County of Hohnstein

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The county of Hohnstein around 1400
Hohnstein castle ruins 2013
Coat of arms of the Counts of Hohnstein

The Grafschaft Hohnstein (mostly Honstein at the time ) was a German county in the Harz Mountains . It existed as imperial territory until the division in 1593 .

Location and geography

The core of the County of Hohnstein can be traced back to the acquisitions of Count Eilger I von Ilfeld, who established his ancestral seat with the Ilburg in the southern Harz foreland above the Beretal at the beginning of the 12th century. This included an imperial forest part north of Ilburg, the Eilger from the Saxon Duke Lothar von Supplinburg and later Emperor Lothar III. for his military services.

The rule of Eilger extended up to the mountains over the then not yet existing settlement Neustadt and had three places of exclusion, Ohe, Espe and Forsthof, from which the village of Ilfeld arose. According to Eilger, the guardian of his son, Konrad von Sangerhausen, founded the county of Ilfeld-Hohnstein with the construction of Hohnstein Castle after 1130. He brought a closed territory in the Stolberg area, largely primeval forest, to the two castle seats, in which his family Forst, Owned hunting and fishing.


Middle Ages and early modern times (1182–1593)

The name of the county goes back to the Hohnstein Castle near Neustadt am Harz , first mentioned in 1130 , which the Counts of Ilfeld held since 1182 . Count Eilger III. von Ilfeld called himself Count von Hohnstein after his wedding to Reinwig von Orlamünde, whose grandfather, Konrad von Sangerhausen, had significantly expanded the castle . While the Counts of Ilfeld brought considerable forest holdings into the connection, they quickly gained property between Wipper and Upper Harz through the power of the influential castle .

In 1201, however, they had to cede the eastern part again to the branched line of the Counts of Stolberg . Between 1238 and 1267 the Counts of Hohnstein acquired the county of Klettenberg as a fiefdom of the Prince Diocese of Halberstadt and the bailiwick of the Walkenried monastery . Sömmerda was added in 1268 and the county of Lohra in the 14th century . The Sondershausen line, which was separated in 1289, penetrated into Thuringia . In 1315 there was another division.

In 1356 the Hohnstein- Sondershausen line became extinct in the male line; the Counts of Schwarzburg appeared as heirs . In 1373 the lines Hohnstein- Kelbra - Heringen and Hohnstein- Lohra - Klettenberg divided the county among themselves, whereby the ancestral county with the castle of the same name should remain in common ownership. In the Flegler War of 1412, part of the rulership was destroyed and ultimately the downfall of the Hohnsteiners was initiated. The ancestral county of Hohnstein with the castle of the same name fell through sale to the Counts of Stolberg in 1412/17.

In 1481 a branch of the Counts of Hohnstein received the rule of Schwedt an der Oder as a fief until it died out in 1609 .

While the Kelbra-Heringen line was later further divided, but surrendered all possessions in the southern Harz by the end of the 15th century, the Counts of Hohnstein continued to rule in the Lohra-Klettenberg line. They expanded their possessions again in the 16th century to include the counties of Scharzfeld and Lauterberg . With the county of Lauterberg, the Hohnsteiners also had access to the mining area of Sankt Andreasberg , where they proclaimed the first mountain freedom in 1521.

Division (1593–1648)

With the death of Ernst VII, the last of the male tribe of the Counts of Hohenstein, their rule came to an end in 1593. The Counts of Stolberg and Schwarzburg were temporarily given the county by means of a "hereditary brotherhood treaty", but were driven out a few days later by the troops of Duke Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig , who was also Bishop of Halberstadt, as he claimed the area as a fief. The Reichsvogtei over Nordhausen, which existed since 1253, went to Sachsen-Weimar .

The divided former county after 1632, copper engraving by Homann Erben , Nuremberg 1761

The counts sued the Imperial Court of Justice , but despite several judgments in their favor did not come into the possession of part of the rulers until 1632. Lohra (green) came to Schwarzburg, Klettenberg (yellow) to Stolberg. The eastern part (red) remained with the Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel . Due to the warlike events, however, the rule over the county changed several times. Among other things, it came to Christoph Simon von Thun . Since then, his family has been called Thun and Hohenstein , but lost control again during the war. At the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the former Hohnsteiner areas were occupied by the Swedish.

