Diocese of Constance

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Coat of arms of the Diocese of Constance

The diocese of Konstanz , based in Konstanz on Lake Constance, existed from around 585 until its dissolution in 1821. The areas belonging to Germany were merged into the newly founded dioceses Freiburg and Rottenburg , the areas belonging to Switzerland were subordinated to the dioceses of Chur and Basel for administration. The diocese was part of the so-called Pfaffengasse and core area of ​​the Duchy of Swabia .

Diocesan territory

Map of the archdeaconates and deacons of the Diocese of Constance before the Reformation

At the end of the Salian period in the 12th century, the Holy Roman Empire comprised 42 dioceses in six church provinces. With an average of 13,000 km², the size of the German dioceses by far exceeded the remaining dioceses. The largest dioceses in the 12th century were Prague (52,000 km²), Salzburg (40,000 km²) and Constance (36,000 km²).

At the height of the Diocese of Constance in the 15th century (modern times) it was definitely the largest German diocese, only in the Middle Ages was it surpassed by Passau. With around 45,000 km² it was larger than today's Switzerland with 41,300 km² or the state of Baden-Württemberg with 35,750 km². In terms of area, the dioceses of Passau and Constance were roughly the same size, but Passau was doubled by Constance in terms of parishes, clergy and the “souls to be looked after”. In 1249 there were around 920 parishes in the Diocese of Passau, and in Constance in 1439 there were over 1700 parishes.

The Constance diocesan area, belonging to the ecclesiastical province of Mainz, extended essentially from the Gotthard massif to the upper Danube , the upper and middle Neckar , from the Rhine to the Iller, and included the Breisgau and the Bregenzerwald as well as the area of ​​the north east of the Aare. , Central and Eastern Switzerland. The diocese was (from 1275) divided into 64 deaneries and ten archdeaconates : Black Forest , Rauhe Alb , Allgäu , Illergau , Burgundy, Klettgau , Breisgau , Thurgau , Zürichgau , Aargau . The so-called "Swiss Quart" of the diocese comprised large parts of today's Switzerland, such as the greater part of the canton of Aargau, the areas of the cantons of Bern and Solothurn on the right of the Aare, the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Obwalden and Nidwalden and almost all of the cantons Lucerne, Zug, Glarus, Zurich, Schaffhausen, Thurgau, St. Gallen and the two Appenzell cantons. From the canton of Basel, only the part of the city of Basel on the right bank of the Rhine belonged to the diocesan area.


First missionaries on Lake Constance

Detailed diocese map from 1779

The monks Fridolin , Landolin , Trudpert and Gallus came as the first missionaries to the Alamanni on the Rhine and Lake Constance in the 6th century . Säckingen am Hochrhein and Schuttern in Ortenau are the earliest monasteries to be founded. This includes the monastery on the Bodensee island of Reichenau , which the traveling bishop Pirmin founded around 724 . Other monasteries, which, not least because of their schools, soon became centers of Christian life, sprang up in Gengenbach , Schwarzach , Mosbach and Ettenheimmünster .

Christianity also came to the Main Franconian areas in the 7th and 8th centuries . There it was in particular Saint Kilian and Saint Boniface with their helpers who prepared the ground for the church. The Benedictine monastery in Tauberbischofsheim gained a great reputation during this time through Saint Lioba , who had been the abbess of it since around 750 .

Alemannic bishopric

In order to evangelize the Alemanni, the diocese of Constance was founded in the 6th century, probably in 585, when the bishopric was moved from Vindonissa ( Windisch ) to Constance . Until the year 780/782 the diocese belonged to the ecclesiastical province of Besançon , from then on to the ecclesiastical province of Mainz .

