Hesse or Hessia, officially the State of Hesse, is a state of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its capital city is Wiesbaden, and the largest metropolitan area is Frankfurt am Main.
With an area of 21,000 square kilometers and a population of just over six million it ranks seventh and fifth respectively among the sixteen German states.
As a cultural region, Hesse also includes the area known as Rhenish Hesse in the neighbouring state of Rhineland-Palatinate.


The German name :wikt:Hessen#German|Hessen, like the name of other German regions is derived from the dative plural form of the name of the inhabitants or eponymous tribe, the Hessians, short for the older compound name Hessenland. The Old High German form of the name is recorded as Hessun, in Middle Latin as Hassia, Hessia, Hassonia. The name of the Hessians ultimately continues the tribal name of the Chatti.
The ancient name Chatti by the 7th century is recorded as Chassi, and from the 8th century as Hassi or Hessi.
An inhabitant of Hesse is called a "Hessian" or Hessin.
The American English term Hessian for 18th-century British auxiliary troops originates with Landgrave Frederick II of Hesse-Kassel hiring out regular army units to the government of Great Britain to fight in the American Revolutionary War.
The English form Hesse was in common use by the 18th century, first in the hyphenated names Hesse-Cassel and Hesse-Darmstadt, but the latinate form Hessia remained in common English usage well into the 19th century.
The German term Hessen is used by the European Commission even in English-language contexts because their policy is to leave regional names untranslated.
The synthetic element hassium, number 108 on the periodic table, was named after the state of Hesse in 1997, following a proposal of 1992.


The territory of Hesse was delineated only in 1945, as Greater Hesse, under American occupation. It corresponds only loosely to the medieval Landgraviate of Hesse.
In the 19th century, prior to the unification of Germany, the territory of what is now Hesse comprised the territories of Grand Duchy of Hesse, the Duchy of Nassau, the free city of Frankfurt and the Electorate of Hesse.

Early history

The Central Hessian region was inhabited in the Upper Paleolithic.
Finds of tools in southern Hesse in Rüsselsheim suggest the presence of Pleistocene hunters about 13,000 years ago. A fossil hominid skull that was found in northern Hesse, just outside the village of Rhünda, has been dated at 12,000 years ago.
The Züschen tomb is a prehistoric burial monument, located between Lohne and Züschen, near Fritzlar, Hesse, Germany. Classified as a gallery grave or a Hessian-Westphalian stone cist, it is one of the most important megalithic monuments in Central Europe. Dating to c. 3000 BC, it belongs to the Late Neolithic Wartberg culture.
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 around the 1st century BC, and the name Hesse is a continuation of that tribal name.
The ancient Romans had a military camp in Dorlar, and in Waldgirmes directly on the eastern outskirts of Wetzlar was a civil settlement under construction. Presumably, the provincial government for the occupied territories of the right bank of Germania was planned at this location. The governor of Germania, at least temporarily, likely had resided here. The settlement appears to have been abandoned by the Romans after the devastating Battle of the Teutoburg Forest failed in the year AD 9. The Chatti were also involved in the Revolt of the Batavi in AD 69.
Hessia, from the early 7th century on, served as a buffer between areas dominated by the Saxons and the Franks, who brought the area to the south under their control in the early sixth century and occupied Thuringia in 531. Hessia occupies the northwestern part of the modern German state of Hesse; its borders were not clearly delineated. Its geographic center is Fritzlar; it extends in the southeast to Hersfeld on the Fulda River, in the north to past Kassel and up to the rivers Diemel and Weser. To the west, it occupies the valleys of the Rivers Eder and Lahn. It measured roughly 90 kilometers north-south, and 80 north-west.
The area around Fritzlar shows evidence of significant pagan belief from the 1st century on. Geismar was a particular focus of such activity; it was continuously occupied from the Roman period on, with a settlement from the Roman period, which itself had a predecessor from the 5th century BC. Excavations have produced a horse burial and bronze artifacts. A possible religious cult may have centered on a natural spring in Geismar, called Heilgenbron; the name "Geismar" itself may be derived from that spring.
The village of, now a part of Gudensberg near Fritzlar and less than ten miles from Geismar, was likely an ancient religious center; the basaltic outcrop of Gudensberg is named after Wodan, and a two-meter tall quartzite megalith called the Wotanstein is at the center of the village.
By the mid-7th century, the Franks had established themselves as overlords, which is suggested by archeological evidence of burials, and they built fortifications in various places, including Christenberg. By 690, they took direct control over Hessia, apparently to counteract expansion by the Saxons, who built fortifications in Gaulskopf and Eresburg across the River Diemel, the northern boundary of Hessia. The Büraburg was one of the places the Franks fortified to resist the Saxon pressure, and according to John-Henry Clay, the Büraburg was "probably the largest man-made construction seen in Hessia for at least seven hundred years". Walls and trenches totaling one kilometer in length were made, and they enclosed "8 hectares of a spur that offered a commanding view over Fritzlar and the densely-populated heart of Hessia".
Following Saxon incursions into Chattish territory in the 7th century, two gaue had been established; a Frankish one, comprising an area around Fritzlar and Kassel, and a Saxonian one. In the 9th century, the Saxon Hessengau also came under the rule of the Franconians.

