Principality of Liège

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Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) .svg
Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
Principality of Liège
coat of arms
Coat of arms of the Diocese of Liège.png
Liège 1477.JPG
Diocese of Liège 1477
Alternative names French: Principauté de Liège; Walloon: Principåté d 'Lidje, Dutch: Prinsbisdom Luik, German: Fürstbistum / Hochstift Lüttich
Arose from formed in the 14th century
Form of rule Electoral principality / corporate state
Ruler / government Prince-bishop , administrator or vacant : cathedral chapter
Today's region / s BE-WLG / BE-VLI / BE-WNA , smaller parts also: BE-WHT , NL-LI
Parliament Reichsfürstenrat : 1 virile vote on the spiritual bench
Reich register 60 horsemen, 90 foot soldiers, 400 guilders (1522)
Reichskreis Lower Rhine-Westphalian
Capitals / residences Liege
Denomination / Religions Roman Catholic , Jewish minority
Language / n French , Latin , German , Dutch
surface 3,200 km² (end of 18th century)

Incorporated into 1794: France : Departments Meuse-Inférieure , Ourthe , Sambre-et-Meuse , Jemappes
1815: United Netherlands

The Principality of Liège ( Principauté de Liège in French , Principåté d 'Lidje in Walloon ), synonymous with bishopric or - at the time common - Liège monastery , was a corporate state and spiritual territory of the Holy Roman Empire in today's Belgium , existing from the late Middle Ages (14th century) to 1794/95. It was the secular domain of the prince-bishops of Liege in contrast to the larger area of ​​the diocese , the spiritual pastoral area of ​​the diocese of Liege . The monastery had been part of the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Empire since the 16th century . The Principality of Liège was at times the most powerful spiritual principality in the west of the Holy Roman Empire.


The diocese of Liège was founded by Maternus in the city of Tongeren in the 4th century and moved to Maastricht in the 6th century . Only Bishop Hubertus took his seat in Liège in 720. Already Charles Martel gave the diocese county rights . Otto II withdrew the possessions of the diocese from secular jurisdiction.

With the award of the counties of Huy and Brunigerode (sometimes called the county of Hoegaarden ) to Bishop Notger (972-1008), the basis for the rise of the bishops to imperial princes was laid. This development often took place in competition with the Duchy of Brabant over the next 400 years . Other acquisitions were the Pagus Hasbania, the Duchy of Bouillon as pledge in 1095 and the County of Loon in 1366 . In addition, there were also the margravates Franchimont and Condroz. However, in 1274 the bishopric lost the counties of Montfort and Kessel to the Duchy of Geldern . In 1365 it was bought by the dukes of Bouillon.


History of the Benelux countries
Franconian Empire
≈ 800–843
Middle Kingdom (Lotharii Regnum)
various noble possessions
Wapen Prinsbisdom Luik.png
Diocese of Liège

Burgundian Netherlands
(House of Burgundy)


Burgundian Netherlands
(House of Habsburg)

Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg
Spanish Netherlands
Republic of the Seven United Provinces
1579 / 1581–1795
Spanish Netherlands
Austrian Low Countries Flag.svg
Austrian Netherlands
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Batavian Republic
Flag of France.svg
France ( First Republic )
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Kingdom of Holland
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French Empire (First Empire)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
(House of Orange-Nassau)

Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
(House of Orange-Nassau)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Kingdom of the Netherlands
(House of Orange-Nassau)
from 1830
Flag of Belgium.svg
Kingdom of Belgium
(House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
from 1830
Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
(House Nassau-Weilburg)
from 1890

Inner structures

In relation to the bishop, the very wealthy cathedral chapter developed into its own status as early as the 11th century. The city of Liège experienced a strong boom through trade and industry. The Meuse region, to which the Liège Monastery also belonged, became a focus of copper production and processing since the 14th century. A significant export trade developed while raw materials were imported. Liège was a European leader in the manufacture of guns in particular.

Already in 1196/1198 Albrecht II of Cuyk granted the city of Liege significant civil privileges. In the cities of Liège, Dinant and Huy , the guilds gained internal autonomy and participation in the government of the cities from the end of the 13th century. The capital developed into the apex of an urban country estate .

