HERSFELD, a town of Prussia, capital of a circle in the government district of Cassel, province of Hesse-Nassau, is pleasantly situated at the confluence of the Geisa and Haune with the Fulda, on the railway from Frankfort to Bebra, 10 miles N.N.E. of Fulda. The greater part of its old fortifications remain, but the ramparts and ditches have been laid out as promenades. The principal buildings are the ancient town-house; the parish church, completed in 1320, in the Gothic style, with a fine tower and a large bell; the ruins of the collegiate church in the Byzantine style, erected in the beginning of the 12th century on the site of the cathedral, but burnt down by the French during the Seven Years' War ; and outside the town the ancient monastery with its surrounding grounds. Among the public institutions are a gymnasium, a higher town school, an orphanage, and a district infirmary. The town has important manufactures of cloth and leather, as well as dye-works, worsted mills, and soap-boiling works. The population in 1875 was 6929.
Hersfeld owes its origin to a Benedictine abbey which, founded by Lullus, archbishop of Mainz, about 760, was richly endowed by Charlemagne, and became in the 12th century an ecclesiastical principality. In 1370 the town came under the protection of Bosse, and in 1525 it gave in its formal allegiance to ir. The abbey was secularized in 1648, but Hersfeld remained the capital of a principality until 1828.