Evangelical Church in Hesse

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The Evangelical Church in Hesse was a regional church of the German Empire that existed until 1934. Their area included the Landgraviate of Hessen-Darmstadt or its successor, the Grand Duchy of Hessen (1806-1919) and the People's State of Hesse , which existed until 1945 and whose capital was Darmstadt. It went on in 1934 or finally in 1947 in the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau (or until 1945 the "Evangelical State Church Nassau-Hesse").


Landgrave Philip the Magnanimous , who had been a follower of Martin Luther since 1524, was the first imperial prince to introduce the Reformation in the Landgraviate of Hesse on the basis of the Homberg Synod held in October 1526 . One of the first measures was the confiscation of the monastery property, which, among other things, enabled the University of Marburg to be founded (1527). After the Treaty of Hitzkirchen (1528) he was able to expand the work of the Reformation. With the Marburg Religious Discussion of 1529, the Landgrave tried in vain to mediate between the Wittenberg Reformation, which was shaped by Luther, and the Swiss Reformation, which was shaped by Huldrych Zwingli . Nevertheless, in 1531 he was able to reach the Schmalkaldic League as a union of Protestants including the Upper Germans. The church ordinance of 1532 was based on Luther and Melanchthon. In the following years, however, Martin Bucer gained greater influence on church politics, which was particularly evident in the Ziegenhainer Zuchtordnung of 1539. The crisis triggered by Philip's double marriage (1540) endangered the Reformation in Hesse and throughout the empire; after returning from his five-year captivity (1552), however, he was able to stabilize the Reformation in Hesse again.

In 1567, after Philip's death, the landgraviate was divided. In 1574 the Hessian churches still gave each other a common church order, but in the following period they separated. In the Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel , Landgrave Moritz I promoted the Reformed Confession from around 1601 . The Evangelical Church of Hessen-Kassel merged with the Evangelical Church in Waldeck to form the Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck . Since Reformed teaching was started at the University of Marburg from 1605, the Landgraviate of Hessen-Darmstadt founded the University of Gießen in 1607 , which soon developed into a stronghold of Lutheran Orthodoxy . A state catechism written by Johannes Winckelmann in 1625 and a general church visit in 1627/28 served to strengthen it . The first attempts by court preacher Johann Winckler , who was a friend of Philipp Jakob Spener , to establish Pietism in the royal seat of Darmstadt ended in 1678 with his expulsion; However, when Landgravine Elisabeth Dorothea took over the regency for her underage son Ernst Ludwig that same year , Pietism soon became the dominant trend in the Landgraviate. His supporters included the court preachers Abraham Hinckelmann and Johann Christoph Bilefeld and the Giessen professors and superintendents Johann Heinrich May the Elder and Johann Jakob Rambach . In the second half of the 18th century, the Enlightenment and rationalism prevailed.

With the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss , joining the Rhine Confederation and the Congress of Vienna , the territory of the Grand Duchy of Hesse expanded to include additional areas, including some with a predominantly non-Lutheran population. In 1816 Rheinhessen was founded as the third province (alongside Starkenburg and Upper Hesse) . A large majority of the population there voted in a vote in 1822 for the implementation of a union of Lutheran and Reformed congregations. In the two other provinces, individual parishes were united, but the majority remained Lutheran. In 1837 the Friedberg seminary was founded to prepare the candidates for their second exams . The revival movement had its strongholds especially in the Hessian hinterland , in Offenbach and in parts of Rheinhessen, while the Protestant association often dominated in the cities .

During the Weimar Republic, the church adopted a new constitution in 1922 and joined the German Evangelical Church Federation. Already since 1926 a merger of the five Hessian regional churches had been discussed. However, the plan presented to the Marburg Conference in 1932 was thwarted when the National Socialists came to power. Instead, on September 12, 1933, separate synods of the three southern churches (Hessen-Darmstadt, Nassau and Frankfurt am Main ) decided to merge without Hessen-Kassel and Waldeck , which came into force in 1934. In 1945 the three churches became independent for a short time, but finally united in 1947. The Hesse-Darmstadt Church thus became for the most part the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau .

Leadership of the church

Until the end of the sovereign church regiment, the respective sovereigns exercised the leadership of the church. To this end, superintendents served them as spiritual supervisors since 1527 , in Darmstadt for the Upper County of Katzenelnbogen , in Gießen (where at times three superintendents existed at the same time) for Upper Hesse . A Hessian peculiarity were the definitories, spiritual authorities at the seats of the superintendent, who were responsible for examining the candidates and filling the pastoral positions. Independent consistories in Darmstadt and Gießen only emerged with the official church convention order of 1668, through which the church administration was now centralized.

The consistories were replaced in 1803 by church and school councils of the provinces; In 1818 a church and school council was created at the Mainz provincial government, and Mainz became the seat of a third superintendent for Rheinhessen. The constitution of the Grand Duchy of Hesse created the office of a prelate appointed for life in 1820 , who had a virile vote in the first chamber of the state estates of the Grand Duchy of Hesse . The office was usually associated with the superintendent of the Starkenburg province. In 1832, a central management authority was created for the first time with the senior consistory in Darmstadt. In 1874, the regional church was given a constitution with presbyterial-synodal elements based on the model of the Rhenish-Westphalian church order of 1835 : parish councils and church councils were set up at the parish level, and deanship synods at the dean's level. The regional synod exercised ecclesiastical legislation in community with the sovereign, who remained "summus episcopus". Converted to the state church convention by the new church constitution in 1922, it exercised church leadership during the time of the people's state. The state church government and (as the successor to the senior consistory) the state church office with the prelate at the head became the management and administrative authority.


President of the senior consistory (from 1922 of the regional church office) in Darmstadt

Prelates of the regional church


  • Wilhelm Diehl : Hassia sacra . Vol. 1-12. 1921-1951.
  • Wilhelm Diehl (Ed.): Handbook for the Evangelical Church in Hesse. Regional Church Office Darmstadt, 7th edition 1929.
  • Heinrich Steitz : History of the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau. 5 volumes, Marburg 1961–1977, ISBN 3-87822-068-5 .
  • Karl Dienst : Politics and religious culture in Hesse and Nassau between “state change” (1918) and “national revolution” (1933): causes and consequences. Peter Lang, Frankfurt 2010, ISBN 978-3631604694 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Dienst : Darmstadt and the Protestant church history in Hesse. Texts and contexts. Darmstadt 2007, pp. 165-200.
  2. ^ Karl Dienst: Darmstadt and the Protestant church history in Hesse. Texts and contexts. Darmstadt 2007, pp. 201-223.
  3. Handbook of the German Protestant Churches 1918 to 1949: Organs - Offices - Associations - People (= work on contemporary church history, series A, sources, vol. 20). Edited by Heinz Boberach, Carsten Nicolaisen and Ruth Pabst. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010, Vol. 2 Landes- und Provinzialkirchen, p. 222.
  4. Handbook of the German Protestant Churches 1918 to 1949: Organs - Offices - Associations - People (= work on contemporary church history, series A, sources, vol. 20). Edited by Heinz Boberach, Carsten Nicolaisen and Ruth Pabst. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010, Vol. 2 Landes- und Provinzialkirchen, p. 226; Müller, Friedrich in the Hessian biography .