Reich prelate

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Reich prelate Anselm II. Schwab , abbot of the Salem monastery , had himself portrayed by Gottfried Bernhard Göz in front of an imperial eagle in 1749

As Reich prelates were referred to the abbots , abbesses and provosts and priors of direct imperial monasteries , Carthusian monasteries , abbeys , cathedral chapter , Kollegiat- and Frauenstift in the Holy Roman Empire , which reports directly to the emperor were under. They were represented in the Reichstag and divided into two colleges, the Rhenish and Swabian prelate banks, each of which granted them a curate vote and thus a say in matters of Reich policy.


The status of imperial immediacy resulted in a number of freedoms and privileges . They enjoyed immunity , were not dependent on any prince and were able to acquire large territories themselves, in which they had sovereignty and in most cases could also exercise lower and high jurisdiction . In particular, the high judiciary put them on an equal footing with princes. They owned the imperial estate and were members of the imperial church in addition to the prince archbishops and prince-bishops with whom they ruled the spiritual areas of the empire . Very few imperial prelates, however, were given their own virile votes , which would have been a condition for placing them as prince abbot or prince provost on the same level as the other ecclesiastical and secular imperial princes . The Empire prelates with only one Kuriatsstimme on a prelate bank of the Reichstag also Reichsabt or Empire abbess or imperial provost called, some of them were but traditionally also referred to as abbots or Fürstäbtissinnen.

History and composition in modern times

Some of the wealthiest imperial monasteries were built in the High Middle Ages in the Lake Constance area or in Upper Swabia , where after the dissolution of the Duchy of Swabia, very many cities and monasteries were granted imperial immediacy.

The imperial register of 1521 lists a total of 83 imperial prelates, the number of which was reduced to 40 by 1792 through mediatization , secularization , assignments to other European states and elevations to the imperial prince .

At the beginning of the early modern period belonged the 14 abbesses of Quedlinburg , Essen , Herford , Niedermünster in Regensburg , Thorn , Obermünster in Regensburg , Kaufungen , Lindau , Gernrode , Buchau , Rottenmünster , Heggbach , Gutenzell and Baindt as well as the balls of the Teutonic Order of Koblenz , Alsace and Burgundy , Austria and on the Adige to the imperial prelate status. The Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and the Grand Master of the Order of St. John also belonged to it. At the end of the early modern period, only those in Koblenz and Alsace and Burgundy remained of the Balleien, whereas only two of the abbesses, one through secularization and the other through being elevated to the rank of imperial prince, no longer belonged to the inner circle of imperial prelates.

The abbots and provosts of Fulda , Kempten , Weißenburg , Muri , Ellwangen , Murbach-Lüders , Corvey , Stablo , Berchtesgaden and Prüm were prince and received a seat and vote in the Imperial Council of the Reichstag . The imperial abbeys in Hersfeld , Saalfeld , Walkenried , Maulbronn , Herrenalb and Königsbronn were secularized and some others, such as B. Reichenau , St. Blasien , Riddagshausen , Selz and St. Peter in the Black Forest lost their imperial estate. But the exit of the Swiss Confederation also contributed to the reduction in the number of imperial prelates, since St. Gallen , Schaffhausen and Einsiedeln, and thus the monasteries there, no longer belonged to the empire.

The areas that belonged to the imperial prelates were mostly very small and sometimes only comprised a few buildings. Yet they were often cultural centers.

In the course of secularization and mediatization , the imperial monasteries were withdrawn from imperial immediacy between 1802 and 1806. Most of them were then completely abolished - their territorial and material possessions came to the beneficiary larger secular principalities such as Baden , Bavaria or Württemberg .

Role of the Reich Prelates in the Reichstag

In the Reichstag, the imperial prelates belonged to either the Swabian or the Rhenish prelate college and each had a common vote (= curate vote) with the other prelates, which then counted as much as the individual vote (virile vote) of an imperial prince.

In the Rhenish college, 19 prelates from the southern and western halves of the empire were gathered, including those from Werden , Corneli-Münster , the St. Emmeram Abbey in Regensburg and the two local ladies' monasteries from Obermünster and Niedermünster . The abbess of the important women's abbey in Essen , the Cistercian abbey in Kaisheim and St. Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg were also members .

The Swabian college comprised only the many small prelatures from the Upper Swabian region. These included the abbeys of Elchingen , Irsee , Roggenburg , Schussenried , Ursberg , Rot an der Rot , Wettenhausen , Marchtal , Ochsenhausen , Zwiefalten and Weingarten . The Benedictine Abbey of Ottobeuren also belonged to the college, but was not represented in the Reichstag. In fact, in the Swabian Imperial Prelate College, it was mostly the Benedictines and Premonstratensians who passed the most important positions on to each other and who took turns providing the directors of the college. Weingarten Abbey most frequently provided the director. The Imperial Abbey of Salem , which was at the top of the ranking, only succeeded once, with Anselm Schwab , as director.

The Swabian Imperial Prelate College was formed in 1575 due to the cohesion developed by the geographical proximity of the prelatures and strengthened it. Due to the cohesion of the members of the college, it achieved much greater political weight than the Rhenish college. Thus, the Swabian kingdom prelates could always send a representative to interständische committees and had the abbot of the Upper Swabian convent Weingarten one since 1555 legally enshrined representatives in Ordinary Reichsdeputationstag .

Reich prelates belonging to the Reichsfürstenrat

The names are ordered according to rank.

The following are also mentioned as principals:

Swabian Imperial Prelate College

see Swabian Prelate Database

Cistercians :

Benedictines :

Premonstratensians :

Augustinian Canons :

Poor Clares :

secular canons :

Canons :

Rhenish prelate college

see Rheinisches Reichsprälatenkollegium

Information for 1792


  • Hans Feierabend: The political position of the German imperial abbeys during the investiture controversy. Marcus, Breslau 1913 ( historical investigations 3, ZDB -ID 500550-4 ), (reprint: Scientia, Aalen 1971).
  • Axel Gotthard : The Old Empire 1495–1806. Scientific book society, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-534-15118-6 ( history compact. Modern times ).
  • Sarah Hadry: Reich Prelate College . In: Historical Lexicon of Bavaria. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek , October 5, 2010, accessed on October 21, 2010 .
  • Sarah Hadry: Reichsstifte in Swabia. In: Historical Lexicon of Bavaria. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek , October 5, 2010, accessed on March 20, 2011 .
  • Helmut Neuhaus : The Empire in the Early Modern Age. 2nd Edition. Oldenbourg, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-486-56729-2 ( Encyclopedia of German History. 42).
  • Thomas Vogtherr : The imperial abbeys of the Benedictines and royalty in the high Middle Ages. (900-1125). Thorbecke, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-7995-4255-8 ( Medieval Research 5), (also: Kiel, Univ., Habil.-Schr., 1990/91).
  • Hans-Peter Wehlt: Imperial Abbey and King. Shown using the example of Lorsch Abbey with views of Hersfeld, Stablo and Fulda. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1970 ( publications by the Max Planck Institute for History 28, ZDB -ID 121375-1 ), (also: Marburg, Univ., Diss., 1968).

Individual evidence

  1. 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.