1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cassel (Germany)

CASSEL, or Kassel, a city of Germany, capital of the former electorate of Hesse-Cassel, and, since its annexation by Prussia in 1866, capital of the province of Hesse-Nassau. Pop. (1885) 64,083; (1905) 120,446. It is pleasantly situated, in a hilly and well-wooded country, on both sides of the river Fulda, over which a stone bridge leads to the lower new town, 124 m. by rail N.N.E. from Frankfort-on-Main. The river is navigable for barges, and railways connect the town with all parts of Germany. The streets of the old town are narrow and crooked, and contain many picturesque gabled houses, generally of the 17th century, but those of the upper and lower new town, and the three suburbs, are not surpassed by any in Germany. The principal streets are the Königs-strasse (5100 ft. long and 60 broad), the Schöne Aussicht, and the Stände-platz (180 ft. broad with four rows of linden trees). The large Friedrichs-platz is 1000 by 450 ft. in area. In it stands a marble statue of the landgrave Frederick II. There is a fine view from the open side. The former residence of the electors (Residenzschloss) fronts this square, as well as the Museum Fridericianum, with a façade of Roman-Ionic columns. The museum contains various valuable collections of curiosities, interesting mosaics, coins, casts, a library of 230,000 volumes, and valuable manuscripts. In the cabinet of curiosities there is a complete collection of clocks and watches from the earliest to the present time. Among these is the so-called Egg of Nuremberg, a watch made about 1500 by Peter Henlein. Among other public places and buildings worthy of notice are the Roman Catholic church, with a splendid interior; the Königs-platz, with a remarkable echo; the Karls-platz, with the statue of the landgrave Charles; and the Martins-platz, with a large church—St Martin’s—with twin towers, containing the burial-vaults of the Hessian princes. The gallery of paintings, housed in a handsome building erected in 1880 on the Schöne Aussicht, contains one of the finest small collections in Europe, especially rich in the works of Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Van Dyck.

The town contains numerous educational institutions, including a technical college, a school of painting, a celebrated classical school, which the emperor William II. attended, and a military academy. The descendants of the French refugees who founded the upper new town have a church and hospital of their own. There are three Roman Catholic churches, an English church, and two synagogues. Music is much cultivated, and there is an opera with a first-rate orchestra, of which Ludwig Spohr was at one time conductor. The opera-house or theatre was built by Jerome Napoleon, but in 1906 money was voted for a new building on the Auetor. A new Rathaus (town-hall) has been erected. There are also the Bose Museum, containing collections of pictures and antiquities of Hessian origin, museums of natural history and ethnography, an industrial exhibition hall, and an industrial art school. A handsome Gothic Lutheran church was erected in 1892–1897, a post office (Renaissance) in 1881, and new administrative offices and law courts in 1876–1880. The municipal (or Murhard) library, in the Hanau park, contains 118,000 volumes. The most noticeable of the modern public monuments are those to the emperor William I. (1898), to the musician Spohr (1883), and the Löwenbrunnen (1881). In the Karlsaue, a favourite public promenade lying just below the Schöne Aussicht, are the Orangerie and the marble baths. Cassel is the headquarters of the XI. German army corps, and has a large garrison. It is a favourite residence for foreigners and retired officers and government officials. The industries embrace engine-building, the manufacture of railway carriages and plant, scientific instruments, porcelain, tobacco and cigars, lithography, jute-spinning, iron-founding, brewing and gardening.

On a slope of the Habichtswald Mountains, 3 m. W. of Cassel, and approached by an avenue, is the summer palace of Wilhelmshöhe, erected in 1787–1794. Napoleon III. resided here, as a prisoner of war, after the battle of Sedan. The surrounding gardens are adorned with fountains, cascades, lakes and grottos, the principal fountain sending up a jet of water 180 ft. high and 12 in. in diameter. Here also is an interesting building called the Löwenburg, erected in 1793–1796 in the style of a fortified castle, and containing among other things portraits of Tudors and Stuarts. The principal curiosity is the Karlsburg cascade, which is placed in a broad ravine, thickly wooded on both sides. A staircase of 900 steps leads to the top. On one of the landings is a huge rudely-carved stone figure of the giant Enceladus, and at the top is an octagon building called the Riesenschloss, surmounted by a colossal copper figure of the Farnese Hercules, 31 ft. high, whose club alone is sufficiently capacious to accommodate from eight to ten persons. In different parts of the park, and especially from the Octagon, charming views are obtained. The park was first formed by the landgrave Frederick II., the husband of Mary, daughter of George II. of England, and was finished by his successor the landgrave William, after whom it was named.

The earliest mention of Cassel is in 913, when it is referred to as Cassala. The town passed from the landgraves of Thuringia to the landgraves of Hesse in the 13th century, becoming one of the principal residences of the latter house in the 15th century. The burghers accepted the reformed doctrines in 1527. The fortifications of the town were restored by the landgrave Philip the Magnanimous and his son William IV. during the 16th century, and it was greatly improved by the landgrave Charles (1654–1730), who welcomed many Huguenots who founded the upper new town. In 1762 Cassel was captured by the Germans from the French; after this the fortifications were dismantled and New Cassel was laid out by the landgrave Frederick II. In 1807 it became the capital of the kingdom of Westphalia; in 1813 it was bombarded and captured by the Russian general Chernichev; in 1830, 1831 and 1848 it was the scene of violent commotions; from 1850 to 1851 it was occupied by the Prussians, the Bavarians and the Austrians; in 1866 it was occupied by the Prussians, and in 1867 was made the capital of the newly formed Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau.

See Piderit, Geschichte der Haupt- und Residenzstadt Kassel (Kassel, 1882); Fr. Müller, Kassel seit 70 Jahren (2 vols., 2nd ed., Kassel, 1893); and Hessler, Die Residenzstadt Kassel und ihre Umgebung (Kassel, 1902).