"Green": Kingdom of Westphalia (1807-1813)
"Red": Province of Westphalia (1815-1946)
"Dark grey": North Rhine-Westphalia (1946-)]

Westphalia ( _de. Westfalen IPA| [vɛstˈfaːlən] ) is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Bielefeld, Bochum, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Münster, and Osnabrück and included in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.

Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia" was applied to several different entities in history. For this reason specifications of area and population are greatly differing. They range between convert|16000|and|22000|km2|sqmi|abbr=on|lk=on in land area, and between 4.3 million and 8 million inhabitants. There is, however, consent that both Münster and Osnabrück as well as Bielefeld and Dortmund are part of Westphalia.

A linguistic definition of Westphalia includes the former Prussian Province of Westphalia (except Siegen-Wittgenstein), Lippe and the region around Osnabrück. Present-day common use, however, often restricts the notion to the present part of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Westphalia is known for the 1648 Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years' War, as the two treaties were signed in Münster and Osnabrück.


The traditional symbol of Westphalia is a white horse on a red field (the "Westfalenpferd" or "Sachsenross"), representing the Saxons. This image has been used in the coats of arms of Prussian Westphalia and the modern state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The white horse is also the traditional symbol of neighboring Lower Saxony.

Composed in Iserlohn in 1886 by Emil Rittershaus, the "Westfalenlied" is an unofficial anthem of Westphalia.


Roman Incursion

Around 1 A.D. there were numerous incursions through Westphalia and perhaps even some permanent Roman or Romanized settlements. The Battle of Teutoburg Forest took place near Osnabrück (as mentioned, it is disputed whether this is in Westphalia) and some of the tribes who fought at this battle came from the area of Westphalia.

The name "Westphalia" probably means "West-Plain". The second word, "Falen", is related to the Germanic words "Field", "Flat", and "Floor" (all of which are related to the Latin "planus" through a common Proto-Indo-European root, *pele, meaning "flat, (to) spread"). With the rise of nationalism in the 19th and early 20th centuries, mention began to be made of a "Phalian" ("fälische") race.


Charlemagne is thought to have spent considerable time in Paderborn and nearby parts. His Saxon Wars also partly took place in what is thought of as Westphalia today. Popular legends link his adversary Widukind to places near Detmold, Bielefeld, Lemgo, Osnabrück and other places in Westphalia. Widukind was buried in Enger, which is also a subject of a legend.

Middle Ages

Along with Eastphalia and Engern, Westphalia ("Westfalahi") was originally a district of the Duchy of Saxony. In 1180 Westphalia was elevated to the rank of a duchy by Emperor Barbarossa. The Duchy of Westphalia comprised only a small area south of the Lippe River.

Early modern era

As a result of the Protestant Reformation, there is no dominant religion in Westphalia. Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism are on relatively equal footing. Lutheranism is strong in the eastern and northern parts with numerous free churches. Münster and especially Paderborn are thought of as Catholic. Osnabrück is divided almost equally between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Parts of Westphalia came under Brandenburg-Prussian control during the 1600s and 1700s, but most of it remained divided duchies and other feudal areas of power. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648, signed in Münster and Osnabrück, ended the Thirty Years' War. The concept of nation-state sovereignty resulting from the treaty became known as "Westphalian sovereignty".


After the defeat of the Prussian Army at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 made the Westphalian territories part of the Kingdom of Westphalia from 1807–13. It was founded by Napoleon and was a French vassal state. This state only shared the name with the historical region; it contained only a relatively small part of Westphalia, consisting instead mostly of Hessian and Eastphalian regions.

After the Congress of Vienna, the Kingdom of Prussia received a large amount of territory in the Westphalian region and created the province of Westphalia in 1815. The northernmost portions of the former kingdom, including the town of Osnabrück, had become part of the states of Hanover and Oldenburg.

Modern Westphalia

The present state of North Rhine-Westphalia was created after World War II from the former Prussian province of Westphalia, the northern half of the former Prussian Rhine Province, and the former Free State of Lippe.

External links

* [http://www.westfaelische-geschichte.de Internet-Portal Westfälische Geschichte] de icon

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