Charles Borromeo

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Karl Borromeo - painting by Giovanni Ambrogio Figino (1548–1608).
Charles Borromeo (bottom left) in a painting by Carlo Ceresa , 1581

Karl Borromeo ( Italian Carlo Borromeo ; born October 2, 1538 with Arona ; † November 3, 1584 in Milan ) was a cardinal , archbishop of Milan and an important representative of the Catholic reform after the Council of Trent . He came from the Italian noble family Borromeo and is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church .


Karl Borromeo was born as the son of Gilberto Borromeo, Count of Arona, and Margherita de 'Medici in the castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore . He studied secular and canon law at the University of Pavia and obtained a doctorate in both rights in 1559 . At the beginning of 1560 he was brought to Rome by Pius IV , his uncle elected pope at the end of 1559, as apostolic protonotary and cardinal depositary and entrusted with papal administrative tasks. He organized the convocation and progress of the third and last session of the Council of Trent in 1562/63 and played an important role in the implementation of the council resolutions, especially in the reform of the diocese administration and pastoral care. He headed the editorial board of the influential Catechism Romanus .

As early as 1560 he was appointed administrator of the diocese of Milan, but he was ordained a priest and shortly afterwards in 1563 after a personal religious turn. From then on he led an ascetic life in prayer and as an active pastor. He voluntarily gave up his privileged place at the papal curia in order to move to Milan in 1566 after the death of Pius IV and to take care of the archdiocese, which was considered to be shabby, with personal commitment. It became a model diocese through his work. In 1561 he had already founded the college student boarding school Collegio Borromeo in the university town of Pavia, which is part of the Archdiocese of Milan , in order to primarily help poorer students who did not have sufficient funds to study in Pavia. His reform measures met with resistance from some monastic orders, especially the humiliates . Four members of this order committed an assassination attempt on the bishop in 1569, but it failed.

In the course of the Counter-Reformation , Karl Borromeo advocated a moral renewal of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the fight against Protestantism . In 1559 he was involved in the heretic trial against Georg von Ghese . As papal visitor to Switzerland, Karl Borromeo worked up to the highest places in the Engadine and founded the Collegium Helveticum in 1579 . While he enjoyed the support of secular power in the Duchy of Milan , in Graubünden he encountered resistance from the authorities, who did not allow proceedings for heresy . When Borromeo was asked in 1583 by the General Council of the predominantly Catholic Misoxertal for help against the Protestants - many of whom had fled Italy - this obstacle was circumvented by accusing the suspects of witchcraft instead. The secular authorities in Graubünden had no objection to this. Of 108 defendants, eleven were burned to death by secular violence; the remainder returned to church under torture. In the neighboring Calanca valley, a similar procedure was followed: there are said not to have been any more of 50 Protestant families in the valley after Borromeo left.

From 1576 to 1578 Borromeo campaigned for extensive care for those suffering from the plague , which was detrimental to his health. He died at the age of 46. Charles Borromeo seems to have made a strong impression on his relative Aloisius von Gonzaga (1568–1591), whom he was preparing for First Holy Communion. Aloisius entered the Jesuit order in 1585, the year after Borromeo's death, and died at the age of 23 after taking care of plague sufferers. He was canonized as early as 1605 .

Canonization and patronage

Borromeo, already venerated as the ideal type of the Christian prince of the church during his lifetime, was canonized by Pope Paul V in 1610 . His Catholic feast day is November 4th. It is an obligatory day of remembrance in the general Roman calendar .

Borromeo is the patron saint of the University of Salzburg as well as the pastors and seminarians . He is called when there is a plague epidemic .

Borromeo Sunday

In 1925 the Fulda Bishops' Conference decided to celebrate the Sunday after November 4th as "Borromeo Sunday". On this day the priests should refer the faithful to the local parish libraries and promote the “good book”. Today “Borromeo Sunday” is usually referred to as “Book Sunday”.

Pawn rule

The peasant rule corresponding to the name day of November 4th is:

  • When it storms and snows at Karolus, get your fur ready.

Monuments and name honors

Colossal statue at Arona
Student boarding school at Collegio Borromeo in Pavia
Karl Borromeo in the Karlskirche in
Vienna ( Johann Michael Rottmayr )
Statue in Milan (by Dionigi Bussola)

On the initiative of his cousin Federico Borromeo , the erection of a 23-meter-high copper colossal statue was started in his native Arona in 1624 , which was the tallest statue accessible from the inside until the Statue of Liberty was built in New York . In 1697 the monument in Arona was completed. The Carlone , as he is popularly known, was originally planned in marble, but the colossal statue was then made of copper. Federico Borromeo was so impressed by the example of his famous cousin, who was 26 years older than him, that he seriously considered rejecting Pope Clement VIII's appointment as Archbishop of Milan .

In 1800 Stendhal wrote to his sister about the statue: “This statue dominates the lake in silence. For a long time nothing had disturbed her calm, until recently a cannonball hit her chest during the siege of Arona, fortunately without damaging her. I've never seen a more beautiful picture. "

In Vienna , Emperor Karl VI. after the plague year 1713 the Karlskirche in honor of Borromeo ; in 1908, the community square in Vienna- Landstrasse (3rd district) was renamed Karl-Borromäus-Platz after him.

From 1908 to 1910, the cemetery church of St. Karl Borromeo was built on the Vienna Central Cemetery based on designs by Max Hegele .

