Bishopric of utrecht

Bishopric of Utrecht
Sticht Utrecht
or
Prinsbisdom Utrecht (nl)
Hochstift Utrecht (de)
Principauté d'Utrecht (fr)
State of the Holy Roman Empire
1024–1528
Flag Coat of arms
Utrecht, was known as Nedersticht. The larger north-eastern territory was known as Oversticht.
Capital Utrecht (city)
Languages Dutch, Low Saxon
Political structure Vassal
Historical era Middle Ages
 -  Bishopric established 695
 -  Created Princes of
    Holy Roman Empire
 
1024 1024
 -  Territories sold to
    Emperor Charles V
 
1528 1528
 -  Union of Utrecht 1579

The Bishopric of Utrecht is a Diocese based in the Dutch city of Utrecht. It was one of the Prince-Bishoprics of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Bishopric of Utrecht continued as a state of the Holy Roman Empire from 1024 until 1528, when the secular authority and territorial possessions of the bishopric and its entire worldly power were secularized by Emperor Charles V. The diocese itself continued to exist as an ecclesiastical entity, and in 1559 was elevated to an archbishopric.

By 1580 the Protestant Reformation in Utrecht and surrounding regions rendered impossible several attempts to effectively continue the ecclesiastical archdiocese, after the death of archbishop Frederik V Schenck van Toutenburg. The ecclesiastical archbishopric or archdiocese was reinstated in 1853 as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Utrecht by Pope Pius IX.

Since the early 18th century Old Catholic dissidents have claimed the restoration of the archdiocese took place as early as 1723 by the election and episcopal consecration of Cornelius van Steenoven, enthroned, consecrated and elevated in a so-called schuilkerk by certain members of Utrecht Catholic clergy without papal approval.

History

Foundation

The Diocese of Utrecht was established in 695 when Saint Willibrord was consecrated bishop of the Frisians at Rome by Pope Sergius I. With the consent of the Frankish ruler, Pippin of Herstal, he settled in an old Roman fort in Utrecht. After Willibrord's death the diocese suffered greatly from the incursions of the Frisians, and later on of the vikings. Willibrord was most probably instated as archbishop, having received the pallium during his life; but it is uncertain why and when exactly this title was lost in later times.

Prince-Bishopric

Better times appeared during the reign of the Saxon emperors, who frequently summoned the Bishops of Utrecht to attend the imperial councils and diets. In 1024 the bishops were made Princes of the Holy Roman Empire and the new Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht was formed. The secular territory over which it ruled was known as Sticht Utrecht or Het Sticht (a sticht was any piece of land governed by a bishop or abbot). This territory was divided into the Nedersticht (Lower Sticht, roughly corresponding to the present day Dutch province of Utrecht) and Oversticht (Upper Sticht, encompassing the present-day provinces of Overijssel, Drenthe, and part of Groningen).

In 1122, with the Concordat of Worms, the Emperor's right of investiture was annulled, and the cathedral chapter received the right to the election of the bishop. It was, however, soon obligated to share this right with the four other collegiate chapters in the city: St. Salvator, St. John's, St. Peter's and St. Mary's. The Counts of Holland and Guelders, between whose territories the lands of the Bishops of Utrecht lay, also sought to acquire influence over the filling of the episcopal see. This often led to disputes and consequently the Holy See frequently interfered in the election. After the middle of the 14th century the popes repeatedly appointed the bishop directly without regard to the five chapters.

In 1527, the Bishop sold his territories and thus his entire direct secular authority to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the principality became an integral part of the Habsburg dominions. The chapters transferred their right of electing the bishop to Charles V and his government, a measure to which Pope Clement VII gave his consent, under political pressure after the Sacco di Roma.

Under the Habsburgs

In 1559, Utrecht was raised to the rank of an archdiocese and metropolitan see with six suffragan dioceses, but this new state of affairs did not last long. When the northern provinces of the Netherlands revolted, the archdiocese fell, with the overthrow of the Spanish power. According to the terms of the Union of Utrecht, the rights and privileges of the Roman Catholic religion were safeguarded, however a few years later, on June 14, 1580, the public practice of Catholicism was forbidden by the magistrates of Utrecht, who were by then mostly Protestant Calvinists or had been forced to profess Calvinism. On August 25, 1580, Archbishop Schenk died, and two successors appointed by Spain did not receive canonical confirmation, neither could they enter their diocese. Archbishop Schenk's unornamented funeral inside the Dom Cathedral of Utrecht, recently seized by the Protestants, saw a clash between Catholic sympathizers and a Calvinist mob disturbing the De Profundis chant and the Catholic Requiem. The Catholic funeral of the first (and for a long period last) archbishop of Utrecht in 1580 remained one of the last public exercises of Catholic worship in the city of Utrecht for the next three hundred years.

The See remained vacant until 1602, when the place of Archbishop was taken by the apostolic vicars of the Dutch Mission (Hollandse Zending), who, however, were not allowed in the country by the States-General of the Netherlands and had to administer their charge from abroad. These vicars were consecrated as titular archbishops in order not to offend the generally pro-Calvinist and anti-Catholic Dutch Republic's Government. They would assume the real title of Archbishop of Utrecht when circumstances permitted.

During the last period of the apostolic vicariate, Jansenism and Gallicanism spread among the Dutch clergy and vicar Petrus Codde was suspended by the Pope, who accused him of being a Jansenist. He continued as Archbishop, remaining out of communion with the Papacy. After his death the majority of the diocesan clergy continued to claim the right to elect the bishops for themselves.

Having obtained the permission of the Dutch government, in 1723 the chapter elected a new archbishop, who was not confirmed in post, and excommunicated by Pope Benedict XIII. This was the beginning of what would become the Old Catholic Church. All the Old Catholic Archbishops from 1723 until 1858 informed the Popes of their elections. The pope however appointed Roman Apostolic Vicars to the Netherlands (to Utrecht) until 1853, when Catholic diocesan hierarchy was re-established throughout the northern Netherlands. In 1853, the Holy See was allowed to re-established its hierarchy in the Netherlands. At present, the Archbishop who heads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Utrecht has frequently been promoted to cardinal. He is the Primate of the Netherlands and the Metropolitan of a province with six suffragans throughout the Netherlands.

Apostolic Vicars of the Dutch Mission

Archbishops in partibus and Apostolic Vicars, in Utrecht

Roman Catholic archbishops after Restoration of the Roman-Catholic episcopal hierarchy

External links

  • Apostolisch vicarissen van de Hollandse Zending (Dutch)
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