hesse from the rest of the country and incorporated it into the newly founded state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz). The United States, on the other side, proclaimed the state of Greater Hesse (Groß-Hessen) on 19 September 1945, out of Hesse-Darmstadt and most of the former Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau. On December 4, 1946 Groß-Hessen was officially renamed Hessen.


The state is called Hessen in German and Hesse in English; the English name for the state was taken from French. An inhabitant of the state is a Hesse (masculine) or Hessin (feminine) in German and a Hessian in English (see Hessian (soldiers)). Occasionally the German term Hessen is also used in English. Hessia is another variant, although rarely used. Hesse refers to the Germanic tribe of the Chatti, who settled in the region in the first centuries B.C.


The Politics of Hesse takes place within a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, where the Federal Government of Germany exercises sovereign rights with certain powers reserved to the states of Germany including Hesse. The state has a multi-party system where the two main parties are the rightist Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the leftist Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

In the Hesse state election of 2008, the outgoing Prime Minister, Roland Koch (CDU), lost his majority in the state diet (Landtag of Hesse).

State Anthem

The official state song of Hesse is called "Hessenlied" (Song of Hesse), but is not widely known. It was written by Carl Preser

"Ich kenne ein Land, so reich und so schön, voll goldener Ähren die Felder, dort grünen im Tal bis zu sonnigen Höh`n viel dunkele, duftige Wälder. Dort hab ich als Kind an der Mutter Hand in Blüten und Blumen gesessen. Ich grüß’ Dich, du Heimat, du herrliches Land, Herz Deutschlands, mein blühendes Hessenland.

Vom Main bis zur Weser, Werra und Lahn ein Land voller blühender Auen, dort glänzen die Städte, die wir alle sahn, sind herrlich im Lichte zu schauen. Dort hab ich als Kind an der Mutter Hand in Blüten und Blumen gesessen. Ich grüß’ Dich, du Heimat, du herrliches Land, Herz Deutschlands, mein blühendes Hessenland."

(1828-1910, text) and Albrecht Brede (1834-1920, melody).

TV & radio stations

Hessischer Rundfunk (HR) is the main ARD broadcaster in Hesse, providing a third TV programme as well as its local radio stations (HR 1, HR 2, HR 3, HR 4, you fm and HR info ). Other than HR, ZDF and other privately run TV stations flourish. Among the commercial radio stations that are active in Hesse are Hit Radio FFH, Planet Radio, Harmony FM, SKY Radio and Main FM.

Traffic and public transportation

Hesse has one of the best transportation infrastructures in Europe. Many trans-European and German interstate freeways cross Hesse as well as high-speed train lines and many important trans-European waterways. Frankfurt International Airport is Germany's biggest airport and the third largest in Europe (after London and Paris). Near the airport is the Frankfurter Kreuz, Europe's most important motorway junction, where the German autobahns A3 (Arnhem-Cologne-Frankfurt-Nuremberg-Passau) and A5 (Hattenbach-Frankfurt-Karlsruhe-Basel) meet. Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof is Germany's most important railway station.

Death penalty

The death penalty is still mentioned in the constitution of Hesse, as the Hessian constitution was ratified in 1946, when the death penalty was still part of the German penal code (and carried out as well). Because the 1949 federal constitution provides for the abolition of the death penalty (Art. 102) and because of the supremacy of the federal constitution (Art. 31, incidentally the two shortest articles in the whole constitution), the Hessian constitutional articles still mentioning the death penalty are de facto obsolete. Nonetheless, no politician has yet proposed to formally abolish the death penalty in Hesse because that would require a plebiscite.


  • Locals from the area speak the Rhine Franconian dialect known as Hessisch.
  • The chemical element of Hassium is named for Hesse alongside with Darmstadtium for the Hessian City of Darmstadt.
  • Hesse is a sister state of Wisconsin, one of the states of the United States of America
  • During the 17th and 18th centuries thousands of Hessians fought in the American Revolution and other conflicts as soldiers of fortune (though usually conscripted, the pay going to their Lord) on both sides.

See also


External links

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