Bishopric of Merseburg

The Bishopric of Merseburg was an episcopal see on the eastern border of the medieval Duchy of Saxony with its centre in Merseburg, where Merseburg Cathedral was constructed. The see was founded in 967 by Emperor Otto I at the same time in the same manner as those of Meissen and Zeitz (from 1029: Naumburg), all suffragan dioceses of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg as part of a plan to bind the adjacent Slavic ("Wendish") lands in the Saxon Eastern March beyond the Saale River more closely to the Holy Roman Empire.

The prince-bishopric was re-established by King Henry II of Germany in 1004. It then covered a considerable small territory stretching from the Saale up to the Mulde River and the Margraviate of Meissen in the east.

Prince-Bishopric of Merseburg

Hochstift Merseburg
Coat of arms of Merseburg
Coat of arms
Bishoprics of Merseburg, Naumburg and Zeitz (violet) about 1250
Bishoprics of Merseburg, Naumburg and Zeitz (violet) about 1250
Common languagesUpper Saxon
Roman Catholic
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Bishopric established
• Turned Protestant
• Incorporated by Saxony
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Duchy of Saxony
Electorate of Saxony


Merseburger Dom
Merseburg Cathedral

About 919 Otto's father King Henry the Fowler had a Kaiserpfalz erected in Merseburg in the Eastphalian Hassegau, hometown of his first wife Hatheburg of Merseburg. The establishment of the diocese traced back to a vow Otto took before his victory against the Hungarians at the Battle of Lechfeld on Saint Laurence day, 10 August 955. Confirmed by Pope John XIII at the 968 synod in Ravenna, the first Merseburg bishop was Boso, a Bavarian monk descending from St. Emmeram's Abbey in Regensburg (Ratisbon), already distinguished by his missionary labours among the pagan Sorbs.

Boso's successor Gisilher, a confidant of the new Emperor Otto II, from 971 procured the suppression of the see in favour of his aims to become Archbishop of Magdeburg, finally reached through the Emperor's power over Pope Benedict VII in 981. However this step was clearly against the interests of the Church and the position of Magdeburg archbishopric was decisively enfeebled after the Great Slav Rising of 983, therefore the dissolution was revoked by the papacy in 998 or early in 999 at a Roman synod. Upon Archbishop Gisilher's death in 1004, King Henry II re-established the prince-bishopric; the diocese did not, however, recover all its former territory, and was now almost exclusively a missionary jurisdiction among the Sorbs, who were not fully converted to Christianity until the middle of the 12th century.

Under Bishop Thietmar (1009-1018) the erection of Merseburg Cathedral began, it was consecrated in 1021 in presence of Emperor Henry II. During the Investiture Controversy the Merseburg bishops sided with Pope Gregory VII and also joined the Great Saxon Revolt, which, however, could not stop the dwindling importance of the small diocese. From the 13th century onwards, the bishops had to deal with rising power of the Meissen margraves of the Wettin dynasty, from 1423 Electors of Saxony, who by denying Merseburg's Imperial immediacy attempted to acquire the overlordship. By the 1485 Treaty of Leipzig the Wettins allocated the protectorate over Merseburg to Duke Albert III of Saxony.

The bishopric's fate was sealed with the Protestant Reformation, which was enforced here during the episcopate of Prince Adolph II of Anhalt, who was driven out of office by his uprising subjects during the German Peasants' War in 1525. In 1544 Elector Augustus of Saxony finally assumed the rule as Protestant administrator, with Prince George III of Anhalt as Coadjutor bishop. In 1561 the Saxon elector installed his minor son Alexander as administrator, who nevertheless died four years later, whereafter the Bishopric of Merseburg was finally incorporated by the Saxon electorate. From 1652 to 1738 the descendants of the Wettin duke Christian I held the title of a "Duke of Saxe-Merseburg".

At the 1815 Congress of Vienna, three-fourths of the former diocesan territory was assigned to the Kingdom of Prussia, the rest remaining Saxon; the religious attitude of the people was by that time almost entirely Lutheran.

