Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

(HERBIPOLENSIS).

See also UNIVERSITY OF WÜRZBURG and WÜRZBURG ABBEYS ;

Located in Bavaria ; suffragan of Bamberg. The diocese includes the Bavarian governmental department of Lower Franconia, three communes of Upper Franconia, the Grand-Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen, and several enclaves in Bavaria belonging to the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar (see GERMANY, Map). In 1911 it contained a city deanery with 10 parishes, 34 rural deaneries, 447 parishes and curacies, 62 benefices, 69 local chaplaincies and expositorships, 147 chaplains, 445 parish priests and curates,35 holders of benefices, 67 local chaplains and expositors, 118 chaplains and assistants, 47 ecclesiastics engaged in administration and teaching, altogether 712 active diocesan priests, 55 retired priests, 121 regulars, 560,000 Catholics and about 120,000 non-Catholics. The bishop is appointed by the Bavaria Government. The cathedral chapter consists of a provost, a dean, 8 capitulars, 6 prebends, and 1 cathedral preacher. The institutions for the education and training of the priesthood are: the Catholic theological faculty at the University of Würzburg, with 8 professors; the Catholic seminary for priests at Würzburg, with 75 students; the seminary for boys (the Chilianeum ); and the episcopal house of studies. The following orders are represented in the diocese : Augustinians, 4 monasteries, 37 fathers, 52 brothers; the Benedictine Brotherhood of St. Louis, 1 house, 7 fathers, 20 brothers; Franciscans, 6 monasteries, 19 fathers, 47 brothers; Capuchins, 6 monasteries, 31 fathers, 45 brothers; Carmelites, 1 house, 10 fathers, 10 brothers; Franciscan Conventuals, 2 monasteries, 20 fathers, 24 brothers. Female orders and congregations: English Ladies, 6 convents, 154 sisters ; Franciscan Nuns from the mother-house of Maria Stern at Augsburg, 41 houses, 209 sisters ; Franciscan Nuns from the mother-house at Dillingen, 16 houses, 114 sisters ; Carmelite Nuns, 1 house, 20 sisters ; Sisters of the Most Holy Saviour, 1 mother-house, 184 branch houses, 1160 sisters ; Sisters of the Childhood of Jesus, 7 houses, 152 sisters ; Sisters of Notre-Dame, 23 houses, 182 sisters ; Sisters of St. Joseph from the mother-house at Ursberg, 1 house, 87 sisters ; Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul from the mother-house at Munich, 1 house, 13 sisters ; Ursuline Nuns, 1 house, 43 sisters. Catholic associational life is in a flourishing conditions.

The cathedral at Würzburg, a Romanesque basilica with pier-arches, the most important Romanesque cathedral in Germany, was built between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries. n the seventeenth century its interior was overloaded with Baroque stucco work and spiral ornamentation; it contains 35 tombs, several by Riemenschneider, of the prince-bishops. At the north end of the transept is the Schönborn chapel, a domed structure in the most elaborate Rococo style. The Neumunster Church, or Cathedral, of St. Kilian (Baroque style), built during 711-16 in place of the earlier church over the grave of St. Kilian, contains the bodies of St. Kilian and his companions; the Hauger Collegiate Church, built (1670-83) by Petrini, has a fine dome ; the Church of St. Peter, originally Romanesque with a Gothic choir, was enlarged in the Baroque style during 1717-20; the University Church, built by Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn and dedicated in 1591, is a curious mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles; the Chapel of the Virgin (Marienkapelle), a Gothic church, built 1377-1479, contains numerous figures by Riemenschneider ; the Church of St. Adalbero, built 1896-99, is in Romanesque style from the design by Denzinger ; the church of St. Burchard, erected in the eleventh century in the Romanesque style on the site of a monastery church built by St. Burchard, was enlarged in Gothic style during 494 to 1497. Outside of Würzburg special mention should be made of the church at Dettelbach and the collegiate church at Aschaffenburg. Places of pilgrimage are: the Church of St. Nicholas (called Käppele ) near Würzburg; the Franciscan monastery church near Dettelbach, and the Engelberg near Miltenberg.

