Secularization in Bavaria

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As part of the secularization in Bavaria , a secularization of ecclesiastical goods in the Electorate of Bavaria took place in 1802 and 1803 .

history of secularization

In the 16th century, Duke Max I set up an ecclesiastical council to oversee the church on the basis of the superiority of the state. From 1608 onwards, the elector claimed the right of patronage if there were any ambiguities in connection with monasteries and monasteries.

In 1743, Elector Karl Albrecht of Bavaria proposed to the Austrian Archduchess Maria Theresa that Austria and Bavaria in particular should be enlarged through secularization and the incorporation of prince bishoprics . Maria Theresa rejected this as a great injustice. In Austria, many bishoprics were not allowed to become directly imperial .

Also in 1743, a Brandenburg diplomat thought it would be easy to redistribute superfluous spiritual goods to support the emperor and benefit princes and other regents. The view of the jurists Christian Wolff , Johann Gottlieb Heineccius and Samuel von Pufendorf , that the church forms a rich, powerful state within the state and that the oppressed state must be helped up, found favor and became more and more widespread.

restriction of the monastic system

In the second half of the 18th century, the Bavarian electors resorted to increasingly bureaucratic and strangling measures against the monastic system. Thus, between 1749 and 1770, the collections of the mendicant orders were forbidden. In 1764, the elector issued a decree ("amortization decree"), according to which the taking of inheritance into the monasteries, which had previously been left to the discretion of the novice, was restricted. In 1769, an electoral general mandate prohibited the mendicant orders from carrying out order visits by clergymen and colleges who were based outside of Bavaria. At the same time, they were forbidden to take in more than 1/6 non-Bavarian relatives and were required to report the number of staff in the monasteries to the spiritual council. The local bishops were forbidden to visit the monastery. The monasteries protested, but the higher clergy did not take part in the protests, so the government measures met with no significant resistance.

Abolition of the Jesuit order

Under pressure from the kings of France, Spain and Portugal, the Jesuit order was abolished by Pope Clemens XIV in 1773. On his instructions, the Jesuit estates in Bavaria were made available to the electoral school fund. The elector claimed the goods of the Augsburg Jesuits in Bavaria according to the doctrine of ambiguity applied since 1608 and confiscated them. His request was of course unsuccessful, because at the intervention of Prince-Bishop Clemens Wenzeslaus , the Imperial Court Councilor assigned the Jesuit estates to the Bishopric of Augsburg .

First attempt at secularization in a spiritual state

The will to secularize monasteries did not stop in clerical states either. In 1774, Prince Bishop Clemens Wenzeslaus of Augsburg, in his capacity as sovereign, decreed at the instigation of his secular government in Dillingen that Dominican nuns had to run a sewing school. The ecclesiastical government seated in Augsburg did not agree to this, and the prince-bishop no longer pursued the intention.

In 1775, the Elector of Bavaria expanded and specified the powers of the spiritual council. From the same year, future civil and religious dignitaries were only allowed to complete their studies at the University of Ingolstadt , where the Enlightenment scholar Johann Adam Ickstatt the Elder taught. In 1777 the Wittelsbach Elector Max III died. Joseph , but his successor Karl Theodor also had an enlightened worldview , at least in the early years of his reign .

Unlike in the Bishopric of Augsburg , a prelate's plan for secularization in Aschaffenburg was successful in 1778 . The prince-archbishop of Mainz moved into the monastery garden of a Capuchin monastery for only a small fee and used it as a palace garden and wooden yard for his secular bishopric government. A chapel of the Mother of God was also demolished for the construction work.

Pope Pius VI agreed to Elector Karl Theodor's plan to transfer the formerly Jesuit school fund to a newly created Bavarian province of the Order of Malta , which then had to look after one of Karl Theodor's sons. In 1782, Karl Theodor donated the school fund to the Maltese province and, as the highest church bailiff and sovereign, ordered the monasteries to operate the school fund schools at their own expense.

In 1783 Pope Pius VI agreed. the dissolution of the heavily indebted Premonstratensian Abbey of Osterhofen. A noble women's convent was to be founded from the funds released . The repeal became a precedent to be respected. In 1784 Karl Theodor also abolished the Augustinian monastery of Indersdorf due to heavy debt.

