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The Westphalian horse is often seen as the unofficial heraldic animal that creates identity in today's Westphalia.

Westphalia is a region in northwest Germany . Today, Westphalia is usually understood to be the north-eastern part of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia consisting of the administrative districts of Münster , Arnsberg and Detmold , but mostly minus the district of Lippe . This area essentially corresponds to the Prussian province of Westphalia, which existed from 1815 to 1946 . Depending on the delimitation criteria selected, peripheral areas can be excluded from this or areas outside of it can also be included. The region has around eight million inhabitants.


The name Westfalai appears for the first time in 775 in the Franconian Reichsannals as a designation of a sub-tribe of the Saxons . The Saxons called the western part of their settlement area Westphalia , the middle Engern and the eastern Ostfalen .

In old texts about the Sachsenland a Gau called Fahala appears, but no part of the tribe called Falen or similar. The Old Norse word fal (ah) means field, land, flat and low . In the nationalism of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the term “Fälische Rasse” , which is untenable by today's scientific standards, was used.


Depending on the chosen definition criteria, Westphalia is differentiated differently. Common definitions are based on modern administrative areas, historical settlement, administrative and dominant areas, natural areas or cultural and linguistic areas.

Demarcation according to modern administrative areas

The area of ​​the administrative districts of Münster , Arnsberg and Detmold minus the Lippe district in North Rhine-Westphalia

One of the most common definitions today is based on today's administrative boundaries in North Rhine-Westphalia and the boundaries of the Prussian province of Westphalia , which existed until 1946 and which, along with the province of Rhineland, was one of the country's predecessor territories . According to this definition, the area of ​​Westphalia essentially corresponds to the area of ​​today's administrative districts of Münster , Arnsberg and Detmold minus the Lippe district , whose current area in the German Reich formed the core state area of ​​an independent federal state of Lippe . Today the Rhineland, Westphalia and Lippe are often seen as the three parts of North Rhine-Westphalia. In the state coat of arms , the division into three is expressed through the depiction of the Rhine , the Westphalia horse and the Lippe rose . The demarcation of Lippe from Westphalia can also be seen, for example, in the naming of the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe and the name Ostwestfalen-Lippe as an alternative name for the area of ​​the Detmold administrative district.

Regardless of the special historical position of Lippe, Westphalia is often understood in a simplistic way as the north-eastern half of North Rhine-Westphalia with the administrative districts of Münster, Detmold and Arnsberg.

Delimitation according to topographical features

A demarcation of Westphalia based only on topographical features is difficult. The only sub-area that refers to Westphalia in its name is the Westphalian Bay , which, as the southern sub-area of ​​the North German Plain , comprises the flat land between the low mountain ranges of the Teutoburg Forest , Eggegebirge and Süderbergland . According to the most common definition of Westphalia, the Westphalian Bight forms the core area of ​​Westphalia, in which the vast majority of residents are based. However, the boundaries of the Westphalian Bight to the northwest are not clearly defined. The edge of the lower terrace of the Rhine plain marks the border of the Westphalian Bight to the Lower Rhine Plain to the southwest of it ; In none of the common definitions of Westphalia does Westphalia extend to the Rhine .

If one takes the now widespread idea of ​​Westphalia as the area of ​​the administrative districts of Münster, Arnsberg and Detmold without the Lipperland as a basis, Westphalia in the south and east includes further areas that do not belong to the Westphalian Bay. In the east, the Weser can be seen as the natural border of Westphalia; the river also roughly forms the cultural boundary to the historical east of Westphalia . So demarcated, the areas west of the Weser of the Lower Saxony mountainous region also belong to Westphalia. In the south of the administrative district of Arnsberg , further low mountain ranges belong to Westphalia. However, a distinct natural southern border cannot be identified there, since physically similar landscapes adjoin to the south of the state border. Of the watersheds , only the main ridge of the Rothaargebirge would have the potential to become a cultural boundary determined by topographical features ; However, parts of the catchment area of ​​the Diemel and Eder south of the ridge are counted as part of Westphalia according to the introductory delimitation based on the current state border and also according to most cultural spatial ideas.

Demarcation according to historical settlement or dominion areas

The tribal duchy of Saxony around 1000
The Prussian Province of Westphalia

The old Saxons called the western part of their tribal land Westphalia . The southern part of this historical Saxon Westphalia roughly coincides with the area of ​​the current administrative districts of Arnsberg and Münster.

As a result of the conflict with Emperor Friedrich I , Heinrich the Lion had to cede the duchy of the west of the Duchy of Saxony to the Cologne prince-bishops , who since then have also called themselves Dukes of Westphalia . While Adam von Bremen still regarded the Ems as the eastern border river of Westphalia in the 11th century , in the late Middle Ages the Schedel'sche Weltchronik characterized West Valen as an area between the Lower Rhine and Weser , bordering Friesland in the north and the Hessian low mountain range in the south . In a contract between the Archdiocese of Cologne and the Duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg in 1260, the eastern border of Westphalia to the north of Nienburg along the Weser was set, so that the southern part of the Weser-Ems area was included in the sphere of influence of Kurköln, i.e. the Dukes of Westphalia .

When the Holy Roman Empire was divided into ten imperial circles at the Diet of Cologne in 1512 , the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Imperial Circle anticipated today's North Rhine-Westphalia, but also included areas of today's Lower Saxony west of the Weser to the North Sea. Westphalian rulers like the territorial holdings of the diocese of Münster extended far to the north. The Duchy of Westphalia was within this new imperial order, however, only a subsidiary country of Kurköln and thus not part of the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Empire; The Duchy of Westphalia was also much smaller than the area that most definitions now count as Westphalia.

The Kingdom of Westphalia (1807-1813) created by Napoleon I for his brother Jérôme comprised only parts of the area of ​​today's administrative district Detmold and otherwise mainly extended to areas that are now in the states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Hesse. A demarcation of the Westphalia region according to the borders of the Kingdom of Westphalia was never common.

Since Prussia established the Province of Westphalia after the extensive acquisition of territory as a result of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 , the demarcation of the Westphalia region has increasingly been based on the boundaries of the Prussian province. This definition of Westphalia is still very common today. In 1817, the province of Westphalia also added the traditional Nassau Siegerland and the Hessian Wittgensteiner Land (today together the Siegen-Wittgenstein district ). Areas north of it, which had previously often been counted as part of Westphalia, came to the Kingdom of Hanover ( Osnabrück , Bentheim and Emsland ) and the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg ( Oldenburger Münsterland ). The fact that the old meaning of the term "Westphalia", which included the south-west of today's Lower Saxony, has not completely disappeared from linguistic usage is shown in the volume of books published in Cloppenburg in 1993 with the title Westphalia in Lower Saxony . The area of ​​the present-day city of Essen (roughly the area of ​​the former Essen Abbey ) was often regarded as a Westphalian area before 1815; However, it was then assigned by the Prussian state to the province of Jülich-Kleve-Berg and so came to the Rhine province in 1822 after this province was dissolved , so that the area is no longer considered Westphalian according to every common definition. Much later, namely in 1929, Osterfeld , once the westernmost town in Vest Recklinghausen , which was considered Westphalian , was incorporated into Oberhausen and thus became part of the Rhineland.

The Principality of Lippe (today Lippe District) remained independent, later became an independent state in the German Empire and is therefore often not part of Westphalia even after joining the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Delimitation according to cultural spatial characteristics

Typical Westphalian house near Melle ( Lower Saxony )

As an expression of a shared past, the Sachsenross is still the heraldic animal of Westphalia and Lower Saxony. Common ground is also evident in the rural building tradition. The North German Fachhallenhaus , widespread from the Lower Rhine to Hinterpommern, is known both as the Westphalia House and the Lower Saxony House : around a central hall ("Deele") with a gable-sided gate, stables and other utility rooms are grouped on the right and left, while the living rooms of the farming family are on the rear end.

Differentiation according to linguistic features

Expansion of the Westphalian dialects

The Westphalian dialects are among the Low German dialects . They are or have been spoken in almost all parts of the administrative districts of Detmold, Münster and Arnsberg. Exceptions are the areas east of the Weser in the northeast of the Detmold administrative district, which belong to the dialect area of North Low German . East Westphalian dialects can already be found in the southeast of the Detmold administrative district near Höxter . The dialects of the Siegerland do not belong to the Westphalian, but to the Moselle-Franconian dialect area . In the area around Wittgenstein you can find predominantly Hessian dialects .

