Starkenburg (Province)

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The coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Hesse, Province of Starkenburg
The three provinces of the People's State of Hesse, 1930

The province of Starkenburg was one of four provinces of the Grand Duchy and later the People's State of Hesse . It existed from 1803 as a principality, from 1816 to 1937 as a province. The capital was Darmstadt , the most important industrial city Offenbach .


Consolidation 1803–1823

Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1803

In the Principality of Starkenburg , the Landgraviate of Hessen-Darmstadt combined the old and new areas east of the Rhine and south of the Main after the territorial gains made by the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1803. The old stock was mainly the Upper County of Katzenelnbogen . Newly acquired were:

By a state treaty of March 14, 1803 with the Margraviate of Baden , the Landgraviate of Hessen-Darmstadt received:

everything from the profits of the margraviate through the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss.

Name decisive for the new administrative unit was the newly acquired former Electoral Mainz , initially after the eponymous castle named Oberamt Starkenburg in the south of the Principality.

Rhine Federation Act 1806

In 1806, under threat of an invasion , Napoleon forced the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt (and 15 other states) to leave the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation , the Confederation of the Rhine by these states and high military contingents to be placed in France. In addition to the increase in rank of the county to the Grand Duchy, this was "sweetened" with territorial gains. It should be noted, however, that all of the territories gained through the Rhine Confederation Act were subject to the state sovereignty of the Grand Duchy, but the sovereign rights of the previous sovereigns, the larger now class lords , were retained to a considerable extent. The territorial increase for the Principality of Starkenburg through the Rhine Confederation Act consisted of the following areas that have now become class lords:

and the former imperial knighthood areas

After the territorial gains of 1806, the province had 182,000 inhabitants, 42,000 of them in the "sovereign lands", which were only subject to state sovereignty to a limited extent.

Further territorial gains

Further territorial gains came in the following years. On May 11, 1810, the Grand Duchy and the French Empire signed a state treaty with which France gave territories to the Grand Duchy that it had taken from Electorate Hesse in 1806. The treaty concluded in May was not signed by Napoléon until October 17, 1810. The Hessian occupation patent is dated November 10, 1810. The Grand Duchy acquired the Babenhausen office for the Starkenburg province in this way .

In the autumn of 1810 there was another triangular deal between France, Hesse and the Grand Duchy of Baden . Baden put its own territories at the disposal of France, which then passed them on to the Grand Duchy of Hesse in a state treaty dated November 11, 1810. The Hessian occupation patent was dated November 13, 1810 and included

There were further territorial gains with the conclusion of the Congress of Vienna in 1816. In the same year the principality was renamed "Province" as part of an administrative reform.

Until the administrative reforms from 1820 to 1823, the province was divided into offices . Even after that, there were still some offices that belonged entirely to the class lords . Since the Middle Ages, offices have been a level between the municipalities and the sovereignty . The functions of administration and jurisdiction were not separated here. The office was headed by a bailiff who was appointed by the rulers.

The division of office was largely unchanged from the predecessor states. As a result, the offices were completely different in scope. The range ranged from just one municipality ( Wimpfen office ) to 46 municipalities ( Breuberg office ). In addition, in these years there were also civil sovereignty rights in addition to the state . There were "Domaniallands", in which the state possessed full sovereignty, but also "sovereign lands", in which landlords exercised sovereign rights to varying degrees in the areas of administration and jurisdiction.

The state was keen to standardize this and enforce a state monopoly on the use of force . After the end of the Napoleonic wars up to 1823, individual offices were first merged and then in a large-scale regional reform in 1821 the offices in the Starkenburg and Upper Hesse provinces were dissolved and administration and jurisdiction were also separated at this level. District districts were created for the administrative tasks previously performed in the offices, and district courts for the first instance jurisdiction.

The existing sovereignty of the landlords was bought from some of them by the state. The conclusion of the corresponding contracts took a long time. The process was so far completed in 1823 that the state exercised the sovereign rights to which the noblemen were still formally entitled in some cases - this was structured differently in each individual case. This guaranteed that administration and jurisdiction were handled uniformly by the state. However, some of the class lords were not eliminated until the March Revolution of 1848.