The first Apostle of Christianity for the territory now included in the Diocese of Würzburg was the Irish missionary, St. Kilian, who converted Gozbert the Frankish duke of Thuringia but who fell a sacrifice to the enmity of the duchess. In his castle above Würzburg, Gozbert's son Hetan built the first church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin; on this account the castle received the name of Marienburg. The first mention of Würzburg is in 704, when it is called Castellum Virtebuch . A diocese was established in Würzburg by St. Boniface , who in 741 consecrated his friend St. Burchard as bishop ; in 742 Pope Zachary confirmed the selection of Burchard. St. Burchard (741-53) built the first cathedral church, and buried there the bodies of St. Kilian and his companions; he connected with the church a monastery which followed the Rule of St. Benedict. Karlmann, the Frankish mayor of the palace, gave great gifts of land to the bishopric. In 752 or 753 the church of Würzburg was granted immunity for all its possessions, also secular jurisdiction, whereby the foundation was laid for the future secular authority of the bishops. Like the majority of his successors, St. Burchard lived at the Marienburg, which he had received from the last duke in exchange for another fortified castle. His successor, St. Megingoz or Megingaud (753-85), did much towards Christianizing Saxony. Bishop Bernwelf (785-800) replaced the Benedictine secular clergy at the cathedral by the Brothers of St. Kilian, who led a common life after the rule of Chrodegang of Metz. Arno (855-92) rebuilt the cathedral, which had been destroyed by lightning, on the site of the present cathedral ; in 892 he took part in the campaign of Emperor Arnolf against the Duke of Moravia, and was killed by the enemy while celebrating Mass. During the episcopate of Dietho (908-31) the privileges of the diocese were confirmed anew by Henry I. Burchard II (930-41) rebuilt the cathedral, which had been burned a second time. Poppo I of Henneberg (941-61) obtained for his diocese from Emperor Otto I, whose chancellor he had been, the right of the free election of the bishop. Bishop Henry I of Rothenburg (995-1018) built, on the site of the first cathedral, the Neumunster Cathedral of St. Kilian, and founded the Benedictine Abbey of St. Stephen and the abbey of Augustinian Canons called Haug, in which he himself was buried. He gave an unwilling consent to the separation from his diocese, by Emperor Henry II, of a large part of its territory; this portion was made into an independent diocese, the "imperial" Archdiocese of Bamberg. Bernhard of Rothenburg (1018-33) received from Emperor Henry II the right to the use of the forest in the Steigerwald, and from Emperor Conrad II the right of coinage and of exacting customs. The Saxon Bruno (1034-45), a cousin of Conrad II, laid the corner-stone of the present cathedral, and restored the Abbey of St. Burchard. His nephew and successor, who is venerated as Saint Adalbero of Lambach and Weis (1045-90), sided with the pope in the Conflict of Investitures, took part in the election of both rival kings, and was therefore declared deposed from his bishopric by Emperor Henry IV, and forced into exile. The city and diocese suffered greatly during the struggles in which papal and imperial bishops frequently engaged. During the episcopate of Erlung (106-26), who received from Henry V the formal confirmation of the dignity of a Duke of Eastern Franconia, peace was restored in the diocese. Embrico (1125-47) favoured the founding of monasteries of the reformed orders, as: the Cistercian Abbey of Ebrach; the Premonstratensian Abbey of Zell near Würzburg, established by St. Norbert himself; the Scotch Abbey of St. James in Würzburg. Under Gebhard of Henneberg (1150-59) Frederick Barbarossa celebrated at Würzburg his marriage with Beatrice of Burgundy ; Herold of Höchheim (1165-71) received from Barbarossa "complete judicial authority in the entire diocese and duchy of Würzburg and over all countships situated in the diocese or duchy".

