- Soest, North Rhine–Westphalia, Germany
Soest (zōst), city (1994 pop. 44,917), North Rhine–Westphalia (previously of the Prussian province Westphalia), northwestern Germany. Neighbouring towns are Langenberg, Hamm, Lippstadt, Erwitte, Werl. It is the capital of the Soest district.
It lies on the fertile Soester Plain (Soester Börde) in the Hellweg region, which extends south from the Lippe River, east of Dortmund. Although excavations have shown there has been a settlement on the site since Roman times, it was first mentioned in 836 (as Sosat). It is a manufacturing city and an agricultural trade centre. Soest was one of the largest and most important Hanseatic towns in the middle ages, with a population estimated at from 30,000 to 60,000. Soest was one of the chief emporiums on the early trading route between Westphalia and Lower Saxony. Soest is one of the oldest cities of Germany.
On the fall of Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, Soest passed with the rest of Angria to the archbishopric of Cologne. In the 15th century the strife between the townsmen and the archbishops broke out in open war, and in 1444 the strong fortifications of the town withstood a long siege by an army of 60,000 men. The women of Soest were said to have distinguished themselves in this contest (Soester Fehde). Papal intervention ended the strife, and Soest was permitted to remain under the protection of the dukes of Cleves, but it enjoyed virtual independence under its charter. When the last duke of Cleves died in 1609 that dukedom was inherited by Brandenburg; after a short siege Soest was also part of it. The prosperity of the town waned in more modern times: in 1763 its population was only 3800; in 1816 it was 6687.
Although it was bombarded and damaged in World War II, a good deal of its old churches and the old city walls, including the gatehouse of 1526 remain. Notable is the cathedral of St. Patroclus, founded in 955 and expanded in 1166, which houses important Lutheran archives and a renowned Protestant theological library. The modern city has some light industry, and serves as a major cattle and produce market for its area. The 2004 estimated population was 48,400.