In the Osnabrücker Land , Westphalian is spoken outside of North Rhine-Westphalia in an area around Bramsche . The extreme southeast of the Westphalian dialect area extends beyond North Rhine-Westphalia to parts of the Hessian Waldeck with the Upland , the area around Korbach and the area on the Twiste with Bad Arolsen .

Delimitation to East Westphalia and Ostfalen

East Westphalia is the eastern part of Westphalia (without Lippe). Before the state of Lippe joined North Rhine-Westphalia, what is now East Westphalia essentially comprised the administrative district of Minden . The Saxons referred to this central part of their settlement area as Engern . Especially in the north, however, Engern extended far beyond what is now East Westphalia or the East Westphalia-Lippe district, which also encompasses the Lippe district. The eastern part of the Saxon settlement area was called Ostfalen . Although the term Ostfalen is rarely used today, in linguistics the Ostfälischen from the Westphalian dialects are differentiated. The historical-Saxon Ostfalen and the Ostfälisch-speaking area are almost entirely outside of today's North Rhine-Westphalia.


coat of arms

With the decree of the Prussian State Ministry of February 28, 1881, it was determined that the province of Westphalia could bear a coat of arms: the white, soaring Westfalen horse with a curly mane and a turned up tail. In its historical version, the Westphalian coat of arms consists of a red shield with the Westphalian horse on it. The posture of the raised horse's tail, which is useful for graphic reasons, is today - in contrast to the coat of arms of Lower Saxony - an essential characteristic of the Westphalian horse . The Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe has the Westphalian coat of arms in a modified, modernized version. The Westphalian coat of arms is also an integral part of the state coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia created in 1953 .

More symbols

The Westfalenlied , composed in Iserlohn in 1868 , is also one of the symbols of Westphalia. A Westphalian symbolic figure, which is mainly known in the Münsterland, is the Kiepenkerl , equipped with a wide blue shirt ( smock ), red scarf, wooden shoes and his box , a carrying basket, also characteristic is a tobacco pipe . With their boxes on their backs, shopkeepers used to go across the country and sell their goods on the farms and in the towns. In Münster has set up the Kiepenkerl monument. There are formal similarities to the Leineweber monument in Bielefeld and the Linnenbauer monument in Herford , but they depict a weaver who carries his products into town in a holster for sale.


The Langenberg , the highest mountain in Westphalia
The Ruhr near Witten
Desenberg with castle ruins in the Warburger Börde

In the administrative districts of Münster , Arnsberg and Detmold , around 8.2 million people live on 21,427 km² in the regions of Münsterland , Tecklenburger Land , East Westphalia , Hellwegbörde , Sauerland (without the Hessian Upland ), Wittgensteiner Land and Siegerland (as far as it belongs to Westphalia) as well in the Westphalian (ie central and eastern) part of the Ruhr area . The Westphalian areas of the Sauerland, the Siegerland and the Wittgensteiner Land are combined under South Westphalia .

In terms of language and building tradition, the North Rhine-Westphalian part of Westphalia, apart from its southernmost part, mostly belongs to northern Germany . Centuries-long connections to the Archdiocese of Cologne, the predominant Catholicism in most areas and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia bind it to the Rhineland, i.e. West Germany . That is why Westphalia is often referred to as belonging to north-west Germany . This also includes Lower Saxony and Bremen.


While the Westphalian Bight occupies the north of the administrative districts of Arnsberg and almost the entire administrative district of Münster, the south of the administrative district of Arnsberg and most of the administrative district of Detmold are characterized by low mountain ranges. The highest peaks are in the ridge of the Rothaargebirge , which also forms a natural border with Hesse. The most famous mountain there is the 841.9  m high Kahle Asten with a weather station, observation tower and hotel. At 843.2  m, the highest mountain in Westphalia and at the same time of all of North Rhine-Westphalia is the nearby Langenberg . The Westphalian Bay is bounded in the northeast and east by the mountain ranges of the Teutoburg Forest (with a maximum height of 446.4  m on the Barnacken ) and the Egge Mountains (with a maximum of around 464  m on the Prussian Velmerstot ). To the north of it lies the Wiehengebirge , and to the east the Weserbergland extends .

On the southern edge of the Westphalian Bay are the Ardey Mountains and the Haarstrang . The lowest point in the country is around 10  m high at the transition to the Lower Rhine landscape and the Dutch border near Isselburg . The Hellwegbörden stretch on the southern edge of the Westphalian Bay . They are characterized by fertile loess soils.

In East Westphalia, mainly to the east of the Eggegebirge ridge , the landscape is divided into the fertile Warburg Börde , which merges into the neighboring Hessian mountains . The Warburger Börde has soils of high quality with the highest land value index in West Germany. The landmark of the Warburger Börde is the 354 m high basalt cone Desenberg with castle ruins.


The river with the most water in Westphalia is the Weser , which touches the country in the east and breaks through the mountain range of Wiehen and Weser mountains in Porta Westfalica . The catchment area of ​​the Rhine includes the Ruhr with the tributaries Möhne , Lenne and Volme , the Emscher , Sieg and Lippe . The Plästerlegge , the highest waterfall in Westphalia, is also part of the Ruhr river system . With a length of only about four kilometers, the Pader , which rises in Paderborn, is the shortest river of this waterway in Germany. The Ems, which rises in the Teutoburg Forest, flows through the east and north of the Westphalian Bay . The Diemel crosses, from its source in the Sauerland coming, the south-eastern edge of East Westphalia in Warburg before in Bad Karlshafen empties into the Weser.

The Westphalian cities

Large cities in Westphalia
city Population
(December 31, 2019)
Dortmund 588.250
Bochum 365,587
Bielefeld 334.195
Muenster 315.293
Gelsenkirchen 259,645
Hagen 188,686
Hamm 179.916
Herne 156,449
Paderborn 151,633
Bottrop 117,565
Recklinghausen 111,397
Wins 102,770
Gutersloh 100,861

Most of today's cities in Westphalia emerged in the Middle Ages. A dense network of places with municipal rights formed almost nationwide. Later there was a very differentiated development in connection with industrialization. Some places with city rights, for example in the Hochsauerland , did not go beyond village dimensions. Even Arnsberg, as the seat of a regional council , remained a small town and only grew with the local reorganization in 1975. On the other hand, Soest , one of the largest and most important towns in north-west Germany in the Middle Ages, is now just a medium-sized town.

In the Ruhr area , the coal and steel industry led to a rapid increase in the urban population in the second half of the 19th century and thus to the emergence of a metropolitan area. These include the cities of Dortmund , Bochum , Herne , Gelsenkirchen , Bottrop , Castrop-Rauxel , Recklinghausen , Gladbeck and Lünen . As a result of the relocation of coal mining to the north, further industrial cities emerged from formerly rural villages along the Lippe in the 20th century. South of the Ruhr is a zone of industrial cities such as Hagen in the southeastern part of the Ruhr area and Iserlohn and Lüdenscheid in the northwestern Sauerland. On the eastern edge of the Ruhr area, Hamm forms a transition into the rural Hellweg zone . Outside of the Westphalian Ruhr area, Münster and Paderborn are important centers for their surrounding areas. In the southernmost part of Westphalia, the Siegerland, the city of Siegen forms a similar settlement focus. In East Westphalia the administrative city of Minden was a pronounced center for a long time, as was the two cities of Paderborn and Warburg in the Hochstift . Later, with the industrialization, Bielefeld , Herford and Gütersloh were added. Some cities, such as Dortmund or the historic provincial capital Münster, have central functions for the whole of Westphalia.


Skull of a Stone Age woman , discovered in 2004 in a cave near Hagen-Hohenlimburg
With the words SIGILLVM TREMONIE CIVITATIS WESTFALIE (“ Seal of Dortmund , City of Westphalia”), the council of the imperial city of Dortmund has circumscribed its seal since 1255 .

Prehistory and early history

Westphalia is an old cultural landscape. The first traces of human settlement are known from Neanderthals from the Paleolithic Age . The oldest skeletal finds of anatomically modern people come from the Mesolithic , whose age is dated to more than 10,700 years using the C14 method ( radiocarbon dating ). The Neolithic Age is documented with particularly well-preserved skeletal remains of the Michelsberg culture and with megalithic systems of the funnel beaker culture and the Wartberg culture . In total, there are remains or references to 15 passage graves and 17 gallery graves . The people who lived in Westphalia during the Neolithic period benefited from the mining of flint and other raw materials. Stone tools and raw materials were transported over long distances.