Holy Roman Empire

In the 12th century, Hessengau was passed to Thuringia.
In the War of the Thuringian Succession, Hesse gained 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 among his four sons from his first marriage into four lines: Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Rheinfels, and the also previously existing Hesse-Marburg. As the latter two lines died out quite soon, 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.
The Landgrave Frederick II ruled as a benevolent despot, from 1760 to 1785. He combined Enlightenment ideas with Christian values, cameralist plans for central control of the economy, and a militaristic approach toward diplomacy. He funded the depleted treasury of the poor government by loaning 19,000 soldiers in complete military formations to Great Britain to fight in North America during the American Revolutionary War, 1776–1783. These soldiers, commonly known as Hessians, fought under the British flag. The British used the Hessians in several conflicts, including in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. For further revenue, the soldiers were loaned to other places as well. Most were conscripted, with their pay going to the Landgrave.

Modern history

The ruler of Hesse-Kassel was elevated to the status of Prince-Elector in 1803, but this remained without effect, as the Holy Roman Empire was disbanded in 1806. The territory was annexed by Napoleon to 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 title. 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, the small Landgraviate of Hesse-Homburg, and the Duchy of Nassau, which were then combined into the province of Hesse-Nassau.
Hesse-Darmstadt was elevated by Napoleon to the status of a Grand Duchy in 1806, becoming the Grand Duchy of Hesse. 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. However, the parts of Hesse-Darmstadt north of the Main were incorporated in the Norddeutscher Bund, a tight federation of German states, established by Prussia in 1867. In 1871, after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the rest of the Grand Duchy joined the German Empire. Around the turn of the 20th century, Darmstadt was one of the centres of the Jugendstil. Until 1907, the Grand Duchy of Hesse used 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 "Volksstaat Hessen". The parts of Hesse-Darmstadt on the western banks of the Rhine were occupied by French troops until 1930 under the terms of the Versailles peace treaty that officially ended World War I in 1919. In 1929 the Principality of Waldeck was dissolved and incorporated into Hesse-Nassau.
After World War II, the Hessian territory west of the Rhine was again occupied by France, whereas the rest of the region was part of the US occupation zone. The French separated their part of Hesse from the rest of the region and incorporated it into the newly founded state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The United States, on the other side, proclaimed the state of Greater Hesse on 19 September 1945, out of Hesse-Darmstadt and most of the former Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau.
On 4 December 1946, Greater Hesse was officially renamed Hessen.
Hesse in the 1940s received more than a million displaced ethnic Germans.
Due to its proximity to the Inner German border, Hesse became an important location of NATO installations in the 1950s, especially military bases of the US V Corps and United States Army Europe.
The first elected minister president of Hesse was Christian Stock, followed by Georg-August Zinn. The German Social Democrats gained an absolute majority in 1962 and pursued progressive policies with the so-called Großer Hessenplan. The CDU gained a relative majority in the 1974 elections, but the Social Democrats continued to govern in a coalition with the FDP. Hesse was first governed by the CDU under Walter Wallmann during 1987–1991, replaced by a SPD-Greens coalition under Hans Eichel during 1991–1999. From 1999, Hesse was governed by the CDU under Roland Koch and Volker Bouffier.
Frankfurt during the 1960s to 1990s developed into one of the major cities of West Germany. As of 2016, 12% of the total population of Hesse lived in the city of Frankfurt.