The XXIII Good Cities

Initially 21, then since 1651 23 so-called "Bonnes villes" (good cities) formed the third estate of the estates. Since 1373 the good cities sent representatives to the "Tribunal des XXII", consisting of four canons of Saint-Lambert , four knights and 14 representatives of the good cities. There were 12 "villes thioises" (German cities, ie cities with Limburg dialect ) and 11 "villes romanes" or "wallonnes" (Wallonia cities with French language). The Principality of Liège was divided into 15 "quarters". The following list of the Good Cities in historical order shows these "quarters" as well as the number of members in the "Tribunal des XXII", as well as today's Belgian province.

city Quarter language Tribunal of the XXII today's province coat of arms
Liège (Liège / Luik) [capital] novels 4th Liege Blason liege.svg
Tongeren (Tongeren / Tongres) Hespengau (Hesbaye) thioise 1 Limburg Tongeren stadswapen.svg
Huy Condroz novels 2 Liege Blason Huy.svg
Dinant Amont novels 2 Namur Blason ville be Dinant (Namur) .svg
Ciney Condroz novels Namur Blason Ciney (Namur) .svg
Thuin Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse novels 1 Hainaut Blason ville for Templemars (North) .svg
Fosses-la-Ville Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse novels 1 Namur Blason Fosses-la-Ville.svg
Couvin Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse novels Namur Blason ville be Couvin (Namur) .svg
Châtelet Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse novels Hainaut Blason ville be Chatelet.svg
Sint-Truiden (Saint-Trond) County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise 1 Limburg Wapen van Sint-Truiden.svg
Visé Marquisate de Franchimont novels Liege Armoiries Visé.svg
Waremme Hespengau (Hesbaye) novels Liege Blason commune be Waremme.svg
Borgloon (Looz) County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise 1 Limburg Loon Arms.svg
Hasselt County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise 1 Limburg Hasselt coa.jpg
Maaseik County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise Limburg Ancien blason Maaseik.svg
Bilzen County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise Limburg Blason ville be Bilzen (Limbourg) .svg
Ringing County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise Limburg Beringen wapen2.svg
Herk-de-Stadt (Herck-la-Ville) County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise Limburg Herk-de-Stad wapen2.svg
Bree (Brée) County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise Limburg Blason ville be Bree.svg
Stokkem County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise Limburg Dilsen wapen.svg
Hamont County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise Limburg Blason ville be Hamont-Achel.svg
peer County of Loon (Comté de Looz) thioise Limburg Blason ville be Peer.svg
Verviers Marquisate de Franchimont novels Liege Héraldique Ville be Verviers.svg

Two other cities also belonged to the territory of the Principality of Liège, but did not have the status of a "Good City":

city status today's province coat of arms
Maastricht Condominium with the Duchy of Brabant and the Republic of the Seven United Provinces Limburg (Netherlands) Blason ville nl Maastricht (Limburg) .svg
bouillon The Prince-Bishop was also Duke of Bouillon . Luxembourg Province Blason ville be Bouillon.svg

In addition to the cathedral chapter and the cities, the nobility formed one of the estates. The right of the estates to have a say was accompanied by a weakening of the bishop. One can speak of a corporate state constitution in the Liège monastery since around 1270 . Since then, the estates have been regularly involved in key political decisions, such as the collection of taxes. However, through the participation of the estates, the country itself was strengthened. As early as 1213, the country's militias defeated an army of knights from Brabant.

Conflict with Burgundy

In the 14th century, the bishopric became a principality with a seat and vote on the Reichstag . At times it was the most powerful spiritual principality in the west of the empire.

In the years 1313 to 1364 the bishops came from the house of the Counts de la Marck , which was intertwined with Burgundy . During this time, a trend towards the Romanization of the bishopric grew stronger. In the further course of the 14th century a contrast to the strongly expanding Burgundian state developed . In 1408 he still supported the Liège bishop in his conflict with the city of Liège. Especially in the time of Charles the Bold , Burgundy became a competitor of the bishopric. In 1468 the country was devastated by Burgundian troops and the city of Liège was devastated. Between 1468 and 1477 the prince-bishopric was temporarily part of Burgundy. The Duchy of Bouillon was lost to the Count de la Marck.