The Baden Historical Commission noted, however, that “in the first centuries of the Christianization of Alamannia” the episcopate - and thus the diocese of Constance was designated - “hardly ever emerged; let alone that he played a leading role in it. [...] the earliest foundations of monasteries take place without any connection with the responsible bishop ”. So also “the later biographers of St. Gallus found it necessary to correct these states of emancipation from the episcopal jurisdiction ”, and“ Pirmin also carried out his reform work in the various dioceses without a bishop bothering about it ”. Only a “prince of the church” - like Sidonius - “do we see exercising his jurisdiction and that [only] in very fundamental legal questions.” Only in the late 8th century - with John II (previously abbot of St. Gallen) - “did the Constance residents Bishops […] effortlessly brought the two most powerful monasteries near their seat into their dependency, Reichenau and St. Gallen . ”The Carolingians gave the monasteries again immunity, free election of abbots and the removal of interest law.

One of the most outstanding bishops of the early Middle Ages was the "Alemannic Bishop" Konrad von Konstanz (term of office 934–975). He was closely related to Emperor Otto I , who visited the diocese for the Pelagius Festival in August 972 after his return from Italy.

A bishop's church is mentioned for the first time in the 7th century. Construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady began in 1054 after the previous Ottonian church collapsed.

When the Cluny Abbey in Burgundy became the starting point and focus of a radical reform of monastic life in the 11th century , the renewal movement of the Cluniacians spread from Hirsau Monastery in southwest Germany and led, among other things, to the establishment of the St. Peter Monastery in the Black Forest , in which the seminary of the Archdiocese of Freiburg was housed until 2006 . Today the spiritual center of the Archdiocese of Freiburg is located in the former monastery buildings. In the wake of the second, even more radical reform movement of the Cistercians in the 12th century, the influential Salem Imperial Abbey , the Tennenbach Monastery and the Lichtenthal Monastery were established .

Council meeting in the Konstanzer Münster (from the Chronicle of the Council of Konstanz by Ulrich Richental )
Diocesan Synod in Münster (1609)

Council of Constance

At the beginning of the 15th century, the then episcopal city of Constance moved into the center of ecclesiastical and political events when the Council of Constance met there from 1414 to 1418 . It was convened by Emperor Sigismund to clarify the controversial question of the rightful Pope after the return of the Popes from Avignon . The choice fell on Cardinal Colonna, who as Pope Martin V called. The ecclesiastical bishops were secular lords of the Principality of Constance .

Reformation and Counter Reformation

In the first half of the 16th century with Martin Luther dawning Reformation spread very quickly in the southwest of Germany. The Margrave of Baden-Durlach and in Heidelberg resident elector of the Palatinate were among the most important rulers who introduced the Reformation in their areas. Constance was reformed in 1527; the bishop fled to Meersburg .

Coats of arms of the Bishops of Constance in the Hohenstaufengang of Meersburg Castle

However, Konstanz did not stay reformed for long: in 1548 the Habsburgs forced the city to recatholicize . It was revoked of its status as a free imperial city and incorporated into Upper Austria . The bishop officially returned to Constance, but his residence remained in Meersburg until the end of the diocese. Around 1600 it was mainly the Jesuits who were brought to Constance to ensure that the Catholic faith was regained.

Secularization and dissolution

The Konstanzer Münster , cathedral church of the diocese of Konstanz for around 800 years

The rationalist mind flow from the second half of the 18th century and above all by Emperor Franz II. Joseph funded enlightened absolutism seemed about to Further Austria belonging Freiburg into the southwest of Germany. The Napoleonic Wars and the secularization of 1803 brought about a fundamental upheaval that is still felt today. The political reorganization in southwest Germany resulted in a reorganization of the territories of the imperial church. According to § 5 of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (RDH) with its ratification (April 27, 1803), the Hochstift Konstanz fell to the Margraviate of Baden ; The Margrave of Baden had already taken provisional possession of the bishopric through a patent dated September 16, 1802.

The ecclesiastical district of the diocese was initially unaffected by the new constitutional order (§ 62 RDH). However, due to the efforts of the governments to set up a kind of “sovereign church regiment” over the Catholic Church (establishment of “Catholic departments” in the ministries of culture ) , the exercise of church management powers in Württemberg and Baden was only possible to a limited extent; In Württemberg in particular, the remaining ecclesiastical powers of the Diocesan Bishop of Constance were limited to the tasks connected with the power of ordination.

