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Visitation (from Latin visitatio , to see, to see, to visit ' ) means in many court , church and order constitutions the visit of a superior with supervisory authority for the purpose of taking stock and checking norms.

In England and Wales the function is also found in the secular area. Hospitals, universities and colleges (if they are old foundations) are supervised by a visitor. In historical German territories, the term Landesvisitation is used to describe an inventory or inspection of the country by officials, official bodies or its ruler.

Roman Catholic Church

There are two types of visitor in the Roman Catholic Church , namely ordinary or permanent and extraordinary visitor, Catholic parishes are visited by the local bishop or his auxiliary bishop . Most religious orders have regional and general superior with visitation authority.

The Pope can send a so-called apostolic visitor to investigate incidents that could be directed against the ecclesiastical order. There are also permanent apostolic and canonical visitors who have a bishop-like rank. These were previously used for the pastoral care of believers in states in which a bishop was denied work on site. In addition, apostolic visitators were installed in the former Eastern Bloc countries instead of a local ordinary in order to avoid conflicts with the Orthodox churches . The orthodox churches always claim the entire territory of a state as canonical territory .

The same applies to the German apostolic visitor, whose task is to coordinate pastoral care for the expellees from the former German eastern regions. They were members of the German Bishops' Conference until 1998 . So there was the visitor Breslau , the visitor Warmia , the grand dean and visitor Grafschaft Glatz and the visitor Schneidemühl . There was also an Apostolic Visitator for the Danzig Catholics in the Federal Republic. In 2012 the visitatures Breslau, Branitz and Glatz became a visitation for all believers from Silesia . Since then, the visitor has been appointed by the German Bishops' Conference by the responsible bishop of the expellees and is no longer appointed by the Pope, so the title “apostolic” is omitted here.

In some cases there are also permanent apostolic visitors for the congregations of the autonomous Catholic Eastern Churches, outside of their original area of ​​distribution. So is z. For example, the Indian Bishop Thomas Naickamparampil has been a regular visitor to the scattered Syro-Malankar Catholic believers in Europe and Canada since 2010 .

Protestant churches

In the Protestant churches, the visitation is used as a regular means of church leadership . Only through the separation of church and state in 1919 did the visitation in the Protestant regional churches in Germany become an internal church matter - since the Reformation the sovereigns had supervised the churches and thus also the visits. Denominational models have gained different influence.

In the history of the churches, the visitation was the most important and effective tool for carrying out the Reformation in the 16th century. Only in this way each parish priest could be checked if he was the new " evangelical corresponded to" teaching and the changing demands on the parish had grown. Philipp Melanchthon wrote his proposal for a visitation order in 1527/28 - supported by Martin Luther - before an officially recognized confessional document or church order existed. In accordance with its importance at the time, the visitation was regular, for example in the Prussian Articles of 1540 even annually. In the course of the anniversary of the Reformation, the state archives compiled a compilation of the years of the first visitations after the beginning of the Reformation in Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, specifying the archive in which the original is kept. In the 19th century in particular, but also afterwards, numerous minutes of church visits were published as books.

While in Lutheran churches the supervision of the bishop is exercised with the visitation , Reformed congregations can also speak of “neighborly visits” according to the synodal principle . Numerous intermediate forms exist in the church regulations of the regional churches and confessional leagues ( VELKD , Arnoldshainer Conference ). What they all have in common is that the visitation is graded according to the various church leadership levels. Church congregations are visited by those responsible at the next higher level (church district, church district, dean's office, etc.) - be it by the superintendent , dean or provost or by visitation commissions made up of full-time employees and volunteers chaired by the aforementioned Official. With a rhythm of 6 to 8 years, the visitation is firmly anchored in the life of the congregations.

In practice, the church service meeting is the climax of a visitation, which often lasts a week during the visiting phase. This usually includes discussions, visits to facilities and an administrative review. In addition to the original idea of ​​supervision, the current visitation regulations now also include contact with the community and their advice. In addition to the proper proclamation, the conduct of life and office of pastors and other church workers, as well as an intact parish life , questions are now also asked about the visions and goals of parish members. In addition to reports, logs and statistics , surveys and community-oriented methods such as the future workshop are used.

Anglican Church

As in the Roman Catholic Church, the bishops are also responsible for visits in the Anglican Church.