On March 27, 1865, the Catholic parish in Leer founded a hospital and poor house called the Borromeo Hospital. The so-called Borromeo Encyclical , which was published in 1910 by Pope Pius X on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the canonization of Borromeo, caused protests because the Pope called the Reformation, against which Borromeo had fought, as a "rebellion and perversion of faith" designated.

The Collegium Borromaeum , the seminary of the Archdiocese of Freiburg , and the Borromaeum seminary of the Diocese of Münster are named after Borromeo .

The parish church of Philippsreut in the Bavarian Forest is, like the parish hall, consecrated to St. Karl Borromeo. The saint has been patron here since 1900, initially as patron of the village chapel, which was built in 1900, then from 1928 as patron of the Expositurkirche , which was destroyed by a grenade impact in April 1945. The parish church in the center of the village, which was newly built between 1945 and 1950, was consecrated again on October 11, 1950 in honor of St. Charles Borromeo. The parish hall, which was consecrated on April 5, 2009, bears the name “Parish Hall of St. Charles Borromeo”. There are two statues of Borromeo in the church.

Karl Borromeo is the patron saint of the Catholic parish of St. Karl Borromeo Winnenden , the town church of St. Karl Borromeo in Winnenden and a chapel named after him in Rheineck .

The so-called small seminar (Archbishop's private high school) of the Archdiocese of Salzburg , the Borromäum, also bears his name.

The parish church in Hohenems in Vorarlberg is dedicated to St. Karl Borromeo. He is the city's patron saint because of his short and only visit to Count Jakob Hannibal, the husband of his half-sister Hortensia, in 1570.

The Carolus Borromeuskerk in Antwerp is also named after him.

Cunter , a place in Graubünden, shows it on the municipal coat of arms.

The Nicaraguan San Carlos in the Rio San Juan department is named after him.


  • Giuseppe Alberigo : Karl Borromäus: Historical sensitivity and pastoral commitment. Aschendorff, 1995, ISBN 3-402-02976-6 .
  • Hedwig Bach: Karl Borromäus: model for the reform of the church after the Council of Trent. , 1985, Wienand, ISBN 3-87909-135-8
  • Friedrich Wilhelm BautzKarl Borromeo. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 1, Bautz, Hamm 1975. 2nd, unchanged edition Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-013-1 , Sp. 708-709.
  • Benrath:  Borromeo, Karl . In: Realencyklopadie for Protestant Theology and Church (RE). 3. Edition. Volume 3, Hinrichs, Leipzig 1897, pp. 333–336.
  • Carl Camenisch : Carlo Borromeo and the Counter Reformation in the Valtellina. Chur 1901.
  • Pablo Crivelli: Karl Borromeo. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . June 25, 2012 , accessed December 29, 2019 .
  • Mariano Delgado and Markus Ries (eds.): Karl Borromäus and the Catholic Reform. Files from the Freiburg Symposium on the 400th return of the canonization of the patron saint of Catholic Switzerland (Friborg / Stuttgart, Academic Press / W. Kohlhammer, 2010).
  • Eduard Wymann : From the Swiss. Correspondence with Cardinal Carl Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan . In: History friend. Announcements of the historical association of the five places Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Zug 52 (1897), pp. 261–305, 53 (1898), pp. 1–100, 54 (1899), pp. 1–225
  • Eduard Wymann: Saint Karl Borromeo and the Swiss Confederation. Correspondence from the years 1576–1584 (Ambrosiana F 135-F 175), along with articles on the history of the effectiveness and veneration of the saint in Switzerland . (1903)
  • Eduard Wymann: Cardinal Karl Borromeo in his relations with the old Confederation. Commemorative sheets for the third century of his canonization. Part 1. In: Der Geschichtsfreund 65 (1910), pp. 217–288. Part 2. In: That. (1911), pp. 1-170
  • Eduard Wymann: Testimonies about the visit of St. Karl at the grave of Blessed Nikolaus von Flüe. In: Der Geschichtsfreund 71 (1916), pp. 233-256
  • Eduard Wymann: Borromeo In: Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz , Volume 2, Biondetti_Brupbacher , Neuenburg 1921, pp. 315-316. (accessed June 30, 2017).
  • Eduard Wymann: The plague of St. Karolus Borromeo according to a Ticino chronicle (1937)
  • Eduard Wymann: Heinrich Federer and Karl Borromeo. 1538-1938 (1938)
  • The Karl Borromeo monument in the Kollegiumshof zu Altdorf. Historical contributions to the consecration of the monument. Ed. V. Eduard Wymann (1952)

See also

Web links

Commons : Karl Borromäus  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. For the biography cf. Agostino Borromeo, Art. Borromäus, Karl , in: Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche , 3rd edition, Freiburg: Herder 1994, Vol. 2, Sp. 598-600.
  2. Frédéric Bettex : The Bible, God's Word. Stuttgart, Steinkopf 1902, p. 129 in the English translation in the US archive
  3. C. Camenisch, p. 135
  4. Ecclesiastical Official Gazette of the Diocese of Essen, Vol. 49 (2006), Item 11, p. 126, No. 113.
  5. ^ Street names in Vienna since 1860 as “Political Places of Remembrance” (PDF; 4.4 MB), p. 131, final research project report, Vienna, July 2013
  6. Table of contents, excerpt
predecessor Office successor
Filippo II Archinti Archbishop of Milan
Gaspare Visconti