Prince abbot

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A prince abbot was the abbot of a prince abbey or a monastic imperial monastery , who was "prince" to become prince of the Holy Roman Empire ( see also: church princes ), which has the right to have a seat and vote in the imperial prince council , one of the three councilors of the diet of the holy Roman Empire , could go hand in hand. In personal union with his spiritual power, he also exercised secular rule over a territory , which he presided over as sovereign . Imperial nunneries and women's monasteries were ruled by abbesses .

In contrast to the prince provosts , of which only the representatives of three collegiate monasteries received this designation (and only from the middle of the 15th century), five of the princes listed below were raised to the rank of prince between the 12th and 14th centuries.

The function, official dignity and title of a prince abbot were abolished analogously to the prince abbots at the latest with the dissolution of the empire after the entry into force of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss on April 27, 1803. The use of secular symbols of dignity (such as the prince's hat and coat ) was in 1951 by Pope Pius XII. also formally abolished.

Principal abbeys and prince abbots in the Holy Roman Empire

The Imperial Princes' Council , one of the three councilors of the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire , also included the clerical princes and imperial prelates - in addition to the secular imperial princes (the electors formed their own council) and imperial counts . Around 1800 the Imperial Princes' College had 100 seats, divided between a clerical (37 members) and a secular bank (63 members). While the electors and imperial princes as well as a small number of prince abbots each led individual virile votes on the imperial diets up to 1806 , whereby the abbots had to partially share the virile votes, around 1524 each of the remaining imperial prelates was given a curiate vote for their two "prelate benches" shared with all other prelates of the respective “bank”.

There were thus two ecclesiastical ( Rhenish and Swabian Imperial Prelate College ) and four secular ( Lower Rhine-Westphalian , Swabian , Franconian and Wetterauisches Reichsgrafenkollegium ) curiate votes. The prelates represented on the ecclesiastical benches thus had imperial princely rank and could call themselves prince abbots or princely abbesses , but this did not always happen and is also documented at different times; in some cases there were also express surveys by the emperor. In particular, the Rhenish Prelate College belonged to a number of free-worldly ladies' pens , which were used to care for unmarried daughters of the high nobility .

Prince abbots with virile voice

In addition to the imperial princes and prince-bishops, the following abbots and provosts had virile votes in the Reichstag:

Prince abbesses with curiate voice

The other imperial prelates belonged to the two “prelate banks” in the Reichstag, i.e. either the Swabian or the Rhenish prelate college, and each had a common vote (= curiate voice ) with the other prelates of the same “bank” , which was then as much as the individual vote (viril voice ) of an imperial prince counted:

Swabian Imperial Prelate College

see Swabian Prelate Database

Cistercians :

Benedictines :

Premonstratensians :

Augustinian Canons :

Poor Clares :

Canons :

Rhenish prelate college

see Rheinisches Reichsprälatenkollegium

Information for 1792

Maria Kunigunde of Saxony as abbess of Essen and Thorn . The hand pointing to the prince's hat underlines her rank as the ruling imperial duchess, the crown behind it as the king's daughter. Painting by Heinrich Foelix ,
ca.1776 ( Essen Cathedral Treasure )

special cases

The following Benedictine abbeys were also designated as prince abbeys:

  • Princely abbey of Hersfeld (from 1648 secularized as a secular principality)
  • Muri Abbey and Einsiedeln Abbey : The right to participate in the Reichstag was never exercised. 1648 left the empire with Switzerland.
  • St. Blasien Monastery : Although it belongs to the Upper Austria , it was listed in the registers of the Reich between 1422 and 1521. In 1549 the Swabian Imperial Circle tried in vain to incorporate St. Blasien as an imperial prelate monastery. In 1746, however, Emperor Franz I Stephan elevated Abbot Franz II Schächtelin to the rank of imperial prince.

See also


  1. On the title Fürstabt
  2. ^ Franz Gall : Austrian heraldry. Handbook of coat of arms science. 2nd edition Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 1992, p. 219, ISBN 3-205-05352-4 .
  3. Gerhard Köbler : Introduction. In: Historical Lexicon of the German States. The German territories from the Middle Ages to the present. 4th, completely revised edition. CH Beck, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-406-35865-9 , S.XIII.
  4. ^ Franz Gall : Austrian heraldry. Handbook of coat of arms science. 2nd edition Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 1992, p. 226, ISBN 3-205-05352-4 .
  5. Bruno Meier: The Muri Monastery, History and Present of the Benedictine Abbey. Pp. 103-105.