spiritual princes

Prince-bishops (as well as, technically, Prince-Archbishops, Prince-Abbots, Prince-Abbesses, Prince-Provosts and others), were prelates of the church as well as political rulers.  In many societies it is common to combine religious and political power.  Prince-bishops are merely one variant of the Christian Church's attempt.  Indeed, the papacy, the institution of the Bishop or Rome who became the pope of the Roman Catholic Church,  is actually one last remnant of the idea of spiritual princes:  the pope claims to rule the Vatican City as a country.    

While bishops who held political power arose to varying degrees in many European countries (in particular see Durham in England and Andorra) they were most particular to Germany.  With the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, out of necessity bishops gained much of the authority formerly exercised by the Roman government.  Medieval kings and emperors continued to favor bishops with political rights and privileges for centuries.  As an institution of government in the Holy Roman Empire, prince-bishops competed with and were compared to other dukes, counts, and princes until the dissolution of all ecclesiastical political territories in 1806.

Some Sources

Life of Bishop Burchard of Worms from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.  

Bishops on Pilgrimage 1064-5 from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.  

Investiture Contest:  Pope Gregory VIII forbids lay investitures, 1074Henry IV and bishops defy Gregory VIIGregory forbids lay investitures, 1078, 1080Gregory deposes Henry IV a second time, 1080; Paschal II's Privelege of February 1111Paschal II's Privilege of April 1111The Concordat of Worms from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

Besançon Episode of 1157-8 Barbarossa and Hadrian IV from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

Frederick II's Statute in Favor of Princes, 1231 from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

Conclusions of Marsilius of Padua's Defensor Pacis from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

The Reichsdeputationshauptschluβ that ended the prince-bishops.

  bishoppicture copyright 2004 B.A. Pavlac

Some Links

Here is a link where is listed many of the rulers and their sees:

Study of Rulership:  Majestas Society <>

Episopus: Society for the Study of Episcopal Power and Culture in the Middle Ages <>

Links for research of Germany

German Historical Institute, Washington D.C. <>.  

The Regesta Imperii, documents on German and European history:  <>.  

Tiepolo painting of Bishop Harold invested as Duke of Franconia <>.

Page under construction, more to come.


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