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Kassel (until 1926 Cassel) is situated at an altitude of 166 m on the river Fulda in northern Hesse. The city of Kassel is administered as a district in its own right, and is also the seat of the administration of the district (Landkreis) Kassel and the administrative region Kassel. The city has a population of 193,500 (2006).
The earliest documents mentioning Chassalla or Chassella date from 913 AD. In 1189 Kasel was chartered as a town and in 1277 became the capital of the landgraviate Hesse. In the 16th century, Landgrave Philipp I ('the Magnanimous') became one of the leading figures of the Reformation. After his death in 1567 the landgraviate was partitioned among his sons Wilhelm IV (Hesse-Cassel), Ludwig IV (Hesse-Marburg), Philipp II (Hesse-Rheinfels; see Sankt Goar) and Georg I (Hesse-Darmstadt). The architecture of the city was shaped in Baroque style especially during the reign of Landgrave Karl of Hesse-Cassel (ruled 16701730). Under Friedrich II of Hesse-Cassel (r. 17601785) about 19,000 men were leased in 17761783 as soldiers to Friedrichs brother-in-law, George III of the United Kingdom (also Elector, 1815 King, of Hannover), to serve on the British side in the American War of Independence. Following the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803 the landgraviate was elevated to an electorate, but already 1806 it was occupied by French troops. In 1807 Cassel became the capital of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia, which consisted of the Electorate of Hesse, the Duchy of Braunschweig, and smaller parts of Hannover and Prussia. Napoleon's youngest brother, Jérôme Bonaparte, ruled as King of Westphalia until 1813 when, after the Battle of Leipzig, the kingdom disintegrated and the old states were re-established. Although the Holy Roman Empire had ended in 1806, Elector Wilhelm I retained the title 'elector'. As Friedrich Wilhelm I had sided with Austria in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, his country was annexed by Prussia in 1866 and, together with the former duchy of Nassau, became the Prussian province Hessen-Nassau. During the Nazi period, Kassel was the capital of the Reichsgau Kurhessen (without the districts Schmalkalden, Schlüchtern and Gelnhausen). In 1945, Kurhessen was incorporated into the new German state of Groß-Hessen, which in 1946 was renamed Hessen. In 1948 Kassel unseccessfully campaigned for becoming the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. Today, Kassel is renowned for its art exhibition 'documenta'.
Schloss Wilhelmshöhe [left] was built in 17861798 after designs by Heinrich Christoph Jussow and Simon Louis du Ry for Landgrave Wilhelm IX (later Elector Wilhelm I). In the 12th century, the Augustine monastery Weißenstein had been founded in this site. Under Landgrave Philip I it was secularized and was later remodeled into a hunting lodge which was enlarged considerably throughout the folowing centuries. During the period of the Kingdom of Westphalia (18061813) Wilhelmshöhe was renamed Napoleonshöhe as the residence of Jérôme Bonaparte. During this period the three wings of the castle were connected. After the French-German War of 1870/1871, emperor Napoléon III, who had been captured during the Battle of Sedan in 1870, was detained here. During World War II the central part of the castle was severly damaged. After the war the castle was renovated, however without the reconstruction of the cupola. Today, the castle is home to one of Kassel's most important museums.
The Löwenburg [right, no.1258: top picture] in Wilhelmshöhe Park above Schloss Wilhelmshöhe was created in 17931800 by Heinrich Christoph Jussow as a romantic imitation of a decaying medieval castle. The interiors were decorated in a Baroque revival style. The castle was also the domicile of the mistress of Wilhelm IX (Wilhelm I as Elector), Karoline von Schlotheim (later Countess of Hessenstein). Wilhelm is buried in the crypt underneath the castle chapel. Parts of the castle were destroyed in World War II. The reconstruction is still not completed today.
The movie "So sind die Männer" (1922), featuring Marlene Dietrich in her first appearance in a movie, was partly shot here.
The Herkules [left, no.1228: top picture] is the popular landmark of Kassel.
The copper statue of Hercules (8.25 m high) stands atop a tall pyramid (26.1 m on a base of 3.5 m), which
itself sits on a massive octogon of 32.7 m height. The structure was designed by the Italian architect Giovanni Francesco
Guerniero, but Landgrave Karl of Hesse-Cassel also added his own ideas. The Cascades beneath the Herkules are a stone
construction of 250 m length. The main cascade in the centre has a width of 5.5 m and is flanked on bith sides
by slightly elevated cascades of 1.75 m width each.