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The Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück was a prince-bishopric centered on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Osnabrück. The diocese was erected in 772 and is the oldest see founded by Charlemagne, in order to Christianize the conquered stem-duchy of Saxony.

The temporal possessions of the see, originally quite limited, grew in time, and its prince-bishops exercised an extensive civil jurisdiction within the territory covered by their rights of immunity. The Prince-Bishopric continued to grow in size, making its status during the Reformation a highly contentious issue.

In the German Mediatisation of 1803, the Bishopric was dissolved and given to the Hanover branch of Brunswick-Lüneburg; the see, the chapter, the convents and the Catholic charitable institutions were finally secularized. The territory of the see passed to Prussia in 1806, to the Kingdom of Westphaliamarker in 1807, to Napoleonic France in 1810, and again to Hanover in 1814. Klemens von Gruben, titular Bishop of Parosmarker, was made vicar Apostolic, and as such cared for the spiritual interests of the Catholic population.

The Diocese was reerected in 1824, but henceforth the Bishop would no longer wield any temporal power.


The first bishop of Osnabrück was Saint Wilho (785–804); the second bishop, Meginhard or Meingoz (804–33), was the real organizer of the see.

The temporal protectorate ( ; ) exercised over so many mediæval dioceses by laymen became, after the 12th century, hereditary in the Amelung family, from whom it passed to Henry the Lion.

After Henry's overthrow it fell to Count Simon of Tecklenburgmarker and to his descendants, though the source of many conflicts with the bishops. In 1236 the Count of Tecklenburg was forced to renounce all jurisdiction over the town of Osnabrück, and the lands of the see, the chapter and the parish churches. On the other hand, the bishop and chapter, from the 13th century on, spread their jurisdiction over many convents, churches and hamlets. Scarcely any other German see freed itself so thoroughly from civil jurisdiction within its territory. The royal prerogatives were transferred little by little to the bishop, e.g. the holding of fairs and markets, rights of toll and coinage, forest and hunting rights, mining royalties, fortresses etc, so that the bishop by the early part of the 13th century was the real governor of the civil territory of Osnabrück.

Among the prominent mediæval bishops are Drogo (952–68); Conrad of Veltberg (1002); the learned Thietmar or Detmar (1003–22); Benno II (1067–88); Johann I (1001–10), who built the actual cathedral in place of the wooden one destroyed by fire in the time of his predecessor; Diethard I (1119–37) was the first bishop elected by the free choice of the cathedral clergy; Philip II (1141–73) ended the conflicts between his see and the Imperial Abbeys of Corveymarker and Hersfeldmarker; Arnold of Berg (1137–91) died a crusader before Akkonmarker. In the time of Engelbert of Altena-Isenberg (1224–26, deposed following his implication in Archbishop Engelbert II of Berg's assassination, rehabilitated 1238–50), Bruno of Altena-Isenberg (1250–59), and Conrad II of Rietberg (1269–97) the new orders of Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians were received with favour.

In the 14th and 15th centuries ,the power of the bishops waned before the increasing influence of the chapter, of the military servants (or knights) of the diocese, and of the town of Osnabrück. The latter sought to free itself from the bishop's sovereignty, but never became a Free City of the Empire. The see was almost continually engaged in warlike troubles and difficulties and had also to defend itself against the Bishops of Mindenmarker and Münstermarker. From the 14th century on we meet many auxiliary bishops of Osnabrück, made necessary by the civil duties that absorbed the attention of the ordinary.

The successor of Bishop Conrad IV of Rietberg (1488–1508) was Eric of Brunswick (1508–32), simultaneously Bishop of Münster and Paderbornmarker. He opposed the Reformers strongly and successfully. Franz of Waldeck (1533–53), also Bishop of Minden, acted, on the contrary, a very doubtful part. He offered little resistance to Lutheranism in Münster, though he vigorously opposed the Anabaptists; after 1543 he allowed in Osnabrück an evangelical service. However, the chapter and the Dominicans opposed a German service that dispensed with all the characteristics of the Roman Catholic Mass. In 1548, Bishop Franz promised to suppress the Reformation in Osnabrück and to execute the Augsburg Interim, but fulfilled his promise very indifferently; on his deathbed he received Lutheran communions. His successor, John IV of Hoya (1553–74), was more Catholic, but was succeeded by three bishops of a Protestant temper: Henry III of Saxony (1574–85), Bernhard of Waldeck (1585–91), and Philip Sigismund (1591–1623). Under them the Reformation overran nearly the whole diocese.