In Roman times the area was populated by Germanic and Celtic tribes. The attempt to bring it under the direct rule of Rome failed in 9 AD after the Varus Battle . The newly established Roman settlements east of the Rhine fell into disrepair, but there were still significant trade ties between the Roman provinces to the left of the Rhine and the independent Teutons to the east. Heavy Roman millstones made of Eifel basalt and noble Roman bronze vessels were found far into what is now Lower Saxony. Some of the Saxons, who had settled between the Weser and the Rhine since the 3rd or 4th century, even hired themselves as mercenaries in Roman legions.

Early middle ages

As a historical term, the Westphalia first emerged in the imperial annals of Charlemagne as part of the Saxon tribe . In the decades-long war , the Saxons and with them the Westphalia were incorporated into the Frankish state . A central means for this was the Christianization of the country after the military submission through the establishment of dioceses, monasteries and parish churches. Politically, the area was divided into counties, which were predominantly occupied by the local nobility. The owner of the County of Lerigau , Count Heinrich I, was awarded the title of Count of Westphalia in 955 . His son Hermann I is considered to be the ancestor of the Counts of Werl .

In this early period, Westphalia as a settlement area of ​​the "Westfalai" was a somewhat clearly delimited historical area. This has changed significantly in the following centuries. Westphalia was part of the old duchy of Saxony until 1180 ; but the power of the dukes over counties and other secular and spiritual territories decreased, especially since most of these territories were or became imperial direct themselves . With the smashing of the old Saxon duchy, the Archbishops of Cologne became nominally "Dukes of Westphalia"; Their secular power in Westphalia was largely limited to the " Duchy of Westphalia ", an area in the southern part of Westphalia. This territorial fragmentation determined the Westphalian area throughout the Middle Ages and early modern times . During this time, the term Westphalia was mainly used with regard to the cultural and linguistic similarities.

For the history of Westphalia important territories were the Hochstifte Münster , Paderborn and Minden and, as neighboring countries of the Kurkölner state, the Duchy of Westphalia and Vest Recklinghausen . The counties of Mark , Tecklenburg and Ravensberg stand out among the secular rulers . In addition, in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period , the Land of Lippe , which later lay outside the province of Westphalia , the Diocese of Osnabrück , the Counties of Bentheim and Lingen and a few other areas were created. In addition, there were numerous smaller secular and ecclesiastical rulers, such as the Herford and Corvey monasteries , the counties of Limburg , Steinfurt and Hoya and the rule of Rheda .

High and late Middle Ages

Against this territorially fragmented background, the political history of this area took place during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The initially strong Counts of Werl - Arnsberg lost a considerable part of their influence against the advancing power of the Archbishops of Cologne, before this area was donated to Cologne in 1368. The competitive relationship between the Archdiocese of Cologne and the up-and-coming county of Mark led to a weakening of Cologne in the Battle of Worringen . Since then, there has been no real dominant force in the Westphalian region, and the borders changed, with a few exceptions, only through the division of inheritance or the extinction of a noble house.

In addition to the aristocratic and ecclesiastical territorial lords, the importance of the cities grew from the High Middle Ages. Dortmund rose to become a free imperial city , and the prince-bishops of the Paderborn Monastery and the Münster Monastery had to avoid the self-confident citizens of their capitals in residences in the surrounding area. In the Soest feud , Soest fought for independence from Cologne with his Börde . The major cities increasingly pursued their own policies, formed alliances with one another and joined the Hanseatic League.

Reformation, confessionalization and the Thirty Years War

Gerard ter Borch : The Peace of Münster (conclusion of the Treaty of Münster on May 15, 1648)

The Reformation meant a deep turning point for Westphalia . In a sense, it appeared as a continuation of the self-confident politics of the late medieval traditions as a town reformation before the sovereigns succeeded in asserting their religious position either as advocates of the Reformation or the Counter-Reformation . At first glance, a special case of the Reformation in the European context was the end-time Anabaptist Empire in Münster . If you take a closer look, however, this development began as a classic - albeit radicalized - example of urban reformation and ended with the victory of the bishop as the enforcement of princely power. Apart from the imperial city of Dortmund, the course of the Reformation showed that the sovereigns were now in a much stronger position than the cities and began - with varying degrees of success - to push back the co-government of the estates.

In the long term, the Reformation led to a profound religious and cultural split between Protestant and Catholic Westphalia, which is still felt today. During the Thirty Years' War parts of Westphalia were also affected by the direct and indirect consequences of the war. The victories and defeats of the respective sides followed each other. But regardless of religious denomination, the population suffered from contributions, looting and epidemics. The Westphalian double peace of Münster and Osnabrück ended the war. The Peace Congress was a first-rate European event. The first success was the Peace of Munster between the Netherlands and Spain , which ended the 80 year long struggle for freedom of the Dutch.

Clemens August I. , from 1723 to 1761 Elector of Cologne, Bishop of Münster, Paderborn, Osnabrück and Hildesheim

Westphalia in the 18th century

Basically, however, hardly anything changed in the contrast between Catholics and Protestants. By inheritance, the Electorate of Brandenburg had risen to become the dominant force in the Protestant camp in Westphalia and, in addition to the County of Mark, also owned the former Bishopric of Minden and the County of Ravensberg. While Brandenburg-Prussia more or less succeeded in enforcing the elector's or king's claim to absolute rule, this attempt was mostly unsuccessful in the Catholic spiritual areas, and the estates were largely able to maintain their say. This had considerable consequences for modernization efforts in the 18th century. While in the Prussian territories, for example, economic development “from above” was successful, many corresponding approaches under the sign of the Enlightenment in Catholic Westphalia often failed due to the respective corporate interests. In the 18th century, too, Westphalia was not spared from general political developments during the Seven Years' War .

However, there was a significant economic boom in various parts of Westphalia in the 18th century. In Minden-Ravensberg the importance of the domestic, proto-industrial textile industry increased considerably. In southern Westphalia and the Siegerland, iron production and processing, which had fallen into crisis as a result of the Thirty Years' War, revived. While this development was able to feed the landless and land poor population, which was growing for various reasons, at least poorly, the search for external income opportunities increased in the agricultural areas of the Münster and Paderborn regions.

In the field of education, on the other hand, the Catholic Enlightenment had a far-reaching influence in the Prince Diocese of Münster. There was no strong polarization between religion and the Enlightenment. Dialogue, openness and political, personal and religious tolerance were the dominant ideas of the duchy. Around 1770 the Munster Circle was formed in the house of Princess Amalie von Gallitzin . Men like the school reformer Bernhard Heinrich Overberg, the brothers Droste zu Vischering , Johann Georg Hamann , Count Friedrich Leopold zu Stolberg-Stolberg and the poet and lawyer Anton Matthias Sprickmann , the parents of the poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff and the met in their salon Dutch philosopher Frans Hemsterhuis . They looked for the synthesis of their faith with the new philosophical-pedagogical currents of the time and tried to combine traditional Catholicism, the enlightened spirit of improvement and early romantic sensitivity. The driving force behind the district was Franz Freiherr von Fürstenberg (1729–1810). He belonged to the cathedral chapters of Münster and Paderborn and in 1763 took over the office of first minister, which he had to resign after 17 years. In 1780, not Fürstenberg, but Archduke Maximilian Franz of Austria was elected coadjutor , who in 1784 also became Archbishop of Cologne and at the same time Prince-Bishop of Münster. Fürstenberg received his dismissal as a minister, but kept the general vicariate and the management of the school system until 1807. After the Seven Years' War he was heavily involved in the reconstruction of the city, created new administrative structures and reformed the health system as well as the library, printing and publishing sectors. As a member of the Munster circle, his first interest was education. In 1776 the school regulations he had drawn up were issued in the prince bishopric, and a philosophy of education and a plan for individual subjects were also published. These school rules made him known throughout Germany. He also tried to train teachers. At his instigation, the Münster seminary was founded in 1776 and the University of Münster in 1780 .

End of the Old Kingdom and Kingdom of Westphalia

A profound break with the territorial structure that had arisen since the early Middle Ages was the abolition of the spiritual states in the course of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss . If these areas did not fall to Prussia, mostly foreign princes who had lost their previous property through French annexations in the Rhineland were compensated with them . These include in particular the Principality of Salm , which enclosed the areas of the former Munster offices of Bocholt and Ahaus, the former County of Anholt and the former rule of Gemen, and the Duchy of Arenberg-Meppen , which received, among other things, Vest Recklinghausen in the former Electorate of Cologne . The Napoleonic " Kingdom of Westphalia ", established in 1807 , did fall back on the name, but comprised only a few areas that were considered Westphalian.