Denominational age

After the death of Charles the Bold, the bishopric was able to regain its full sovereignty. Emperor Charles V returned the lost duchy of Bouillon to the monastery. The prince-bishopric of Liège belonged to the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Empire from 1500.

Principality of Liège ("Liege", gray) 1786, framed by the Austrian Netherlands

In 1559, due to a reorganization of the dioceses in what was then the "Habsburg Netherlands" (today's Netherlands , Belgium without the principality, Luxembourg and smaller parts of northern France) , the diocese of Liège was placed under the newly founded Archdiocese of Mechelen at the instigation of King Philip II of Spain . At the same time, the diocese was reduced in size in favor of the newly founded diocese of Namur , but the bishopric was not transferred to the surrounding Burgundian Empire .

The Hochstift after 1648

The future Prince-Bishop of Liège and Archbishop of Cologne Maximilian Heinrich von Bayern , while still coadjutor of his uncle Ferdinand von Bayern, put down unrest in the city of Liège by force in 1649 . Civil liberties were abolished and a citadel was built as a symbol of power. During the Dutch War , the bishopric became a theater of war again. In the years 1675/76 Liège was occupied by the French. Although closely linked to France at the time, the Duchy of Bouillon had to be relinquished again in 1678 under pressure from France . After the French withdrew, the city of Liège in particular was in constant turmoil, and there were several uprisings against Maximilian Heinrich. After unsuccessful mediation efforts by the emperor too, Wilhelm Egon von Fürstenberg broke the resistance by force in 1684. A new state order favorable to the bishop could be implemented.

Partly in connection with the French Revolution , the Liège Revolution took place in 1789 as a protest against the absolutist system of rule of Prince-Bishop Caesar Constantin Franz von Hoensbroech ; this was suppressed in early 1791 by troops commissioned by the Holy Roman Empire.

After the Battle of Fleurus (1794) (June 26, 1794), the French Republic occupied the southern (Austrian) Netherlands , including the diocese. In the Peace of Lunéville (1801) it was formally ceded to France and added to the departments of Meuse-Inférieure , Ourthe , Sambre-et-Meuse and Jemappes . In 1815 it became part of the Netherlands as a sovereign principality. After the Belgian Revolution , it came to Belgium in 1830/31 .

List of bishops


  • Alfred Bruns: Diocese of Liège . In: Gerhard Taddey (Hrsg.): Lexicon of German history . 2nd Edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-520-80002-0 , pp. 774-775 .
  • Bruno Demoulin: Principauté de Liège. Recueil des instructions aux ambassadeurs et ministres de France, Volume 31, Éd. du Center National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris 1998, ISBN 2-11-089155-6 .
  • Gerhard Köbler : Historical lexicon of the German countries. The German territories from the Middle Ages to the present . 7th edition. Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-54986-1 , pp. 399 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  • Simon Reuter: Revolution and Reaction in the Reich. The intervention in the diocese of Liège 1789–1791 . Aschendorff Verlag, Münster 2019, ISBN 978-3-402-14663-7 .
  • Adolf Wohlwill: The beginnings of the state constitution in the diocese of Liège . Leipzig, 1867 digitized

Web links

Commons : Principality of Liège  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Liège  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Ulf Dirlmeier, Gerhard Fouquet, Bernd Fuhrmann: Europe in the late Middle Ages . Oldenbourg, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-486-49721-9 , pp. 34, 40.
  2. Dirlmeier, Fouquet, Fuhrmann: Europe in the late Middle Ages , p. 355.
  3. ^ Ernst Pitz: Achievements and tasks of the comparative constitutional history . In: Michael Borgolte (Ed.): Medieval research after the fall of 1989 . Oldenbourg, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-486-64420-3 , p. 168.
  4. Köbler, Hochstift Lüttich, p. 360.