In 1624, Cardinal Eitel Frederick of Hohenzollern became Bishop of Osnabrück and called in the Jesuits. But he had scarcely begun his work when he died, and left to his successor, Francis of Wartenberg (1625–61), the task of executing the Counter-Reformation. The city-council was purified of anti-Catholic elements and the former Augustinian convent was turned over to the Jesuits. The Edict of Restitution was executed successfully by him and in 1631 he founded a university at Osnabrück.

But in 1633, Osnabrück was captured by the Swedesmarker, the university was discontinued, Catholic religious exercises suppressed, and the see (1633–51) administered by the conquerors. By the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the bishop succeeded in preventing the secularization of the see, as contemplated by the Swedes. Nevertheless, it was stipulated that henceforth a Catholic and a Protestant bishop (of the Augsburg Confession) would alternately hold the see. During the rule of the Protestant bishop, always chosen from the ducal House of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the spiritual government of the Catholics was committed to the Archbishop of Cologne.

Wartenberg was made cardinal in 1660 and was succeeded by the married Protestant bishop, Ernest Augustus (1661–98), who transferred the residence to Hanovermarker. He was succeeded by the Catholic bishop, Prince Charles Joseph of Lorraine, Bishop of Olmütz, later Archbishop of Trier (1698–1715). The Protestant Bishop Ernest Augustus (1715–28) was succeeded by Clemens August of Bavaria, Archbishop-Elector of Cologne (1728–61). The last bishop, Prince Frederick of Great Britain (1764–1803), later Duke of York, was, until his majority (1783), under the guardianship of his father, George III, king of the United Kingdom and Hanover.

From about 1100 after the big fire in Osnabrück the Bishops had their residence in the castle of Bad Iburgmarker. This period ended when Ernest Augustus built a baroque castle in Osnabrück which was finished in 1673.


  • Wiho I. ( Wicho I) 783 to 1. April 809
  • Meginhard 810 to 12. April 829
  • Goswin 829–845
  • Gosbert 845 to 11. April 860
  • Eckbert 860 to 1. February 887
  • Egilmar 887 to 11. May 906
  • Bernhard I. 906–918
  • Dodo I. 918 to 14. May 949
  • Drogo 949 to 7. November 967
  • Ludolf 967 to 31. March 978
  • Dodo II. 978 to 12. April 996
    • Kuno 978–980 (counter-bishop)
  • Günther 996 to 27. November 1000
  • Wodilulf 998 to 17. February 1003
  • Dietmar 1003 to 18. June 1022
  • Meginher 1023 to 10. December 1027
  • Gozmar 1028 to 10. December 1036
  • Alberich 1036 to 19. April 1052
  • Benno I. (Werner) 1052–03. December 1067
  • Benno II (Bernhard) 1068 to 27 July 1088
  • Marquard 1088–1093
  • Wicho II. 1093 to 21. April 1101
  • Johann I. 1101 to 13. July 1109
  • Gottschalk von Diepholz 1109 to 1. January 1119
  • Diethard 1119–1137
    • Konrad 1119–1125 (counter-bishop)
  • Udo von Steinfurt 1137 to 28. June 1141
  • Philipp von Katzenelnbogen 1141 to 15. June 1173
    • Wezel 1141 (counter-bishop)
  • Arnold von Altena 1173–1190
  • Gerhard I. von Oldenburg-Wildeshausen 1190–1216
  • Adolf von Tecklenburg 1216–1224

List of Prince-Bishops

Prince-Bishops of Osnabrück include:

For the further Catholic bishops see List of Ordinaries

Sources and external links

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