Situated in west-central Germany, The state of Hesse borders the German states of Lower Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, and North Rhine-Westphalia.
Most of the population of Hesse lives in the southern part, in the Rhine Main Area. The principal cities of the area include Frankfurt am Main, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Offenbach, Hanau, Gießen, Wetzlar, and Limburg. Other major towns in Hesse are Fulda in the east, and Kassel and Marburg an der Lahn in the north. The densely populated Rhine-Main region is much better developed than the rural areas in the middle and northern parts of Hesse.
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 the numerous mountain ranges include the Rhön, the Westerwald, the Taunus, the Vogelsberg, the Knüll and the Spessart.
The Rhine borders Hesse on the southwest without running through the state, only one oxbow lake —– the so-called Alt-Rhein —– runs through Hesse. The mountain range between the Main and the Neckar Rivers is called the Odenwald. The plain between the rivers Main, Rhine, and Neckar, and the Odenwald Mountains is called the Ried.
Hesse is the greenest state in Germany, as forest covers 42% of the state.


Hesse is a unitary state governed directly by the Hessian government in the capital city Wiesbaden, partially through regional vicarious authorities called Regierungspräsidien. Municipal parliaments are, however, elected independently from the state government by the Hessian people. Local municipalities enjoy a considerable degree of home rule.


The state is divided into three administrative provinces : Kassel in the north and east, Gießen in the centre, and Darmstadt in the south, the latter being the most populous region with the Frankfurt Rhine-Main agglomeration in its central area. The administrative regions have no legislature of their own, but are executive agencies of the state government.
Hesse is divided into 21 districts and five independent cities, each with their own local governments. They are, shown with abbreviations as used on vehicle number plates:
  1. Bergstraße
  2. Darmstadt-Dieburg
  3. Groß-Gerau
  4. Hochtaunuskreis
  5. Main-Kinzig-Kreis
  6. Main-Taunus-Kreis
  7. Odenwaldkreis
  8. Offenbach
  9. Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis
  10. Wetteraukreis
  11. Gießen
  12. Lahn-Dill-Kreis
  13. Limburg-Weilburg
  14. Marburg-Biedenkopf
  15. Vogelsbergkreis
  16. Fulda
  17. Hersfeld-Rotenburg
  18. Kassel
  19. Schwalm-Eder-Kreis
  20. Werra-Meißner-Kreis
  21. Waldeck-Frankenberg
Independent cities:
  1. Darmstadt
  2. Frankfurt am Main
  3. Kassel
  4. Offenbach am Main
  5. Wiesbaden

    Rhenish Hesse

The term "Rhenish Hesse" refers to the part of the former Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt located west of the Rhine. It has not been part of the State of Hesse since 1946 due to divisions in the aftermath of World War II. This province is now part of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. It is a hilly countryside largely devoted to vineyards; therefore, it is also called the "land of the thousand hills". Its larger towns include Mainz, Worms, Bingen, Alzey, Nieder-Olm, and Ingelheim. Many inhabitants commute to work in Mainz, Wiesbaden, or Frankfurt.

State symbols and politics

Hesse has been a parliamentary republic since 1918, except during Nazi rule. The German federal system has elements of exclusive federal competences, shared competences, and exclusive competences of the federal states. Hesse is famous for having a rather brisk style in its politics with the ruling parties being either the center-right Christian Democratic Union or the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany. Due to the Hessian electoral laws, the biggest party normally needs a smaller coalition partner.

Head of state

As Hesse is a federal state, its constitution combines the offices of the head of state and head of government in one office called the Minister-President which is comparable to the office of a prime minister.

Most recent state election

In the 2018 state elections the two leading parties, CDU and SPD, lost 11.3% and 10.9% of the vote respectively. The Green party, a member of Hesse's previous governing coalition with CDU, gained 8.7%. The largest gains during the election were made by Alternative for Germany at 13.1%. As AfD had not passed the 5% threshold in the 2013 state election, this marked its first entry into the Hessian parliament. The two other parties also made gains. The major losses of the two leading parties closely mirrors the results of the 2018 state elections in Bavaria. In the current parliament the conservative CDU holds a 40 seats, the centre-left SPD and the leftist Green party each hold 29 seats, the right-wing AfD holds 19 seats, the liberal FDP party holds 11 seats and the socialist party Die Linke holds 9 seats.

Foreign affairs

As a member state of the German federation, Hesse does not have a diplomatic service of its own. However, Hesse operates representation offices in such foreign countries as the United States, China, Hungary, Cuba, Russia, Poland, and Iran. These offices are mostly used to represent Hessian interests in cultural and economic affairs. Hesse has also permanent representation offices in Berlin at the federal government of Germany and in Brussels at the institutions of the European Union.