In 1787, the Prince Bishop of Bamberg informed the Langheim Cistercian Abbey in a visitation decree that the monasteries could be dissolved and that the accusation of lavish love should therefore be avoided.

Secularization becomes a national goal

In 1789 Maximilian von Montgelas completed his 118-page memorandum " Mémoire instructif sur les droits des Ducs de Bavière en matière ecclésiastique " on secularization. It was addressed to the Duke of Zweibrücken, the future Elector of Bavaria, Max IV Joseph , successor to Karl Theodor. The enlightened Montgelas proposed expanding state sovereignty, pushing back church institutions and transferring church property, especially land, to the state.

He considered this to be expedient because the church property was too extensive. The church acquired its possessions in the Middle Ages, when almost only the monasteries were devoted to religion, science, documentation, art, education and nursing as well as poor relief. They would have ensured economic advances and the reclamation of uncultivated areas. These tasks would now be carried out by the state, the cities and the local clergy. 56 BC H. of all farms in Bavaria are in church supreme ownership, and this agglomeration hinders commercial transactions.

The transfer is legally possible because the dioceses were set up with the funds of the secular princes. The church used the weakness of the secular princes to reduce their sovereignty. With the Reformation , the secular princes regained their old rights. The Protestant princes assumed full territorial sovereignty at the latest as a result of the Peace of Westphalia. Nothing else could apply to the Catholic imperial princes.

Access to the assets of the monasteries

In 1798 Elector Karl Theodor asked Pope Pius VI. with success to be allowed to levy a special tax of 15 million guilders from the monasteries. The monastic prelates claimed that all the monasteries would perish, and a year later the Pope reduced the amount to 5 million guilders.

In 1801, the Bavarian court withdrew funding from the Theatiner monastery, which had been founded by the Wittelsbach family, so that it had to be closed. In November of the same year, the Benedictine Abbey of Ensdorf was forbidden to elect the successor of a deceased abbot.

On January 25, 1802, the elector set up a monastery commission that was supposed to ensure through administrative channels that the Franciscan and Capuchin orders gradually died out. The freed goods should be transferred to the school fund; non-Bavarian members of the order were immediately expelled, with the exception of an 86-year-old priest. Carmelites and Augustinians were each drawn together in a monastery in Straubing and Munich . Although the Peace of Westphalia expressly guaranteed church property and secular lords could in principle not be the owners of spiritual property, neither prince-bishops nor monasteries defended themselves before the imperial court council and imperial chamber court . They had no hope that a tribunal of the empire , which was in the process of dissolving, would protect its constitution. They gave in to a widespread sentiment for the secularization of monasteries and ecclesiastical principalities; the prince-bishops and the Holy See had no real interest in preserving the spiritual principalities. There was also no major opposition among the Catholic population. This would only arise in 1870 with the dissolution of the Papal States, because many Catholics feared for the independence of the Pope.

Practical implementation

Ownership patent for Freising dated November 26, 1802

The military successes of Napoléon Bonaparte then triggered the secularization carried out throughout Germany . Due to the shift of the French eastern border, some territories of the Holy Roman Empire lost their areas on the left bank of the Rhine. As compensation for this, the ecclesiastical imperial estates were added to them in the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803 . Almost all spiritual imperial estates were dissolved. However, the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss also explicitly authorized the sovereigns to abolish the provincial mediat monasteries .

In Bavaria, with the secularization carried out by Minister Montgelas as early as 1802, the rich religious life in the country came to an almost complete end. On January 25, 1802, a cabinet order from Elector Max IV Joseph ordered the abolition of almost all monasteries in Electoral Bavaria that did not belong to the political representation of the estates. This therefore mainly affected the mendicant orders of the Dominicans , Franciscans , Capuchins , Augustinian hermits and Carmelites . In anticipation of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss, Bavaria also occupied the imperial diocese of Augsburg , Bamberg , Freising and Würzburg as early as 1802, as well as parts of the diocese of Eichstätt and Passau with their respective monasteries. However, this procedure was not specifically Bavarian, but was also practiced by other territories, which thus secured their share of the secularization goods. In addition, nine Swabian and four Franconian imperial abbeys and the Kempten princely monastery were taken over. In addition, the annexation of eight Swabian and seven Franconian imperial cities also led to the abolition of their monasteries, provided they - such as Nuremberg - had not already secularized their monasteries during the Reformation. Finally, in March 1803, the Bavarian prelate monasteries were also dissolved. The assets of the monasteries were usually expropriated in favor of the state. Only a few monasteries were saved from dissolution as so-called extinct monasteries. However, these monasteries were not allowed to accept new members. Some of the monastery complexes were demolished, and other monastery grounds were sold to private individuals. A not inconsiderable part is still used today for state or municipal purposes.