Prussian period (1648–1946)

In the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the county, with the exception of the Walkenried monastery, with the towns of Ellrich , Bleicherode and Sachsa, was awarded to the Electorate of Brandenburg . However, the incorporation was delayed until mid-1650. On June 19, the county's estates signed a treaty with the envoys of the Great Elector , which provided for a special government to be set up for the county under a director elected by the estates.

Johann VIII zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein, copper engraving around 1650

However, Elector Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg had promised his Privy Councilor, the Swedish Colonel Count Johann zu Sayn-Wittgenstein , the county of Hohnstein for his merits in the peace negotiations and had already signed them on March 27, 1647. However, the elector knew nothing about the true nature of the county. The Secret Council had assured him that the county consisted of only two offices and the town of Bleicherode and was only "worth a few 100 thalers". Even before the peace between Münster and Osnabrück was concluded, the Hohenstein knighthood and estates were notified of the enfeoffment of the county to the Count of Sayn-Wittgenstein, although "the high feudal, legal and justice rights reserved to your Cuhrfürstl Durchl."

Only later - probably through his Elector, who was present on June 19, 1650 in the county taking the oath of heredity. Sent from Blumenthal - experienced the Great Elector of the true size of the county, which consisted of the dominions Lohra and Klettenberg and three cities, a patch, two monasteries, forty-five official and fourteen noble villages, fourteen outworks, fifty manors and twenty-six free goods included . During their stay in the county, the electoral ambassadors must have acquired a completely different picture of the country and its people than what their master had before the peace. They present their perceptions of the greater extent and values ​​of the landscape to the Elector in community with the Halberstadt estates, who asked that the county should be reunited with Halberstadt. Now the elector regretted the assignment and therefore began new negotiations with the count, which were ended on October 8, 1650. A rescript stipulated that the county could be given back to Friedrich Wilhelm at any time in return for a payment of 150,000 thalers. However, the sum of 150,000 thalers was too high for the elector. In 1651, Count zu Sayn-Wittgenstein took office. He had previously assured the estates of their privileges and the administration of justice under Saxon law in the Ellrich Treaty of October 24, 1651.

Count Johann zu Sayn-Wittgenstein died in 1657. The Hohenstein estates now hoped that the elector would redeem the county and incorporate it into the principality of Halberstadt. Several times the estates presented the elector in this regard, but had little success. Of the deceased's 18 children, Counts Ludwig Christian , Gustav Otto and Friedrich Wilhelm were enfeoffed with Lohra and Klettenberg. On August 6, 1670, Count Christian Ludwig "deliberately ceded the government of the County of Hohenstein and the rule and office held by Lohra to his brother, Count Gustav zu Sayn-Wittgenstein", who thus became the sole ruler of the county and was now Count Gustav Sayn-Wittgenstein and Hohenstein called. The Hohenstein estates were dissatisfied with the frequent changes in government. There were "a lot of complaints from the estates". The elector then moved a permanent commission to Ellrich, which was responsible for collecting taxes and contributions. The negotiations between the elector and the count about the voluntary relinquishment of the county became more acute, especially since the administration of the property was “extremely frighteningly negligent” and the “finances were in a precarious state of decline”. The Great Elector died in April 1688. His son and heir to the throne Friedrich III . negotiated with Count Gustav for another eleven years, who tried all sorts of refinements and tricks to keep the Grafschaft Hohenstein. On March 8, 1699, he had "the government of Ellrich publicly announce from the pulpit that the county had been transferred to him by commissionem". The seat of government was moved from Bleicherode to Ellrich in 1691.

After this incident, the patience of Frederick III. over. On November 25, 1699, he ordered the end of the trial and finally seized the County of Hohenstein on December 12, using force. The elector paid Count Gustav zu Sayn-Wittgen- and Hohenstein 100,000 thalers and took on the debt of almost 300,000 thalers that lay on the county.