Flag and anthem

The flag colors of Hesse are red and white. The Hessian coat of arms shows a lion rampant striped with red and white. The official anthem of Hesse is called "Hessenlied" and was written by Albrecht Brede and Carl Preser.


Hesse has a population of over 6 million, nearly 4 million of which is concentrated in the Rhein-Main region in the south of the state, an area that includes the most populous city, Frankfurt am Main, the capital Wiesbaden, and Darmstadt and Offenbach. The population of Hesse is predicted to shrink by 4.3% by 2030, with the biggest falls in the north of the state, especially in the area around the city of Kassel. Frankfurt is the fastest growing city with a predicted rise in population of 4.8% by 2030. Frankfurt's growth is driven by its importance as a financial centre and it receives immigrants from all over the world: in 2015 over half of the city's population had an immigrant background.

Vital statistics

German is the official language, but many Hessian people also speak a Rhine Franconian dialect known as Hessisch.


The Hessian government has overall responsibility for the education within the state. Hesse has several universities, including Technische Universität Darmstadt, Goethe University Frankfurt, and the University of Marburg, one of the oldest universities in Germany. There are many international schools in Hesse, primarily centred in and around Frankfurt.


In 2016 Christianity was the most widespread religion in the state. 40% of Hessians belonged to the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau or Evangelical Church of Hesse Electorate-Waldeck, 25% adhered to the Roman Catholic Church, while other Christians constituted some 3%, the third most common religion of the Hessian population is Islam with 7% of the population.


Hesse has a rich and varied cultural history, with many important cultural and historical centres and several UNESCO world-heritage sites.

Cultural influences

The southern parts of Hesse were deeply influenced by the fact that they belonged to the Grand Duchy of Hesse, an independent state until 1871, while the northern region of what is today the State of Hesse came under strong Prussian influence.

Architecture, art, literature and music

has a rich cultural heritage as the former seat of the Landgraves and Grand Dukes of Hesse. It is known as centre of the art nouveau Jugendstil and modern architecture and there are also several important examples of 19th century architecture influenced by British and Russian imperial architecture due to close family ties of the Grand Duke's family to the reigning dynasties in London and Saint Petersburg in the Grand Duchy period. Darmstadt is an important centre for music, home of the Darmstädter Ferienkurse for contemporary music and the Jazz Institute Darmstadt, Europe's largest public jazz archive.
Frankfurt am Main is a major international cultural centre. Over 2 million people visit the city's approximately 60 exhibition centres every year. Amongst its most famous art galleries are the Schirn Kunsthalle, a major centre for international modern art, and the Städel, whose large collections include over 3000 paintings, 4000 photographs, and 100,000 drawings including works by Picasso, Monet, Rembrandt and Dürer. Goethe was born in Frankfurt and there is a museum in his birthplace. Frankfurt has many music venues, including an award winning opera house, the Alte Oper, and the Jahrhunderthalle. Its several theatres include the English Theatre, the largest English-speaking theatre on the European continent.
Kassel has many palaces and parks, including Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, a Baroque landscape park and UNESCO World Heritage site. The Brothers Grimm lived and worked in Kassel for 30 years and the recently opened Grimmwelt museum explores their lives, works and influence and features their personal copies of the Children's and Household Tales, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage "Memory of the World" Document register. The Fridericianum, built in 1779, is one of the oldest public museums in Europe. Kassel is also home to the documenta, a large modern art exhibition that has taken place every five years since the 1950s.
The Hessian Ministry of the Arts supports numerous independent cultural initiatives, organisations, and associations as well as artists from many fields including music, literature, theatre and dance, cinema and the new media, graphic art, and exhibitions. International cultural projects aim to further relations with European partners.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Hesse has several UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include:
Frankfurt hosts the following professional sports teams or clubs:
Frankfurt is host to the classic cycle race Eschborn-Frankfurt City Loop. The city hosts also the annual Frankfurt Marathon and the Ironman Germany.
Outside Frankfurt, notable professional sports teams include SV Darmstadt 98, Marburg Mercenaries, Gießen 46ers, MT Melsungen, VfB Friedberg, and the Kassel Huskies.

TV and radio stations

The Hessian state broadcasting corporation is called HR. HR is a member of the federal ARD broadcasting association. HR provides a statewide TV channel as well as a range of regional radio stations. Besides the state run HR, privately run TV stations exist and are an important line of commerce. Among the commercial radio stations that are active in Hesse, Hit Radio FFH, Planet Radio, Harmony FM, Radio BOB and Antenne Frankfurt are the most popular.