German Federal Pension Insurance

During a visit, two employees of the German Federal Pension Insurance, a doctor and an employee of the administration, visit a rehabilitation facility to find out about the quality of the rehabilitation offer at this facility. You visit the facility and hold discussions with the senior staff, with therapeutic staff and with patients. The aim of a visit is to get an immediate impression of the quality of medical rehabilitation through direct personal observation and to advise and support the rehabilitation facilities in the qualitative further development. The result of a visit is recorded in a standardized documentation sheet.

Legal system

At the Imperial Court of Justice of the Holy Roman Empire there was an instrument of the Imperial Court of Justice visitation since its foundation . These should start on May 1st of each year and evaluate the work and problems that arise. The so-called ordinary visitations only took place until 1588. The last major extraordinary visitation took place between 1767 and 1776 in Wetzlar .

School system

As long as the school system was under the supervision of clergy, the visitation also included the entire school area. In the case of a state school supervisory authority, an official inspection of a school is also referred to as a visitation.


  • Beato Judae Apostolo: The Church Visitation Files of the 16th Century and Their Source Value. In: Rottenburger Jahrbuch für Kirchengeschichte Vol. 6, 1987, pp. 133–153.
  • Hans-Jürgen Becker : Visitation , in: Concise dictionary for German legal history , V. Bd., Berlin 1998, column 927 f.
  • Alexander Denzler: The visitation of the Reich Chamber Court from 1767 to 1776. A major media event and its significance for the communication and legal community of the Old Empire. VDM-Verlag Müller, Saarbrücken 2008, ISBN 978-3-639-05221-3 .
  • Hans Kellinghusen: Bergedorfer visitations . In: Lichtwark Special Edition No. 3. Ed. Lichtwark Committee, Bergedorf, 1951. See now: Verlag HB-Werbung, Hamburg-Bergedorf. ISSN  1862-3549 .
  • Friedrich Krause: Visitation as an opportunity for community development. Göttingen 1991, ISBN 3-525-60375-4 .
  • Friedrich Krause: Encounter area visitation. Leipzig 2006, ISBN 3-374-02094-1 .
  • Peter Thaddäus Lang: Research into the early modern church visits. Recent publications in Germany . In: Rottenburger Jahrbuch für Kirchengeschichte 16. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 1997, ISBN 3-7995-6366-0 , pp. 185–194.
  • Peter Thaddäus Lang: visitation files . In: Christian Keitel, Regina Keyler (ed.): Serial sources in south-west German archives. , Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-17-018758-9 , pp. 127-135.
  • Georg Müller: Visitation files as a historical source ( with a literature review), in: Deutsche Geschichtsblätter , 8th year 1907, pp. 287–316 ( digitized version )
  • J. Müller, A. Parisius: The farewells of the first general church visits held in the Altmark between 1540 and 1542, taking into account the visitations held in 1551, 1578–79 and 1600. On behalf of the Altmärkisches Geschichts-Verein, Magdeburg, Salzwedel 1889–1929, 2 volumes. Reprint facsimile, Potsdam 2012, ISBN 978-3-88372-009-8 and ISBN 978-3-88372-010-4
  • Christian Peters, Friedrich Krause: Visitation I. Church history II. Practical-theological . In: Theological Real Encyclopedia . 35, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-11-017781-1 , pp. 151–166 (especially historical overview with additional references).
  • Heribert Schmitz: Art. "Visitator, Apostolischer Visitator", in: Stephan Haering, Heribert Schmitz (Hrsg.): "Lexikon des Kirchenrechts", Freiburg im Br. 2004, ISBN 3-451-28522-3 , Sp. 999f.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Ernst Georges : Comprehensive Latin-German concise dictionary . 8th, improved and increased edition. Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hannover 1918 ( [accessed January 2, 2019]).
  2. More on this in the article Visitor on the English language Wikipedia.
  3. ^ Compilation of the Thuringia State Archives
  4. Overview of 95 publications at the DNB , accessed on August 24, 2018
  5. Klaus Menke: The visitations at the Reich Chamber of Commerce in the 16th century , 1984
  6. A. Winkler: About the visitations of the Reich Chamber Court and the preparations for the last visitation that lasted from 1713 up to Josef II (1765) . Vienna 1907