In 1714 the "Prussian state government for the County of Hohenstein" in Ellrich - as it was called at the time - was abolished and the entire area - without the free imperial city of Nordhausen - was placed under the Prussian War and Domain Chamber in Halberstadt. In 1770 the Prussian general directorate in Berlin decided to set up a domain chamber deputation in Ellrich.

After the battles at Jena and Auerstedt lost for Brandenburg-Prussia in 1806, the district including the city of Nordhausen, which had belonged to Prussia since 1802, belonged to the Kingdom of Westphalia until 1813, ruled by Jérôme, Napoleon's brother.

In 1816 the county of Hohenstein became part of the Prussian province of Saxony. In the 19th century, its name referred to the county that emerged from the Honstein-Lohra-Klettenberg line; In addition, there was the former ancestral Hohnstein County around Ilfeld and Neustadt, which had partially become Welfisch from the property of the Stolberg Counts in 1803 and was initially run under the name of Hohnstein Province, then Hohnstein County and finally Hohnstein Office from 1815 in the Kingdom of Hanover . After Prussia had incorporated Hanover as a province in 1866, an administrative reform came into force in 1885, in which the Hohnstein office was combined with the Elbingerode office to form the Ilfeld district (both offices were separated from each other by Brunswick territory). On 1 October 1932, the county was divided Ilfeld: The old office Hohnstein was the county county Hohenstein in the administrative district of Erfurt of the Prussian province of Saxony affiliated with the old office Elbingerode among Wernigerode in the Region of Magdeburg (also province of Saxony).

Part of Thuringia (since 1946)

In 1946 the area came to the state of Thuringia . In 1952, with the dissolution of the states in the GDR , the area came to the district of Erfurt and in 1990 it became part of the state of Thuringia again.


  • Köbler, Gerhard: Historical Lexicon of the German States Munich 1988.
  • Iffland, Steffen and Hellberg, Rainer: From the county of Hohnstein to the district of Nordhausen .
  • Köstner, Lothar, In the footsteps of Count Eilgers von Ilfeld, Nordhausen 2005.
  • Johann Gottfried Hoche: Complete history of the County of Hohenstein, the dominions Lohra and Klettenberg, Heeringen, Kelbra, Scharzfeld, Lutterberg, the two founders Ilfeld and Walkenried: together with a statistical description of the Prussian share in this county. An appendix to the Brandenburg, Brunswick, Stollberg, Schwarzburg and Witgenstein history . Francke and Bispink, 1790 ( preview and free e-book in the Google book search).
  • Karl Meyer: Chronicle of the county of Hohnstein-Clettenberg-Lohra. Documented news about the Nordhausen district and the Oerter located in it, Nordhausen 1875
  • Karl Meyer: The large Landwehr on the western border of the County of Hohenstein-Lohra-Clettenberg. Journal of the Harz Association for History and Archeology (10) 1877, pages 185 ff.
  • Friedrich Christian Lesser: History of the County of Hohnstein. Based on the manuscript in the Thuringian main state archive in Weimar. Edited by Peter Kuhlbrodt, vol. 5 of the series of publications by the Friedrich Christian Lesser Foundation, Nordhausen 1997,
  • Ernst Schubert: The Harz counts in the late Middle Ages. In: Rogge, Jörg and Uwe Schirmer (eds.): High nobility in Central Germany (1200 to 1600). Forms - Legitimation - Representation, Leipzig 2003
  • Rudolf Reichhardt: The County of Hohenstein in the 16th and 17th Centuries - Festschrift for the 200th anniversary of the union of the County of Hohenstein with the Brandenburg-Prussian state, December 12, 1899
  • Paul Becker: The Counts of Ilfeld-Honstein in the politics of the 13th century , in: Contributions to history from the city and district of Nordhausen 35 (2010), pp. 33–41.
  • Frank Boblenz : Stands in the county of Honstein when it belonged to Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel 1593-1628 / 1636. In: Land estates in Thuringia. Pre-parliamentary structures and political culture in the Old Reich (writings on the history of parliamentarism in Thuringia; 27). Published by the Thuringian Parliament. Erfurt and Weimar 2008, pp. 315–351. ISBN 978-3-86160-527-0

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Andreasberger Berg Freiheit from 1521 on Wikisource