The Province of Westphalia (1905)

Province of Westphalia

Münster Castle , seat of the President of the Province of Westphalia

It was only with the Prussian province of Westphalia - as a result of the Congress of Vienna - that a unified political structure emerged from 1815/16. Like today's part of North Rhine-Westphalia , the province was significantly smaller than the “cultural Westphalia” of the early modern era.

As the Prussian province of Westphalia from 1816 to 1946, a large part of the Westphalian territories were part of a political unit for the first time. The provincial capital and seat of the chief president was Münster. The new province essentially comprised the districts of Minden , which belonged to Prussia before 1800 , the counties of Mark and Ravensberg , Tecklenburg and the bishoprics of Münster and Paderborn , which came to Prussia after 1803, as well as some smaller dominions, including the county of Limburg an der Lenne. In 1815 those Westphalian areas became the Prussian province of Westphalia, which France annexed in 1810 but gave up again shortly after the Battle of Leipzig (1813), such as the Principality of Salm and the southern part of the Duchy of Arenberg ( Vest Recklinghausen ). In 1815 the northern and eastern areas of the Grand Duchy of Berg also became part of the Prussian province of Westphalia. In 1816 the Duchy of Westphalia was added, which in 1803 had been assigned to the Landgraviate of Hessen-Darmstadt . In 1817 the Principality of Nassau-Siegen, which had fallen to Prussia, and the two principalities of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein came to the administrative district of Arnsberg and thus to the Prussian province of Westphalia.

The province of Westphalia consisted of an almost closed area and was administratively divided into the administrative districts of Arnsberg , Minden and Münster . In 1816 the Essen district was spun off into the Rhine Province . In 1851 and also during the Weimar Republic , the borders of the province were changed slightly.

Against this background, a Westphalian self-image developed more strongly than before in the 19th and 20th centuries - also supported by the state authorities. However, this was always in competition with the nation-state, regional and local traditions. Some of the territories not integrated into the Prussian province, which had long been part of the Westphalian cultural area, remained independent parts of the German Confederation and, like the states of Oldenburg and Lippe, formed their own federal states of the German Empire after 1871. and the 20th century, instead a strong independent national awareness developed.

Harkort's factory in the ruins of Wetter Castle

This united both Protestant and Catholic areas in the new province. In particular, the integration of Catholic Westphalia presented the Prussian authorities with considerable challenges. Well into the 20th century, a very different political culture in the Protestant and Catholic areas speaks for the long-range effect of the denominational split.

The development of the province during the industrial revolution and the high industrialization of the 19th century was shaped by the industrial rise of the Westphalian Ruhr area and the associated difference between town and country. In the 20th century one can only rudimentarily speak of an independent Westphalian history, since the development in this area primarily reflects the processes in Germany as a whole.

Inflation emergency money : Circulation coin over 50 million marks, Westphalia 1923

During the Weimar Republic, inflation , the war on the Ruhr or major disputes between employers or employees such as the Ruhreisenstreit and the consequences of the global economic crisis also affected the industrial areas of Westphalia. During the time of National Socialism , the province was brought into line politically and no longer had a life of its own worth mentioning. As in all of Germany, opponents of the regime and Jewish residents were persecuted and disabled people were killed. During the Second World War , Jews from Westphalia were also transported to the extermination camps. In the second half of the war in particular, the province was the target of Allied bombing raids, and in the final months of the war it was also the scene of ground fighting.

After the end of World War II, the province of Westphalia became part of the British zone of occupation . As a reparation payment, the Netherlands claimed the assignment of a strip southeast of the German-Dutch border (see main article Dutch annexation plans after the Second World War ) . Such demands were largely shelved at the London Germany Conference on March 26, 1949. The later first Prime Minister of the newly founded state of Lower Saxony , Hinrich Wilhelm Kopf , called for the inclusion of the Westphalian districts of Minden , Lübbecke , Tecklenburg , Bielefeld , Herford and Halle (Westphalia) in the new state of Lower Saxony in a memorandum from April 1946 .

The British military government declared the state of Prussia dissolved on August 23, 1946 and founded the new state of North Rhine-Westphalia on the same day . The former province of Westphalia was completely transferred to this new state, which got its present form with the accession of the state of Lippe in 1947.

Politics and administration

Westphalia as part of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia

After the Second World War , the province of Westphalia with its administrative districts of Arnsberg , Minden and Münster first became part of the British zone of occupation and, through Ordinance No. 46 of the military government of 23 August 1946, concerning the dissolution of the provinces of Prussia in the British zone and their re-establishment united as independent states with the northern part of the Prussian Rhine Province to form North Rhine-Westphalia . The state of Prussia was formally dissolved six months later. (→ see also: Control Council Act No. 46 )

With the accession of the state of Lippe to North Rhine-Westphalia in 1947, the administrative district of Minden, comprising only Westphalian territories, was combined with the territory of the former Free State to form the new administrative district of Minden-Lippe , based in Detmold , and renamed the administrative district of Detmold on June 2, 1947 .

This makes Westphalia one of the three parts of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The state capital and thus the seat of the state parliament and the state government is Rhenish Düsseldorf ; the constitutional court for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the higher administrative court of the state are located in the former Westphalian provincial capital of Münster .

The Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe

The districts and independent cities of the regions of Westphalia and Lippe are united with the same rights and obligations in the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe (LWL). The district councils and city parliaments elect their representatives to the landscape assembly , the so-called Westphalia parliament , which in turn elects the director of the landscape association as the main administrative officer and the first regional council and the other regional councils as specialist departments, decides on fundamental issues and approves the budget.

The regional association performs regional tasks at the level of the state central authority within the framework of local self-government . They range from caring for people with disabilities, running clinics and schools to promoting culture and running museums in both parts of the country. Among other things, the Westphalian Archives Office, the Westphalian Museum Office and the Westphalian Office for the Preservation of Monuments are subordinate to the regional association. The operation of transport companies was transferred to the Westfälische Verkehrsgesellschaft mbH .

The forerunner of the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe was the Provincial Association of the Prussian Province of Westphalia, created in 1886, whose constitution largely corresponded to that of today's regional association.

Administrative districts and counties

The state part of Westphalia is now divided into the administrative districts

Together these administrative districts and thus essentially the Westphalia region have 8,260,917 inhabitants (December 31, 2019).

The administrative district of Detmold includes the area of ​​the former administrative district of Minden , part of the Prussian province of Westphalia, as well as the area of ​​the former state of Lippe (essentially today's Lippe district ). Today, Lippe is not counted as part of Westphalia as an independent part of the state. The entire administrative district is therefore usually referred to as Ostwestfalen-Lippe .

The historical development of the administrative structure is described in detail in the articles on the individual government districts. The administrative districts, districts and independent cities are listed in the following table.