With Hesse's largest city Frankfurt am Main being home of the European Central Bank, the German Bundesbank and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, Hesse is home to the financial capital of mainland Europe. Furthermore, Hesse has always been one of the largest and healthiest economies in Germany. Its GDP in 2013 exceeded €236 billion. This makes Hesse itself one of the largest economies in Europe and the 38th largest in the world. According to GDP-per-capita figures, Hesse is the wealthiest state in Germany with approx. US$52,500.
The Rhine-Main Region has the second largest industrial density in Germany after the Ruhr area. The main economic fields of importance are the chemical and pharmaceutical industries with Sanofi, Merck, Heraeus, Messer Griesheim and Degussa. In the mechanical and automotive engineering field Opel in Rüsselsheim is worth mentioning. Frankfurt is crucial as a financial center, with both the European Central Bank and the Deutsche Bundesbank's headquarters located there. Numerous smaller banks and Deutsche Bank, DZ Bank, KfW Bank, Commerzbank are also headquartered in Frankfurt, with the offices of several international banks also being housed there. Frankfurt is also the location of the most important German stock exchange, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Insurance companies have settled mostly in Wiesbaden. The city's largest private employer is the R+V Versicherung, with about 3,900 employees, other major employers are DBV-Winterthur, the SV SparkassenVersicherung and the Delta Lloyd Group. The leather industry is predominantly settled in Offenbach. The company operating Frankfurt Airport is one of the largest employers in Hesse with nearly 22.000 employees. Companies with an international reputation are located outside the Rhine-Main region in Wetzlar. There is the center of the optical, electrical and precision engineering industries, Leitz, Leica, Minox, Hensoldt, Buderus and Brita with several plants in central Hesse. In east Fulda there is the rubber plant. In northern Hesse, in Baunatal, Volkswagen AG has a large factory that manufactures spare parts. Bombardier has a large plant that manufactures Locomotives in Kassel.
The Hochtaunuskreis has the lowest Rate at 3.8% while the independent city of Kassel has the highest rate nationally at 12.1%. In October 2018 the unemployment rate stood at 4.4% and was lower than the national average.
Unemployment rate in %

Traffic and public transportation

Many trans-European and German motorways, high-speed rail lines, and waterways cross Hesse. Frankfurt Airport is Germany's largest and Europe's third-largest airport. Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof is Germany's second-busiest railway station by passengers but the busiest in terms of traffic.

Road transport

Hesse has a dense highway network with a total of 24 motorways. The internationally important motorway routes through Hesse are the A3, A5, and A7. Close to Frankfurt Airport is the Frankfurter Kreuz, Germany's busiest and one of Europe's busiest motorway junctions, where the motorways A3 and A5 intersect. The A5 becomes as wide as four lanes in each direction near the city of Frankfurt am Main, and during the rush-hour, it is possible to use the emergency lanes on the A3 and A5 motorway in the Rhine-Main Region, adding additional lanes. Other major leading Hesse highways are the A4, the A44, the A45, the Federal Highway A66 and the A67. There are also a number of smaller motorways and major trunk roads, some of which are dual carriageways.

Railway transport

Hesse is accessed by many major rail lines, including the high-speed lines Cologne–Frankfurt and Hanover–Würzburg. Other north-south connections traverse major east-west routes from Wiesbaden and Mainz to Frankfurt and from Hanau and Aschaffenburg to Fulda and Kassel. The Frankfurt Central Station is the most important hub for German trains, with over 1,100 trains per day.
The region around Frankfurt has an extensive S-Bahn network, the S-Bahn Rhein-Main, which is complemented by many regional train connections. In the rest of the country, the rail network is less extensive. Since 2007, the region around Kassel has been served by the RegioTram, a tram-train-concept similar to the Karlsruhe model.

Air transport

is by far the largest airport in Germany with more than 57 million passengers each year, is and among the world's ten largest. Frankfurt Egelsbach Airport lies to the south, and is frequented by general aviation and private planes. Kassel Airport offers a few flights to holiday destinations, but has struggled to compete. There are also a number of sports airfields. Low-cost airlines, especially Ryanair, use Frankfurt-Hahn Airport as a major base, although the airport is actually located about 100 km from Frankfurt in the neighbouring state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The DFS has its headquarters in Langen.