The dissolution of the Bavarian monasteries also led to the dissolution of numerous monastic libraries . In the court and state library in Munich, Johann Christoph von Aretin and Bernhard Joseph Docen were involved in secularization. By the middle of the 19th century, the holdings in this library alone had grown to over 22,000 manuscripts, most of which came from the abolished monasteries. Numerous cultural treasures were also lost. Furthermore, because of the suddenly high real estate supply (over 300 objects, which came onto the market almost simultaneously) due to expropriations, prices fell very sharply.

Secularization and its consequences meant one of the greatest upheavals in Bavarian history.

Under King Ludwig I , some monasteries were restored in accordance with the concordat between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1817 in order to be able to resume the traditions of spiritual life. In the concordat it was also agreed that the Bavarian state would pay the salary of archbishops, bishops and members of the cathedral chapter and for the structural maintenance of cathedrals and diocesan buildings as compensation for the expropriation.


  • Rainer Braun, Joachim Wild : Bavaria without monasteries? The secularization 1802/03 and the consequences (= exhibition catalog of the Bavarian State Archives. Vol. 45). An exhibition of the Bavarian Main State Archives, Munich, February 22 to May 18, 2003. General Directorate of the Bavarian State Archives, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-921635-70-5 .
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  • Karl Hausberger : Reich Church - State Church - "Pope Church". The path of the German church in the 19th century. Pustet, Regensburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-7917-2135-4 .
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  • Josef Kirmeier / Manfred Treml (ed.): Splendor and end of the old monasteries. Secularization in the Bavarian Oberland 1803 (= publications on Bavarian history and culture. Vol. 21). Catalog book for the exhibition in the Benediktbeuern monastery, May 7 to October 20, 1991. Süddeutscher Verlag, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-7991-6510-X .
  • Roland Milisterfer: splendor and end of the old monasteries. Secularization in the Bavarian Oberland in 1803. Didactic booklet accompanying the exhibition in the Benediktbeuern monastery from May 7, 1991 to October 20, 1991. House of Bavarian History, Munich 1991.
  • Martin Sachse: Secularization in Bavaria 1803. Handout for history lessons. Auer, Donauwörth 2003, ISBN 3-403-03916-1 .
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  • Alois Schmid (ed.): The secularization in Bavaria 1803. Culture break or modernization? (= Magazine for Bavarian State History. Supplement, Series B, 23). Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-10664-1 .
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  • Eberhard Weis: Montgelas. Volume 1: Between Revolution and Reform. 1759-1799. 2nd revised edition. Beck, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-406-32974-8 (also: Munich, Univ., Habil.-Schr., 1968).
  • Wolfgang Wüst : The spiritual states in the southwest of the Old Kingdom on the eve of secularization. In: Leaves for German national history . Vol. 139/140, 2003/2004, pp. 45-72.


  1. Scheglmann I, p.2 .
  2. Scheglmann I, p.3 .
  3. Weis, Montgelas I, p.333.
  4. Scheglmann I, p.5 .
  5. Scheglmann I, p.7 .
  6. Scheglmann I, p.9 f.
  7. Scheglmann I, p.10 .
  8. Scheglmann I, p.14-19.
  9. Scheglmann I, p.51 .
  10. Scheglmann I, p.33 .
  11. Scheglmann I, p.36 f.
  12. Scheglmann I, p.44 ff.
  13. Scheglmann I, p.48 .
  14. Scheglmann I, p.51 ff.
  15. Scheglmann I, p.61 ff.
  16. Weis, Montgelas I, p.102.
  17. Scheglmann I, p.74 .
  18. Weis, Montgelas I, pp.117-123.
  19. Scheglmann I, p.129 ff.
  20. Scheglmann I, pp.182-188.
  21. Scheglmann I, p.192 ff.
  22. Scheglmann I, p. 222 .
  23. Weis, Montgelas I, p.131.
  24. Weis, Montgelas I, p.333f.

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