circle Administrative headquarters Area (km²) Residents Remarks
Arnsberg administrative district
Ennepe-Ruhr district Schwelm 408 324,106 (2019) Formed on August 1, 1929 from the Schwelm district and large parts of the Hagen and Hattingen districts, enlarged on January 1, 1975 to include the independent city of Witten when territory was ceded to the city of Hagen
Hochsauerlandkreis Meschede 1,959 259,777 (2019) newly formed on January 1, 1975 from the Brilon district , large parts of the Arnsberg and Meschede districts and small parts of the Büren and Wittgenstein districts
Märkischer Kreis Ludenscheid 1,059 410,222 (2019) on January 1, 1975 from the independent city of Iserlohn , the district of Lüdenscheid , large parts of the Iserlohn district and small parts of the Arnsberg district
District of Olpe Olpe 710 133,955 (2019) July 1, 1969 to small parts of the district Meschede increased
Siegen-Wittgenstein district Wins 1,132 276,944 (2019) from January 1, 1984, previously in the Siegen district
Soest district Soest 1,327 301,785 (2019) on July 1, 1969 around small parts of the Beckum district and on January 1, 1975 around small parts of the Arnsberg , Beckum and Büren districts as well as the area of the Lippstadt district , in the Lipperode and Cappel enclaves on October 1, 1949 were added
Unna district Unna 543 394,891 (2019) Created on October 17, 1930 by renaming the district of Hamm , enlarged on January 1, 1975 when territory was ceded to the city of Hamm to include the independent city of Lünen and parts of the districts of Iserlohn and Lüdinghausen
city Bochum 145 365,587 (2019) from May 24, 1876 with enlargements of the urban area on April 1, 1904, April 1, 1926, August 1, 1929 and January 1, 1975 ( independent city of Wattenscheid )
city Dortmund 280 588,250 (2019) from February 15, 1875 with enlargements of the urban area on April 1, 1905, June 10, 1914, April 1, 1918, April 1, 1928 ( independent city of Hörde and large parts of the Dortmund district ), August 1, 1929 (large parts of the District of Hörde ) and January 1, 1975 (small parts of the district of Iserlohn )
city Hagen 160 188,686 (2019) from April 1, 1887 with enlargements of the urban area on April 1, 1901, August 1, 1929 and January 1, 1975 (parts of the Iserlohn district )
city Hamm 226 179,916 (2019) Retired from the Hamm district on April 1, 1901 , with enlargements of the urban area on April 1, 1939 (small parts of the Rhynern office), January 1, 1968 (small parts of the Unna district ) and January 1, 1975 (parts of the Beckum , Lüdinghausen and Unna districts )
city Herne 51 156,449 (2019) from July 1, 1906 with enlargements of the urban area on April 1, 1908, April 1, 1926, April 1, 1928, August 1, 1929 and January 1, 1975 ( independent city of Wanne-Eickel )
Detmold administrative district
Gütersloh district Gutersloh 967 364,938 (2019) Newly formed on January 1, 1973 from the Wiedenbrück district , large parts of the Halle (Westf.) district and small parts of the Bielefeld district, enlarged by small parts of the Warendorf district on January 1, 1975
Herford district Herford 450 250,578 (2019) enlarged on January 1, 1969 by the previously independent city of Herford and on January 1, 1973 by parts of the Minden district when a small area was ceded to the new Minden-Lübbecke district
Höxter district Höxter 1,200 140,251 (2019) on January 1, 1970, incorporation of the Lippe exclave Grevenhagen from the Detmold district in exchange for the city of Lügde (own exclave) as well as Feldrom and Kempen , enlarged on January 1, 1975 to include the Warburg district
Minden-Lübbecke district Minden 1,152 310,409 (2019) newly formed on January 1, 1973 from the Lübbecke district , large parts of the Minden district and small parts of the Herford district
Paderborn district Paderborn 1,245 307,839 (2019) on January 1, 1970 territory ceded to the Bielefeld district , on January 1, 1975 enlarged to include large parts of the Büren district
city Bielefeld 259 334,195 (2019) from October 1, 1878 with enlargements of the urban area on April 1, 1900, January 31, 1907, October 1, 1930, December 31, 1961, January 1, 1965 and January 1, 1973 ( parts of the district, from October 1 1969 Bielefeld district )
District of Lippe
(independent state part of North Rhine-Westphalia)
Detmold 1,246 347,514 (2019) 1934 Integration of previously independent cities into the two districts of Detmold and Lemgo of the state of Lippe, which were formed in 1932 , 1947 takeover of both districts in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, on January 1, 1970 area swap with the district of Höxter, which surrendered the city of Lügde as well as Feldrom and Kempen and the Lippische Exclave Grevenhagen took over, in 1973 the two Lippe districts merged to form the Lippe district
Münster administrative district
Borken district Bark 1,419 371,339 (2019) for assignments to the on 1 January 1975. Wesel around the district Ahaus , the independent city of Bocholt and small parts of the circle Coesfeld , Recklinghausen and Rees increased
Coesfeld district Coesfeld 1.110 220,586 (2019) on January 1, 1975 when territory was ceded to the Borken district, it was enlarged to include large parts of the Lüdinghausen district and smaller parts of the Münster district
Recklinghausen district Recklinghausen 760 614,137 (2019) with territorial concessions to the on 1 January 1975. independent city of Bottrop and the circles Borken and Wesel to the independent cities Castrop-Rauxel , Recklinghausen and on 1 July 1976 Gladbeck increased
Steinfurt district Steinfurt 1,791 448,220 (2019) enlarged on January 1, 1975 to include the Tecklenburg district and parts of the Münster district
Warendorf district Warendorf 1,319 277,840 (2019) On January 1, 1975, when territory was ceded to the Gütersloh district, large parts of the Beckum district and small parts of the Lüdinghausen and Münster districts were enlarged
city Bottrop 101 117,565 (2019) from January 1, 1921 with enlargement of the urban area on July 1, 1976 (small part of the Recklinghausen district ), after the merger with the independent city of Gladbeck on January 1, 1975 was legally repealed on December 6, 1975
city Gelsenkirchen 105 259,645 (2019) from April 1, 1897 with enlargements of the urban area on April 1, 1903 and April 1, 1926, until March 31, 1928 in the administrative district of Arnsberg, enlarged on April 1, 1928 to include the independent town of Buer and a small part of the district of Recklinghausen , renamed "Gelsenkirchen-Buer" and changed to the administrative district of Münster, from May 21, 1930 back to "Gelsenkirchen", enlarged on January 1, 1975 by a small part of the Recklinghausen district
city Muenster 303 315,293 (2019) with enlargements of the urban area on January 1, 1875, April 1, 1903 and January 1, 1975 ( parts of the district, 1975 district of Münster )

For the development of the municipalities since 1858 see also:

Future development

Already in the 1920s it was considered to give the Ruhr area its own administrative district , and similarly again in the 1980s ( see Regional Association Ruhr ). The division of today's administrative districts essentially dates from the 19th century, and the landscape associations (which only exist in this form in North Rhine-Westphalia) were controversial. According to the ideas of the black and yellow state government under Jürgen Rüttgers, there should be only three administrative districts (or regional associations) called Rhineland, Westphalia and the Ruhr area in the future.

The implementation of this idea, however, met with protests especially in Westphalia, but also in the Lower Rhine region , as there is fear that the strong Rhineland and the weighty Ruhr area could displace Westphalian interests in state politics. It was the fear of “leftovers”. Resistance arose in Lippe as well, since the plans also touched on questions of constitutional law, as both the affected administrative district Detmold and the Lippe regional association were regulated in the Lippe punctuation with clear commitments to Lippe as part of the accession of the former Free State of Lippe to North Rhine-Westphalia in 1947 . This discussion ended for the time being with the coalition agreement of the red-green state government under Hannelore Kraft.


Central nave of the Soest Wiesenkirche

The culture in Westphalia is as diverse as the region itself. The cultivation of customs has been devoted above all to numerous local communities that are part of the Westphalian Heimatbund . The Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) is legally responsible for maintaining Westphalian culture . He is committed to preserving and researching the cultural heritage of Westphalia-Lippe and making it accessible to the public. The work of LWL culture is supported by the political bodies of the LWL, in particular the culture committee. The Society for the Promotion of Westphalian Culture (GWK) is dedicated to promoting young Westphalian culture. It promotes outstanding young artists in the fields of art, classical / new music and literature.

Architecture and fine arts

Old coin in Minden

From the Carolingian era , some examples of national architecture have been preserved in Westphalia. This includes the westwork of the Corvey Monastery (873–885). The Bartholemäuskapelle in Paderborn is remarkable from the Ottonian times. Important examples of the Gothic style are the cathedrals in Minden and Paderborn . The Soest Wiesenkirche is high Gothic (after 1377) . Special examples of secular buildings that go back to this time are the, essentially Romanesque, old coin in Minden, with ornate Gothic windows, which is considered the oldest stone house in Westphalia, and the late Gothic town hall in Münster , whose gable was reconstructed after the Second World War has been. Examples of the Weser Renaissance in eastern Westphalia are the castles in Paderborn- Neuhaus and Brake . The town halls in Bocholt , Lemgo and Paderborn , but also town houses, such as the ones in Lemgo in large numbers, represent citizens' willingness to build at this time . Sculptors like Heinrich and Gerhard Gröninger were at the transition to the Baroque in Westphalia . Some baroque buildings in Westphalia claim European rank. These include in particular the Clemenskirche , the Erbdrostenhof (1753–1757) and the castle (1767–1773) designed by the architect Johann Conrad Schlaun in Münster. The Nordkirchen Castle (1703-1734), the Dominican Church in Munster and the Jesuit church in Buren are further highlights of Baroque architecture in Westphalia.

Early classicism is represented in Hüffe Castle, Harkotten-Korf Castle, Stack House and the Druffelschen Hof in Münster. The classicism of the following decades of the 19th century, which was based on Karl Friedrich Schinkel , had a powerful impact on the townscape in Arnsberg , for example . After the middle of the century, architectures in the style of historicism dominated. Church buildings were mainly built in the neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic styles . This time was also the heyday of monuments. These include, for example, the Hermannsdenkmal and the Kaiser Wilhelm monument at Porta Westfalica . Around 1900, Art Nouveau reached Westphalia, which also created individual works of national importance. Karl Ernst Osthaus brought Henry van de Velde to Hagen and began collecting modern art. Artists of the early 20th century such as August Macke and Wilhelm Morgner came from Westphalia .

After the Second World War, some artists quickly tried to catch up with European developments ("Westphalian Secession 1945" in Hagen). In the 1950s, architecture also caught up with international developments. The new theater building in Münster in 1956 was celebrated by experts as a "liberating clap of thunder". Three years later, the Haus des Musiktheater im Revier in Gelsenkirchen set new standards in post-war architecture. The art gallery in Bielefeld found recognition in the 1960s (1968). An impressive contrast to the heroic monuments of the 19th century is the Bittermark Memorial in Dortmund, created in 1960 by the Hagen artist Karel Niestrath and the Dortmund architect Will Schwarz, to commemorate those murdered by the Nazi regime.


Westphalia has a diverse museum and exhibition landscape. In addition to numerous local and regional museums, there are a number of institutions with an overall Westphalian claim. The Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) is primarily active in the field of museums in the cultural sector. Among other things, it is responsible for the decentralized LWL industrial museum , which offers insights into the industrial culture of Westphalia at eight different locations. The LWL-Freilichtmuseum Hagen is a collection of historical production facilities mainly from pre-industrial times. The LWL-Freilichtmuseum Detmold concentrates on the rural cultural landscape with a comparable concept . The Mühlenhof open-air museum in Münster offers a vivid historical overview of farming in the Münsterland . The Westphalian Horse Museum in the Allwetterzoo Münster shows the natural and cultural history of the horse in "Horse Country Westphalia", a region that is shaped like hardly any other in Germany by horse breeding and keeping.

The LWL State Museum for Art and Cultural History in Münster is, in terms of its self-image, the central art museum in Westphalia, with a collection focus that expresses this regional reference. The Dortmund Museum Ostwall and the MARTa Herford , which was founded in 2005, have important collections of modern and contemporary art in Westphalia .

The LWL Museum for Archeology in Herne is the state archaeological museum of Westphalia. The most important finds and sites from the 250,000-year human history of the region can be found here, while the LWL Roman Museum in Haltern deals with the Roman occupation period. The Paderborn Museum in the Kaiserpfalz shows numerous finds from the Carolingian and Ottonian times as well as the results of Paderborn's urban archeology.

In addition to the state museums operated by the regional association, there are other institutions with a pan-Westphalian claim and, in some cases, a pan-German mission; this includes the Jewish Museum in Dorsten . In the German Mining Museum in Bochum, the important mining past and present of Westphalia is documented. The DASA - Working World Exhibition and the German Football Museum are located in Dortmund .

The Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum in Paderborn is the largest computer museum in the world with additional changing exhibitions in the fields of technology and IT.


The Schauspielhaus Bochum is one of the most important German-speaking theaters.

With the Schauspielhaus Bochum, one of the most important German theaters is located in Westphalia . Traditionally, there is a close connection to the Bochum Drama School , a branch of the Folkwang University of the Arts , formerly the Westphalian Drama School Bochum. Today's theater was inaugurated in autumn 1953 as one of the first new theaters in the Federal Republic of Germany. The other regional centers also have their own venues. The Dortmund Theater, founded in 1904, now plays in a modern building from the 1960s and offers the musical theater / opera, ballet, drama, concert and children's and youth theater categories. The Münster Municipal Theaters were able to move into a new building for their four-part theater in 1956 and continue a theater tradition that had been going on since 1774. The Bielefeld Theater can still play on the stage built in 1904. The Westfälische Kammerspiele maintain an ensemble in Paderborn . The music theater division is represented by Theater Hagen and Gelsenkirchener Musiktheater im Revier .

The Westphalian State Theater (WLT) is based in Castrop-Rauxel and gives numerous guest performances on other theaters in the region. The Landestheater has a children's and youth theater as its own division. The Lippisches Landestheater in Detmold fulfills similar tasks , which, in addition to its parent company, performs on stages throughout Westphalia and Lower Saxony with all three branches.

The many small Low German theaters, also called Low German theaters, represent a special aspect of the culture of Westphalia . They are particularly widespread in Münsterland and the local population likes to visit them. The stages, which mostly consist of amateur actors, perform their plays exclusively in the local Westphalian (“flat-duet”) dialect.

There are also a large number of open-air stages such as the Herdringen open-air stage or the Heessen forest stage in Hamm, which is one of the most popular open-air stages in Germany.

In 2007, the Balver Höhle Festival could look back on 85 years of tradition.

Planetariums and planetary trails

There are two large planetariums in Westphalia . The silver domed structure of the Zeiss Planetarium in Bochum has been rising in Bochum since the 1960s . Another star theater is affiliated with the LWL Museum for Natural History in Münster, which is maintained by the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe.

The observatory in Herne and the Westphalian public observatory in Recklinghausen each maintain a small planetarium . There are also some planetary hiking trails , for example in Bad Lippspringe (6 km, funded by the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Planetarium Society ) and in Minden .



Population development

Population development in Westphalia
year Population (million)
1816 1.066
1849 1.489
1871 1.775
1880 2.043
1910 4.125
1925 4,784
1950 6.170
1961 7.176
1970 7.546
1975 7.644
1980 7,590
1985 7.437
1990 7.711
1995 8.027
2000 8.107
2005 8.099
2008 8.355

For the development during industrialization see Province of Westphalia .

After the Second World War, fewer people lived in the territory of Westphalia than in 1939, but by 1950 these losses were largely offset. The big cities suffered particularly from the effects of the war. In Dortmund or Bochum the losses were not evened out again in 1950. The immigration of refugees and displaced persons from the former East German areas and the later GDR contributed to the population growth . In addition to direct immigration, the emigration of former refugees and displaced persons from the then agrarian federal states of Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria played a role until 1961 . After the Wall was built in the GDR, the immigration of foreign workers and their families also increased in Westphalia - especially in the industrial areas . In 1987 the proportion of foreigners in Hagen and Herne was 9%, in Bielefeld, Dortmund and Hamm it was 8%. Especially in connection with the crisis in the coal and steel industry, the big cities lost their attractiveness for internal migration. In Westphalia, the numbers in medium-sized and smaller municipalities increased.

Denominations and religions

Despite migration, the distribution of religions is still shaped by the process of confessionalization during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. In the areas where spiritual before 1803 dominions passed (especially the Electorate of Cologne Westphalia, the bishoprics of Paderborn and Munster ), a majority of the population is Catholic. In the secular principalities that have become Protestant (for example, Grafschaft Mark , Principality of Minden , Grafschaft Ravensberg , Grafschaft Tecklenburg and Grafschaft Wittgenstein ) and the Siegerland region , the Protestant denomination predominates.

While the Catholics of Westphalia today mostly belong to the Archdiocese of Paderborn , the Diocese of Münster or the Ruhr Diocese of Essen , there is a Westphalian regional church with its seat in Bielefeld for the Protestants of the region .

Especially since the 19th century, there was a Jewish minority in numerous cities and even in a number of rural communities, which in 1925 comprised around 22,000 people (Province of Westphalia and Land Lippe). As a result of the Nazi extermination of Jews, this number shrank to around 700, but rose to around 7,100 by 2006.

The number of Muslims in numerous Westphalian cities has risen significantly since the 1960s due to the immigration of Turkish migrants in particular. There are also followers of free churches and other religious communities.

In the last few decades, the number of people with no religion has increased significantly.


Middle Low German dialects were spoken in Westphalia from the Middle Ages to the end of the 16th century, but these are difficult to reconstruct today.

Westphalian dialects of Low German were spoken until the middle of the 20th century . Low German (own name: Nederdüütsch ), also colloquially Low German ( Plattdüütsch ), is a separate language system that differs from High German , especially in terms of sound and grammar. The Westphalian dialects are part of the Lower Saxony language community , in contrast to the dialects on the Lower Rhine, which are referred to as Lower Franconian .

As the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League, Low German was the common language in Westphalia until it was superseded by High German as a written language. While in the rural parts of Westphalia the so-called Low German ("use Plattdüütsch") was still the sole language of the rural Westphalian population in the 19th and early 20th centuries (the despised urban educated citizens mostly spoke High German), it was used in the Westphalian Ruhr area a slightly different development. In the first decades of industrialization, Low German continued to dominate there because the workforce mainly came from Westphalia. Later, labor migration from the East - for example from Masuria, Silesia and Poland - led to the emergence of a specific Ruhr dialect in which different language traditions were combined. However, the differences to the rest of Westphalia are relatively small, and the Westphalian-Lower Franconian language border within the dialect continuum is still noticeable within the Ruhr area. In addition, Low German was retained as a colloquial language by many miners. In the regional literature of Westphalia, the Low German language flourished from the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century.

In contrast to the big cities and the special case of the Ruhr area, Low German was still the dominant colloquial language in some rural areas of Westphalia, especially in the Münsterland and Sauerland , until a few decades ago. Only through increasing mobility and the influence of the media has it been pushed back relatively quickly in recent decades. Older population groups (over 65 years of age) often still speak Plattdüütsch to one another , but Low German is rarely used as a general colloquial language. Most of the Westphalian generations who grew up with Low German as their only mother tongue and first had to learn High German in school have now mostly passed away.

Today, in everyday communication in Westphalia, High German is usually spoken with a Low German tint. In contrast to other regions in the German-speaking area, the High German colloquial language spoken in Westphalia has only a slight regional coloration among the younger generations, which can still be heard above all among the Westphalian rural population. Is often the and what replaced by the Lower Saxony dat and wat (wat Häb ick di sächt).

The southernmost district of Westphalia, the Siegen-Wittgenstein district , which lies south of the Benrath line , the border between the Low German and Central German language areas, does not belong to the Low German language community . Central German dialects have always been spoken here: in the Siegerland the Moselle-Franconian Siegerland Platt and in the Wittgensteiner Land an Upper Hessian dialect. However, both dialects have also adopted elements of Low German.


Historic traffic routes

Westphalia has been accessible by highways and waterways since pre-Roman-Germanic times. A Hellweg running east from the navigable Rhine has been documented for over 5000 years. In the Middle Ages it was an army road and a thoroughfare for long-distance trade. The Hellweg region is named after him. On its route are Dortmund, Unna, Werl, Soest, Erwitte, Geseke, Salzkotten and Paderborn at distances of about 15 km, which in the Middle Ages corresponded to a day's journey by a group of long-distance traders. From Paderborn there were connections to the east. At Erwitte, a trade route leading from Mainz to Lübeck crossed the Hellweg, which connected the Westphalian cities of Siegen and Minden on the navigable Weser. It led through Meschede and Herford. South of the Hellweg, the so-called Heidenstraße formed an approximately 500 km long military and trade route that led on a direct route from Leipzig through South Westphalia to Cologne. Paved roads "Chausseen" were not built again until the end of the 18th century in the Prussian parts of Westphalia after Roman times.

Shipping outside of Westphalia on the Rhine and on the eastern edge of Westphalia on the Weser was important for Westphalia . Before the rivers were dammed , shipping was repeatedly hindered and was of limited importance on the smaller rivers in Westphalia. Since 1780 the Ruhr was navigable as far as Langschede . Since then, the Ruhr shipping industry , which mainly transported coal, has also had a considerable scope . For a long time, the Lippe played only a minor role as a waterway. Locks only changed this at the beginning of the 19th century. In addition, the Ems was navigable as far as Greven .

In 1847, the Cologne-Minden railway line , running west-east from the Rhine to the Weser, was completed, which met the increased transport requirements associated with industrialization. It opened up access via the Weser to the North Sea and circumvented the Rhine tariffs of the Dutch. The route leads north of the Ruhr area through Wanne, Herne, Dortmund, Hamm, Rheda, Bielefeld, Herford to Minden. Two years later the industrial area of ​​the Bergisches Land was connected by the Bergisch-Märkische railway line . The route runs from Elberfeld via Schwelm, Hagen, Wetter and Witten to Dortmund.

Transport communities and transport associations

The districts and urban districts are responsible for public transport by road ; the planning and organization of local public rail passenger transport (SPNV) is the responsibility of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has commissioned regional special-purpose associations. The goals are uniform tariffs and tickets and a coordinated timetable. The transport companies work together in transport associations or transport associations . On August 1, 2017, the Westphalia tariff with individual regional sub-tariffs (including Lippe, excluding parts of the Westphalian Ruhr area) has been in place in Westphalia. The Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) includes a part of the Lower Rhine as well as parts of the Westphalian Ruhr area.

The A2 at Lünen with a view to the east

Road network

Bundesautobahn 2 (A2) runs from west to east, from the Rhine to the Elbe and on to Berlin . It connects the metropolitan regions Rhine-Ruhr , Hanover-Braunschweig-Göttingen and Berlin / Brandenburg . The A 2 runs along the northern edge of the Ruhr area, through the southern Münsterland, East Westphalia and the Weser Uplands and is one of the most heavily frequented motorways in Germany. Bottrop , Gladbeck , Gelsenkirchen , Herten , Recklinghausen , Castrop-Rauxel , Dortmund , Lünen , Bergkamen , Kamen , Hamm , Beckum , Oelde , Rheda-Wiedenbrück , Gütersloh , Bielefeld , Herford , Vlotho and Bad Oeynhausen are on your route. At Porta Westfalica it leaves Westphalia for Hanover .

The most important north-south road connection is the federal motorway 1 (A 1) from Oldenburg in Holstein via Lübeck , Bremen , Hamburg to Saarbrücken , from Lübeck to the Ruhr area also known as the Hansalinie . It connects the metropolitan areas of Bremen-Oldenburg and Hamburg with Westphalia. The Hansalinie crosses the Teutoburg Forest, runs through the Westphalian Bay, the Ardey Mountains, the Ruhr Valley and grazes the northern edge of the Sauerland. Cities on the A1 are Osnabrück in Lower Saxony, as well as Lengerich , Ladbergen , Greven , Münster , Ascheberg , Hamm , Werne , Bergkamen , Kamen , Unna , Dortmund , Schwerte and Hagen .

The road network in the Ruhr area, which is also connected to other federal motorways, is particularly dense. The A 40 , A 42 and A 44 run in a west-east direction . The A 40 leads from the Dutch border through the Ruhr area to Dortmund, where it merges into the motorway-like Bundesstraße 1 and then from Holzwickede into the A 44, which continues through the Soest and Paderborn districts to Kassel and a connection in the metropolitan region of Central Germany . The A 42, which runs parallel between A 40 and A 2, acts as the Emscherschnellweg and relieves both motorways in this congested urban area. The A 31 Emsland autobahn from the North Sea coast near Emden to Bottrop, the A 43 from Münster via Recklinghausen, Herne and Bochum through the Ruhr area to Wuppertal and the Sauerland line A 45 from Dortmund to Aschaffenburg into the Rhine-Main run in a north-south direction Area , the second largest German metropolitan region.

Northern Westphalia touches the west-east running A 30 , which leads from the Dutch border near Bad Bentheim via Osnabrück to the A 2 near Bad Oeynhausen and is part of the European connection between the Randstad around Amsterdam and the metropolitan region of Berlin / Brandenburg. At Osnabrück, the A 33 branches off from here in the direction of Bielefeld , which meets the A 44 south of Paderborn.

The A 445 Hamm - Arnsberg runs as a north-south connecting motorway between the A 2 near Hamm via the A 44 to the A 46 near Arnsberg. The route has been completed from the Werl junction to the A 46 near Arnsberg.


The Mittelland Canal crosses the Weser.


The Wesel-Datteln Canal and the Rhine-Herne Canal are available for shipping from the Rhine to the east . Both canals meet at the largest European hub for inland navigation near Datteln in the Recklinghausen district with the Datteln-Hamm Canal, which leads via Lünen to Hamm, and the Dortmund-Ems Canal , which runs in a north-south direction . The North German waterway network with the seaports on the North and Baltic Seas can be reached via the Dortmund-Ems Canal. The west-east running Mittelland Canal , at 325.7 km the longest artificial waterway in Germany, branches off from the Dortmund-Ems Canal in the wet triangle at Hörstel -Bergeshövede in the Steinfurt district. It is the central waterway between Western and Eastern Europe. The Minden waterway cross , the second largest German waterway cross, crosses the Mittelland Canal in a trough bridge over the Weser . The Mittelland Canal and the Weser are connected by locks.

All canals except for the Mittelland Canal are managed by the Waterways and Shipping Directorate West based in Münster. The water and shipping directorate in Hanover is responsible for the Mittelland Canal and the Weser .


port Cargo handling (1,000 t)
Dorsten 0.303 2000
Dortmund 2,710 2005
Gelsenkirchen 1,269 2002
Hamm 3,100 2007
Herne 0.242 2005
Luenen 1,236 2005
Minden 0.323 2005
Muenster 0.266 2005

The Westphalian ports that are important for the economy are canal ports. The public canal ports of Westphalia have joined forces with the ports of Essen and Mülheim in the working group of public canal ports in North Rhine-Westphalia (AöK). They are transshipment points for bulk goods such as building materials, iron and steel goods, scrap and recyclable materials, coal and coke. Liquid goods such as mineral oils are also transported. In addition, high-quality general cargo and containers are increasingly being used.