Experiments 1823-1852

Even before 1832, district districts were merged in individual cases, followed by a new regional reform in 1832: The units were enlarged by creating districts in which district districts were combined:

The provinces, the counties and the administrative districts of the Grand Duchy were abolished in the course of the March Revolution on July 31, 1848 and replaced by administrative districts:

In the subsequent reaction era, this was reversed on May 12, 1852 and the circle division from the time before the revolution was restored. The districts of Lindenfels, Neustadt and Wimpfen were dissolved in 1874 and the communities administered by them were assigned to neighboring districts.

Holdings 1852–1937

In 1871, Hesse became part of the German Empire . In 1874 the Grand Duchy of Hesse reformed its district constitution based on the Prussian model and also introduced a new district division. The then created structure of the Starkenburg province existed until its dissolution. There the circles now existed:

The organization of the Starkenburg Province remained unaffected by the republican constitution of the now People's State of Hesse from 1918. In 1938 the three provinces of Starkenburg, Upper Hesse and Rheinhessen were abolished.


In 1945, the American military government reverted to the concept of the "Starkenburg Province": on April 14, 1945, it commissioned Ludwig Bergsträsser to form a "Government for the Starkenburg Province". From May 8, 1945, Bergstrasse was its president. On August 8, 1945, his government was renamed "German Government of the State of Hesse", with which the provinces also formally lost their last meaning.

Until 2007, the Starkenburg region worked in almost the same area - excluding the city and district of Offenbach .

Remaining from 1945

When Groß-Hesse was founded in 1945, the exclaves Steinbach (to the Obertaunuskreis in the Wiesbaden administrative region ) and Bad Wimpfen (to the state of Württemberg-Baden ) were separated from Starkenburg, while the Groß-Gerau district received the Mainz districts of Bischofsheim , Ginsheim, which had been on the right bank of the Rhine since 1930 and Gustavsburg back. In 1974 Steinheim and Klein-Auheim from the Offenbach district were incorporated into the city of Hanau .

With the exception of the changes and minor border corrections mentioned in the area of Frankfurt Airport, the area of ​​the province corresponds to today's districts of Bergstrasse , Darmstadt-Dieburg , Groß-Gerau , Odenwald and Offenbach as well as the independent cities of Darmstadt and Offenbach.


Original office structure


In 1821/22 the offices were canceled and district councils were formed.

District of Bensheim in Bensheim District District Breuberg in Breuberg
Darmstadt District District in Darmstadt District District Dieburg in Dieburg
Dornberg District District in Dornberg District of Erbach in Erbach
District District Heppenheim in Heppenheim Hirschhorn district in Hirschhorn
District of Langen in Langen District Lindenfels in Lindenfels
Offenbach District District in Offenbach am Main   District of Reinheim in Reinheim
District District Seligenstadt in Seligenstadt Wimpfen District District in Wimpfen


The province was divided into districts on August 20, 1832 , but the territorial district districts remained unaffected:

  • Bensheim (merged with the Heppenheim district to form the Bergstrasse district on November 1, 1938 )
  • Heppenheim (merged with the Bensheim district to form the Bergstrasse district on November 1, 1938)
  • Erbach
  • Darmstadt (on November 1, 1938, divided into the city and district of Darmstadt)
  • The castle
  • Gross-Gerau
  • Lindenfels (founded in 1852, dissolved in 1874, municipalities spread over the districts of Erbach, Bensheim and Heppenheim)
  • Neustadt (founded in 1852, dissolved in 1874, municipalities distributed between the districts of Erbach and Dieburg)
  • Offenbach (on November 1, 1938, divided into the city and district of Offenbach)
  • Wimpfen (founded in 1852, incorporated into the Heppenheim district on July 1, 1874).

The remaining (civil) district districts were dissolved after the March Revolution in 1848 and the remaining civil privileges were abolished with the “Law on the Relationships of Classes and Noble Court Lords” of April 15, which was passed on August 9, 1848.

The administrative districts were dissolved in 1852, after the restitution, and a district division was established again.

Provincial Directors


In the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt , the judicial system was reorganized in an executive order of December 9, 1803. At the top was the Darmstadt Higher Appeal Court . It was the highest court in the entire state.

The “Hofgericht Darmstadt” was set up for the principality and later province of Starkenburg. It was responsible in the second instance for civil matters and in the first instance in criminal matters and for noblemen. In the territories of the class there were judicial offices, which were subordinate to the court court, for second instance proceedings.

The jurisdiction of the first instance in civil matters was exercised by the offices and, in some areas, also by the patrimonial courts of the landlords . The tasks of the first instance were transferred to the newly created regional courts in the administrative reform of 1821, in which jurisdiction and administration were also separated. With the Courts Constitution Act of 1879, which was valid throughout the German Reich , the designation of the courts was adapted: The “Hofgericht Darmstadt” became the “ Regional Court Darmstadt ”, the previous regional courts “District Court”.

Worth knowing

In Giessen, the Corps Starkenburgia bears the name of the former Hessian province.

In the provincial area, the Evangelical Starkenburger community association was founded in 1923 . At the beginning of the 21st century it was renamed "Evangelical Community Association Rhein-Main" through merger.


  • L. Ewald: Contributions to regional studies . In: Grand Ducal Central Office for State Statistics (ed.): Contributions to the statistics of the Grand Duchy of Hesse . Jonghaus, Darmstadt 1862.
  • Eckhart G. Franz , Peter Fleck, Fritz Kallenberg: Grand Duchy of Hesse (1800) 1806–1918 . In: Walter Heinemeyer , Helmut Berding , Peter Moraw , Hans Philippi (ed.): Handbook of Hessian History . Volume 4.2: Hesse in the German Confederation and in the New German Empire (1806) 1815–1945. The Hessian states until 1945 = publications of the historical commission for Hesse 63. Elwert. Marburg 2003. ISBN 3-7708-1238-7
  • Hans-Georg Ruppel: Historical place directory for the area of ​​the former Grand Duchy and People's State of Hesse, 1976, page 7 ff.
  • Arthur Benno Schmidt : The historical foundations of civil law in the Grand Duchy of Hesse . Curt von Münchow, Giessen 1893.


  1. The other provinces of Hesse were Upper Hesse (capital: Gießen ), Rheinhessen (capital: Mainz ) and the fourth province was the Duchy of Westphalia (capital: Arnsberg ), the latter only from 1803 to 1816, only to then fall to Prussia .
  2. 1816 to Bavaria (Schmidt, p. 23f).
  3. From June onwards, Bergsträsser administered the province of Upper Hesse and thus the entire part of the former People's State of Hesse that was in the American zone of occupation.

Individual evidence

  1. Schmidt, p. 15f.
  2. Schmidt, p. 17.
  3. ^ Schmidt, p. 16, note 51.
  4. ^ Schmidt, p. 16, note 53.
  5. Art. 21, 24 Rhine Confederation Act .
  6. Art. 24 Rhine Confederation Act .
  7. Schmidt, p. 23.
  8. Ewald, p. 48.
  9. Ewald, p. 49.
  10. Ewald, p. 49.
  11. Ewald, p. 49.
  12. Ewald, p. 49.
  13. Ewald, p. 49.
  14. Ewald, p. 49.
  15. Ewald, p. 49.
  16. ^ Franz / Fleck / Kallenberg: Grand Duchy of Hesse , p. 693.
  17. ^ Text (in French ) in: Schmidt, p. 30ff, note 100.
  18. Schmidt, p. 30.
  19. Schmidt, p. 33.
  20. ^ Text (in French) in: Schmidt, p. 34ff, note 114.
  21. Schmidt, p. 34.
  22. Schmidt, p. 38.
  23. ^ Contributions to the statistics of the Grand Duchy of Hesse, volumes 1–5. Volume 3, page 32 (digital view)
  24. ^ Contributions to the statistics of the Grand Duchy of Hesse, volumes 1–5. Volume 3, page 33 (digital view)
  25. ^ Ordinance on the division of the country into districts and district courts of July 14, 1821 . In: Hessisches Regierungsblatt, p. 403ff.
  26. Law on the Conditions of the Class Lords and Noble Court Lords of August 7, 1848 . In: Grand Duke of Hesse (ed.): Grand Ducal Hessian Government Gazette. 1848 no. 40 , p. 237–241 ( online at the information system of the Hessian state parliament [PDF; 42,9 MB ]).
  27. ^ Ordinance on the division of the country into districts and district courts of July 14, 1821 . In: Hessisches Regierungsblatt, p. 403ff.
  28. Where we come from - where we want to go. Ev. Community Association Rhein Main, accessed November 2018 .