AD 1458 - 1500 / 1567 - 1604
Marburg in what is now western
key cities. It is situated in what was central Hesse, located on the
River Lahn, and had usually served as the capital of the early duchy
before Kassel superseded it. The landgraviate of Hesse was a single,
unified, and enlargened state from 1458, following a division of
territory within the
Holy Roman empire.
The landgraviate was now centred on the city of Kassel and the new ruler,
Ludwig III (IV), created a sub-landgraviate for his younger brother,
Henry. This was based around Marburg, capital of the Oberhessen half
of the state (Upper Hesse), which had now been relegated in importance.
Ludwig remained the senior landgrave in Hesse, which meant that he
largely took care of state matters while Henry concerned himself with
local governance, at least in theory.
This first creation of the landgraviate of Marburg ended in 1500 when
William the Younger died without having produced a male heir. Very soon
afterwards, Duke Philip the Magnanimous or Generous acceded to the
senior title at the age of five. He soon became the single most influential
figure in the history of all of the various Hessian territories. One of the
political leaders of the Reformation, it was during his reign that Hesse
played a role of great importance in the Reich (meaning 'empire' - in this
Holy Roman empire
which covered most of Central Europe). Hesse's city of Frankfurt-am-Main
was for a long time a free imperial city, serving as the location in
which German emperors were crowned.
Following Philip's death in 1567, Hesse was divided into the regions of
Hessen-Marburg (recreating this division anew),
one each for Philip's four sons. The rulers of Hessen-Darmstadt continued to
hold the title of landgraf ('landgrave' in English), although they formed the
most junior of the four branches and, along with Rheinfels, the smallest of
the four Hessen divisions, gaining just an eighth of the previous duchy's
land. Thanks to its previous status, Marburg was the secondmost senior
branch of this new division of territory. Its share of the former duchy's
total land holdings amounted to fully a quarter, but its ruling line again
died out quickly and a disagreement broke out about its future. In the end
it was divided between Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt and effectively
ceased to exist as a territory in its own right.
(Additional information from Coercion, Capital, and European States,
Charles Tilly, 1992, and from External Links:
Historical Atlas of Germany, and
History Learning Site.)
1491 - 1493
William the Elder, landgrave of
on pilgrimage to
Jerusalem. On his journey he contracts an illness (possibly syphilis).
He abdicates his title in favour of his co-ruling brother, William the
Intermediate, who becomes Landgrave William II. William the Elder lives in
self-imposed exile in the town of Spangenberg in north-eastern Hesse.
1500 - 1567
dies without having produced a male heir. Landgrave William II of
therefore reunifies Hesse's divided territories to form a single, elevated
During this period, Marburg Castle pays host to the Marburg Colloquy, in
which Duke Philip fails to get the two main divisions of Protestantism to
agree a united front in the face of Catholic opposition. Following Philip's
death in 1567, Hesse is divided into the regions of
one each for Philip's four sons.
In 1529 Philip paid host to Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli at
the Religious Colloquium of Marburg, accompanied by some of
their followers including Melanchthon (as shown in this wood
carving of 1557)