In Constance, the Vicar General Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg under Bishop Karl Theodor von Dalberg worked in the spirit of enlightened Josephinism . After Dalberg's death, the cathedral chapter elected von Wessenberg as his successor in 1817. Pope Pius VII did not recognize the election. The bull Provida solersque of August 16, 1821 declared the diocese of Constance dissolved. It was to merge into the newly founded dioceses of the Archdiocese of Freiburg and Rottenburg (today Rottenburg-Stuttgart). The Swiss parts of the Diocese of Constance were first provisionally administered by the Abbot of Beromünster Franz Bernhard Göldlin von Tiefenau and placed under the dioceses of Basel and Chur. Wessenberg exercised his office under the protection of the Baden sovereigns until 1827, since the successor dioceses Freiburg and Rottenburg could only be occupied in 1828 after a long political struggle between Baden and the Vatican.

How hastily the largest diocese of the Roman Catholic Church on the other side of the Alps was dissolved in order to get rid of Wessenberg is shown by the fact that the Swiss cantons of Glarus , Obwalden , Nidwalden , Uri and Zurich have been part of the former diocese of Constance to this day provisionally administered by the Bishop of Chur . The canton of Thurgau became part of the diocese of Basel, the canton of St. Gallen has formed the diocese of St. Gallen since 1823/47 , to which the two cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden are subordinate as apostolic administration .

At the end of its existence the diocese was very enlightened and liberal; Fifty years after its dissolution, opposition to the First Vatican was formed . The heart of the Old Catholic and Christian Catholic Church in Germany and Switzerland is still located in the Diocese of Constance . Many hymns and traditions in today's Roman Catholic dioceses of Freiburg, Rottenburg-Stuttgart , Chur and St. Gallen date from the heyday under Bishop Dalberg and Diocese administrator Wessenberg.

See also


  • Dieter Göpfert: The diocese of Constance - around 600 to 1821 - history and significance . Ernst Knoblauch printer, Markdorf 2005.
  • Elmar L. Kuhn , Eva Moser , Rudolf Reinhardt, Petra Sachs: The Bishops of Constance . 2 volumes. Gessler, Friedrichshafen 1988, ISBN 3-922137-48-2 .
  • Helmut Maurer : The bishops from the end of the 6th century to 1206 (=  Germania Sacra . The dioceses of the ecclesiastical province of Mainz . Volume 5 ). De Gruyter, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-11-017664-5 ( digitized version - incorrectly referred to as volume 2 in the book.).
  • Elisabeth Reiners-Ernst: The foundation of the diocese of Constance from a new perspective. In: Writings of the Association for the History of Lake Constance and its Surroundings. 71st year 1952, pp. 17–36 ( digitized version )

Web links

Commons : Diocese of Constance  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Borgolte: The Medieval Church. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2004, p. 13.
  2. ^ Journal of the Savigny Foundation for Legal History: Canonical Department, Volume 83, Verlag H. Böhlau 1997, p. 639.
  3. ^ Konrad Amann: The sovereign residence town of Passau in the late medieval German Empire. Verlag J. Thorbecke, 1992, p. 65.
  4. ^ Franz Xaver Bischof : The end of the Diocese of Constance: Hochstift and Diocese of Constance in the field of tension between secularization and suppression (1802 / 03-1821 / 27). Kohlhammer, 1989, p. 47.
  5. So without the city of Bern (not as shown on the map).
  6. Michael Borgolte: Image and Faith: Aesthetics and Spirituality with Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg (1774-1860). Saint-Paul 2009, p. 65.
  7. Joseph Sauer: The beginnings of Christianity and the church in Baden . In: New Year's Papers of the Baden Historical Commission, New Series 14, Carl Winters University Bookstore, Stuttgart 1911, pp. 80 to 85.