The transport of iron ore was still an important factor in the 1990s, but it no longer plays a role today. In 1995, the turnover of iron ore in Dortmund was about as high as the total turnover of goods today.

Container handling is now playing an increasingly important role.

Rail transport

With industrialization, a dense rail network has developed in Westphalia with important railway nodes . While the railroad has decreased in importance for freight transport, this environmentally friendly mode of transport is still important for passenger transport. The rail network is provided by DB Netz , Westfälische Landeseisenbahn and Teutoburger Wald Eisenbahn , among others .

Long-distance transport

The Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region is connected to the metropolitan areas around Hanover and Berlin via a long-distance railway line running west-east . The heavily used route leads via Bochum, Dortmund, Hamm, Gütersloh, Bielefeld, Herford and Minden. In a north-south direction, the long-distance route runs from the metropolitan regions of Hamburg and Bremen / Oldenburg via Münster, Dortmund, Hagen to the Rhine rail and on to southern Germany. It meets the west-east route at the Dortmund Hauptbahnhof railway junction . From Hamm the long-distance route branches off in the direction of Kassel, Eisenach, Erfurt, Weimar, Gera, which leads in Westphalia via Soest, Lippstadt, Paderborn, Altenbeken and Warburg. It meets an important north-south connection at Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe station . There is a cross connection between Münster and Essen via Gelsenkirchen and Recklinghausen.

The German railway operates on these routes the rail passenger transport by Intercity Express , Euro City and Inter City - partly in one-hour intervals .

Local transport

Numerous lines of local rail passenger transport share the rail network with long-distance transport, and S-Bahn lines are also being added. There are light rail vehicles in metropolitan areas . The network in the Ruhr area is particularly dense .

There are regional express (RE) and regional train offered (RB). Some of the S-Bahn trains run on their own routes.

Rail passenger transport is carried out by various transport companies. DB Regio NRW operates the majority of the routes in Westphalia. Other operators are u. a. Abellio Rail NRW , Eurobahn , National Express , NordWestBahn and Westfalenbahn .

air traffic

The international airports of Dortmund , Münster / Osnabrück and Paderborn / Lippstadt are increasingly being served by low-cost airlines and in 2005 carried around 4.5 million passengers.

Dortmund Airport in Dortmund - Wickede is 16 km east of the city center and can be reached by bus from Dortmund main station and via the A1, A 40 and A 44 motorways. Holzwickede train station is nearby.

The Münster / Osnabrück airport in Greven on the A1 motorway is 25 km from Münster and 40 km from Osnabrück. Bus routes lead to Münster, Osnabrück, Ibbenbüren and Lengerich.

Paderborn / Lippstadt Airport, 15 km southwest of Paderborn in Büren on the A 44, can be reached by bus from Paderborn main station .

The Siegerlandflughafen in Siegen is a regional airport, which is used mainly for business travel.


In Westphalia there are numerous companies with a long tradition; Even regional specializations sometimes go back a long way into the past. This applies, for example, to the cigar and furniture industry in East Westphalia , coal mining in the Ruhr area and Tecklenburger Land, and iron and metal processing in the western Sauerland and Siegerland .

Nevertheless, the economic structure as a whole has been shaped by considerable changes in the last few decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Ruhr area was the industrial heart not only of Westphalia, but of the entire Federal Republic, but the mining industry lost more and more importance in the following decades. The structural change has changed the Hellweg cities in particular. Apart from a few industrial start-ups (such as Opel in Bochum), this area concentrated on services and, in connection with the start-ups of universities, on high-tech products (e.g. in the area of ​​software). This process began much later in the northern part of the district and has not yet been completed in many places. The unemployment figures are correspondingly high there.

Outside of the area, Westphalia experienced a partial boom in the last few decades, especially in the commercial sector. The medium-sized iron and metal processing industry, mechanical engineering, the consumer goods industry in South Westphalia, East Westphalia and other parts of Westphalia were not only able to assert themselves in the market, but also to expand their global market positions. The fact that the economic power per capita in the IHK Arnsberg district was 150% weaker than in the Bochum district in 1955 shows how successful the race to catch up in the formerly predominantly rural regions was. Twenty years later there was a tie. Today the proportion of the manufacturing industry in South Westphalia is well above that in the Ruhr area. In a kind of "catch-up industrialization", the economic conditions of the rural areas have adjusted to those of the previous industrial areas. This also applies to the Münsterland (in the Warendorf district, the gross domestic product increased by 37% between 1957 and 1959 alone.)

The change is also evident in the brewing industry. Westphalia as a whole is the region with the highest beer production in Germany. The most important center of the brewing industry was Dortmund until the 1980s . Most of the breweries there now belong to the Radeberger Group , which belongs to Dr. August Oetker KG based in Bielefeld. Today the breweries of the Sauerland and Siegerland are more important in terms of beer output. The Warsteiner , Veltins and Krombacher brands are produced here.


The Lüner chronicler Georg Spormecker (~ 1495–1562) wrote in his chronicle of 1536: “The land is fertile; his men are better than his wines. "


Web links

Commons : Westphalia  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Westphalia  - sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Westphalia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Hamburg Church History I, 2
  2. ^ The areas of interest of Cologne and Braunschweig according to the treaty of 1260 (map). (JPG; 0.87 kB) Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe, accessed on October 8, 2019 .
  3. ^ Hans Galen: Westphalia in Lower Saxony. Cultural links: Münster - Osnabrück - Emsland - Oldenburger Münsterland . Cloppenburg 1993.
  4. ^ Main statutes of the LWL. (PDF; 168 kB) Retrieved on October 8, 2019 : "Section 2 Paragraph 2 and Section 2 Paragraph 6 i. V. m. Investment"
  5. Der Kiepenkerl, really Munsterland. In: stadt-muenster.de. Münster Marketing, accessed on October 8, 2019 .
  6. Leineweberdenkmal-Bielefeld.JPG
  7. ^ Linnenbauer memorial. In: outdooractive.com. Retrieved October 8, 2019 .
  8. ^ Hans Joachim Betzer: Black earths of the Warburger Börde - relics of earth and climate history. In: Yearbook District Höxter, 2003, chapter Lüdgeneder - highest land score in Germany (West), p. 189.
  9. ^ A b Population in North Rhine-Westphalia. State Office for Information and Technology North Rhine-Westphalia (IT.NRW), June 17, 2020, accessed on July 16, 2020 . ( Help )
  10. ^ Establishment of the state of Lower Saxony - presentation and sources. (PDF; 1.9 MB) 1986, p. 23 , accessed on October 8, 2019 .
  11. coalition agreement 2012–2017. (PDF; 929 kB) Retrieved October 8, 2019 .
  12. ^ Franz Mühlen: Architecture in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age. In: Wilhelm Kohl (Hrsg.): History of Westphalia. Volume 1, pp. 687-728. Gerhard Langermeyer: Fine arts until 1803. ibid., Pp. 729–764. Ludwig Schreiner: Architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries. In: Wilhelm Kohl (Hrsg.): History of Westphalia. Volume 2, pp. 431-488. Gerhard Langemeyer: Fine arts in the 19th and 20th centuries. ibid. pp. 489-518.
  13. ^ North Rhine-Westphalia. State history in the lexicon. P. 46.
  14. Circle standard numbers . Edition 2005. State Office for Data Processing and Statistics North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf 2005, p. 10.
  15. ^ Eduard Hegel: The Catholic Church 1800–1962 . In: Wilhelm Kohl: Westphalian history. Volume 2, pp. 341-384; Robert Stupperich: The Protestant Churches since 1803. ibid., Pp. 385–416; Bernhard Brilling: The Jewish communities. ibid., pp. 417-430.
  16. cf. Jan Goossens: Language . In: Wilhelm Kohl (Hrsg.): Westphalian history. Volume 1, pp. 55-80.
  17. Transport. Freight transport statistics for inland waterway transport. (PDF) June 2019, accessed October 8, 2019 .
  18. Ports of North Rhine-Westphalia. Retrieved October 8, 2019 .
  19. Dortmunder Hafen AG. Retrieved October 8, 2019 .
  20. Waterway traffic and port concept NRW, 2004