The brilliant position which the bishops occupied among the German princes often cost the diocese heavy sacrifices on account of the wars and expeditions to Rome which the bishops were obliged to undertake in the retinue of the emperors; the bishops were involved, not only in the Conflict of Investitures , but also in the struggle of the Hohenstaufen dynasty with the popes. The city of Würzburg made use of this struggle to gain greater freedom from the episcopal power, and strove to obtain freedom of the empire. The vigorous Bishop Hartmann von Lodenburg (1225-54), a loyal adherent of Frederick II, was able to keep the citizens within bounds, but during the episcopate of his successor, Iring von Reinstein (1254-66), Würzburg joined the confederation of the cities of the Rhine as an independent city. This bishop encouraged the settlement of the Dominicans in the diocese. His successors had to wage many wars with the city. Albrecht von Hohenlohe (1345-72), during whose reign the diocese was ravaged with the Black Death, checked the presumption of the citizens with the aid of Emperor Charles V ; Gerhard von Schwarzburg (1372-1400) by his victory over the citizens at Bergstein, in 1400, put an end to the schemes to make Würzburg a free city of the empire. John I von Egloffstein (140-01), and excellent administrator, founded the university. John II von Brünn (1411-40) brought the diocese to the brink of financial ruin. Gottrried IV von Limburg (1442-55), a zealous reformer, and John III von Grumbach (1455-6) had to fight against the claims of the Margraves of Ansbach and Bayreuth of the Brandenburg line. The able Rudolph von Scherenberg (1466-95) raised the diocese to a very flourishing condition, so that he was regarded as the second founder of the bishopric. The same spirit animated Lorenz von Bibra (1495-1519), a friend of Humanism and a patron of Trithemius, whom he appointed abbot of the Scotch monastery at Würzburg. Conrad von Thungen (1519-40) sought to the utmost of his ability to prevent the entrance of the new doctrines. During his episcopate the peasants who had revolted devastated the diocese, and the episcopal castle suffered a long siege from 20,000 peasants. Melchior von Zobel (1544-58) sought to preserve his diocese to the Catholic Faith by instituting reforms, and for this purpose he attended the Council of Trent , but the cathedral chapter, which was composed of worldly minded nobles, blocked his efforts; he was murdered by a Protestant nobleman, William von Grumbach. Frederick von Wirsberg (1558-73) brought the Jesuits to Würzburg, and in 1570 gave them charge of the seminary for boys and a boarding-school which he had established. He was followed by the greatest bishop Würzburg ever had, Julius Echter von Meselbrunn (1573-1617), during whose episcopate the diocese took on fresh life. Of his labours the university, which he refounded, and the Julius Hospital, built by him, for hundreds of years the largest charitable institution in all Germany, still exist. John Gottfried von Aschhausen (1617-22) united for the first time the dioceses of Würzburg and Bamberg. During the episcopate of Philip Adolph von Ehrenberg (1622-31) many persons were put to death, among them the bishop's nephew, for superstitious belief in witches. This led the Jesuit Frederick von Spee to write his celebrated treatise against belief in witches.

In 1631 the Swedes conquered the diocese and city, which, united with Bamberg, was given to Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar as the Duchy of Franconia. It was not until the imperial troops were victorious at Nordlingen in 1634 that Bishop Frederick von Hatzfeld (1631-42) could enter his diocese. Notwithstanding their oppression by the Swedes, the population remained loyal to the Catholic Faith. During the reign of John Philip von Schönborn (1642-73) the diocese recovered from the injuries of the Thirty Years War . Francis Philip von Greiffenklau (1699-1717) had the cathedral and the Church of St. Peter ornamented in the Baroque style. The diocese ad city prospered greatly under Philip Francis von Schönborn (1719-24), who laid the corner-stone of the episcopal palace at Würzburg, one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in the world. Christopher von Hutten (1724-29), and Frederick Karl von Schönborn (1729-46). Adam von Seinsheim (1755-79), during whose episcopate the Seven Years War caused the diocese great suffering, did much for the benefit of the primary schools. He was followed by the excellent Bishop Francis Ludwig von Erthal (1759-95). The last Prince- Bishop of Würzburg was George Karl von Fechenbach. In 1802 the diocese, which contained over 250,000 inhabitants, was secularized and given to Bavaria. After the Peace of Pressburg, Bavaria was obliged to cede it to the brother of Emperor Francis, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who ruled it as the Grand Duchy of Würzburg until 1814. After the fall of Napoleon the territory reverted to Bavaria. After the death of the bishop ecclesiastical affairs were administered by the auxiliary bishop, Zirkel, who courageously and successfully maintained the rights of the Church against the Governments and statesmen.

The Bavarian Concordat of 1817 and the Bull "Dei ac Domini nostri", of 1 April, 1818, established the Diocese of Würzburg with its present boundaries, and made it a suffragan of the smaller and less ancient Diocese of Bamberg ; the Bishops of Würzburg, however, were granted the right to the pallium. The new bishop, Frederick Gross von Trockau (1818-40), did much for the reorganization of the diocese and for the training of the clergy. During the episcopate of George Anthony von Stahl (1840-70) there was held in 1848 at Würzburg the conference of German bishops which inaugurated a new development of Catholic life in Germany. Bishop von Stahl died at Rome during the Vatican Council, in which he had taken an active part. He was followed by Valentine von Reissmann (1871-75), his vicar-general for many years; von Reissmann took successful measures against the spread of the Old Catholic Church. Francis Joseph von Stein (1878-98), who laboured for the improvement of the education of the clergy and courageously defended the rights of the Church, was transferred to the archiepiscopal See of Munich-Freising (see ARCHDIOCESE OF MUNICH-FREISING). The present bishop, Ferdinand von Schlör, was appointed on 5 March, 1898, and consecrated on 22 May, 1898.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:12-22
12 do not forget, I say, that you were at that time ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:35-38
35 'See that you have your belts done up and your ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 21st, 2014 Image

St. Hilarion
October 21: Abbot and disciple of St. Anthony the Great, companion of St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter