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County of Hanau-Lichtenberg
Grafschaft Hanau-Lichtenberg
State of the Holy Roman Empire
County of Zweibrücken-Bitsch
1456/80 – 1736 Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt
Landgraviate of Hesse-Cassel

Coat of arms

Capital Buchsweiler
Government County
 -  Established 1456-1480
 -  Disestablished 1736
Roman Catholic; from 16th-century Lutheran; ruled by counts; language: German
Philip I (the Elder), progenitor of the line of Hanau-Lichtenberg on his epitaph in the municipal church of St. Nicholas in Babenhausen

The County of Hanau-Lichtenberg was a territory in the Holy Roman Empire. It emerged between 1456–80 from a part of the County of Hanau and half of the Barony of Lichtenberg. Following the extinction of the counts of Hanau-Lichtenberg in 1736 it went to Hesse-Darmstadt and Hesse-Cassel. Its centre was in the lower Alsace and its capital was Buchsweiler.


The Lichtenberg inheritance[edit]

In 1452, after a reign of only one year, Count Reinhard III of Hanau (1412–1452) died. The heir was his son, Philip the Younger (1449– 1500) who was only four years old. For the sake of the continuity of the dynasty, his relatives and other important decision-makers in the county agreed not to turn to the 1375 primogenitur statute of the family - one of the oldest in Germany - and to let the heir's uncle and brother of the deceased, Philip the Elder (1417–1480), have the district of Amt Babenhausen from the estate of the County of Hanau as his own county.

This arrangement allowed him to have a befitting marriage and have offspring entitled to inherit, and so increased the chances of survival of the comital house. Philip the Elder was now called now "of Hanau-Babenhausen".

In 1458, Philip the Elder married Anna of Lichtenberg (1442–1474), one of the two daughter-heirs of Louis V of Lichtenberg (1417–1474). After the death of the last Lichtenberger, Louis' brother, James of Lichtenberg, in 1480, Philip I the Elder inherited the half of the Barony of Lichtenberg in the Lower Alsace with its capital, Buchsweiler. From this arose the branch and county of Hanau-Lichtenberg. His nephew, Philip the Younger of Hanau and his descendants called themselves, by contrast, the "counts of Hanau-Münzenberg".

Lichtenberg Castle from a Merian copperplate
The Hanauer Hof, the city residence of the counts of Hanau-Lichtenberg in Strasbourg
Coat of arms of the County of Hanau-Lichtenberg, 1642–1736

The Zweibrücken inheritance[edit]

The next large inheritance occurred in 1570. Count James of Zweibrücken-Bitsch (1510–1570) and his brother, Simon V Wecker, who had died in 1540, only left behind a daughter each. The daughter of Count James, Margarethe (1540–1569), married Philip V of Hanau-Lichtenberg (1541–1599). The inheritance included the second half of the Barony of Lichtenberg which was not ruled by Hanau-Lichtenberg, the County of Zweibrücken-Bitsch and the Barony of Ochsenstein. Parts of the County of Zweibrücken-Bitsch were a fief of the Duchy of Lorraine.

Initially a dispute broke out after James' death between the husbands of the two cousins, Count Philip I of Leiningen-Westerburg and Count Philip V of Hanau-Lichtenberg. [1] Whilst Philip V of Hanau-Lichtenberg was able to overpower Philip I, his immediate introduction of Lutheranism in the course of the Reformation made himself an enemy of the powerful, Roman Catholic Duchy of Lorraine under Duke Charles III, who had the suzerainty of Bitsch and withdrew the fief. In July 1572 troops of Lorraine occupied the county and reversed the Reformation. Because Philip V could not match Lorraine's military might, he sought legal redress.

Not until 1604 and 1606 was there treaty arrangement between Hanau-Lichtenberg and Lorraine. It involved a division and took account of the old treaties: the Barony of Bitsch went back to Lorraine and the Amt of Lemberg, which had been an allod of the counts of Zweibrücken, was allocated to Hanau-Lichtenberg. As a result, the Bitsche territory remained Roman Catholic, whilst the Lutheran confession was introduced into the district of Lemberg.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zimmern Chronicle, Vol. 2, p. 251 [1].


  • Reinhard Dietrich: Die Landesverfassung in dem Hanauischen. Die Stellung der Herren und Grafen in Hanau-Münzenberg aufgrund der archivalischen Quellen. Selbstverlag des Hanauer Geschichtsvereins, Hanau, 1996, ISBN 3-9801933-6-5 (Hanauer Geschichtsblätter 34).
  • Hans-Walter Herrmann: Die Grafschaft Zweibrücken-Bitsch. In: Hans-Walter Herrmann, Kurt Hoppstädter (ed.): Geschichtliche Landeskunde des Saarlandes. Band 2: Von der fränkischen Landnahme bis zur französischen Revolution. Historischer Verein für die Saargegend, Saarbrücken 1977, ISBN 3-921870-00-3, pp. 323–332 (Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins für die Saargegend NF 4).
  • Johann Georg Lehmann: Urkundliche Geschichte der Grafschaft Hanau-Lichtenberg. 2 Bände. Schneider, Mannheim, 1862 (Neudruck: Zeller, Osnabruck, 1974).
  • Timotheus Wilhelm Röhrich: Mittheilungen aus der Geschichte der evangelischen Kirche des Elsasses. Band 2: Evangelische Zeitbilder, und die Kirche der Väter unter dem Kreuz. Treuttel and Würtz, Straßburg etc., 1855, pp. 58–97: "Wie die elsässische Herrschaft Hanau-Lichtenberg evangelisch wurde".