Incumbents of the see of Merseburg

Bishops of Merseburg

  • 967–970: Boso
  • 971–981: Gisilher
  • 981–1004: diocese dissolved

Prince-Bishops of Merseburg

  • 1004–1009: Wigbert
  • 1009–1018: Thietmar of Walbeck
  • 1019–1036: Bruno of Merseburg
  • 1036–1050: Hunold
  • 1050–1053: Alberich
  • 1053: Winther
  • 1053–1057: Ezzelin I
  • 1057–1062: Offo (also Uffo, Onuphrius, or Woffo)
  • 1062–1063: Günther (also Winithar)
  • 1063–1093: Werner of Wolkenburg
  • 1075: Eberhard (anti-bishop)
  • 1093–1097: sede vacante
  • 1097–1112: Albuin
  • 1112–1120: Gerard (Gerhard)
  • 1120–1126: Arnold
  • 1126–1140: Megingoz (also Meingod)
  • 1140–1140: Henry I
  • 1140–1143: Ezzelin II (also Eckhelm)
  • 1143–1151: Raynard (Reinhard) of Querfurt
  • 1151–1170: John I (Johann)
  • 1171–1201: Count Eberhard of Seeburg
  • 1201–1215: Derek of Meissen (Dietrich von Meißen)
  • 1215–1240: Ekkehard Rabil (also Engelhard)
  • 1240–1244: Rudolph of Webau
  • 1244–1265: Henry II of Waren
  • 1265: Albert I of Borna (Albrecht)
  • 1265–1283: Frederick I of Torgau
  • 1283–1300: Henry III von Ammendorf
  • 1300–1319: Henry IV
  • 1320–1340: Gebhard of Schrapelau (or Schraplau)
  • 1341–1357: Henry V, Count of Stolberg
  • 1357–1382: Frederick II of Hoym
  • 1382–1384: Burkhard of Querfurt
  • 1382–1385: Andreas Dauba (anti-bishop)
  • 1384–1393: Henry VI, Count of Stolberg
  • 1393–1403: Henry VII, treasurer from Orlamünde
  • 1403–1406: Otto of Honstein
  • 1406: Bishop Elect Henry (VIII), Count of Stolberg
  • 1407–1411: Walter von Köckeritz
  • 1411–1431: Nicholas Lubich
  • 1431–1463: John II of Bose (Johannes; 23 May 1431 - 3 October 1463)
  • 1464–1466: John III of Bose (Johannes; January 1464 - 11 July 1466)
  • 1466–1514: Thilo of Trotha (21 Jul 1466 - 5 Mar 1514)
  • 1514–1526: Adolph of Anhalt (5 March 1514 - 23 March 1526)
  • 1526–1535: Vincent of Schleinitz (Vinzenz; 9 April 1526 - 21 March 1535)
  • 1535–1544: Sigismund of Lindenau (3 April 1535 - 4 January 1544)

Lutheran Administrator and coadjutor


Lutheran Administrator

  • 1561–1565: Alexander of Saxony


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJackson, Samuel Macauley, ed. (1914). "article name needed". New Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (third ed.). London and New York: Funk and Wagnalls.

Year 981 (CMLXXXI) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

Adolph II, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen

Adolph II, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen (16 October 1458 – 24 March 1526, in Merseburg), was a German prince of the House of Ascania and ruler of the principality of Anhalt-Köthen. A Roman Catholic Bishop of Merseburg, he remained until his death a staunch opponent of Martin Luther.

He was the fifth and youngest son of Adolph I, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, by his wife Cordula, daughter of Albert III, Count of Lindau-Ruppin.

Archbishopric of Magdeburg

The Archbishopric of Magdeburg was a Roman Catholic archdiocese (969–1552) and Prince-Archbishopric (1180–1680) of the Holy Roman Empire centered on the city of Magdeburg on the Elbe River.

Planned since 955 and established in 968, the Roman Catholic archdiocese had de facto turned void since 1557, when the last papally confirmed prince-archbishop, the Lutheran Sigismund of Brandenburg came of age and ascended to the see and the Magdeburg cathedral chapter had adopted Lutheranism in 1567, with most parishioners having preceded in their conversion. All his successors were only administrators of the prince-archbishopric and Lutheran too, except of the Catholic layman Leopold William of Austria (1631–1635). In ecclesiastical respect the remaining Catholics and their parishes and abbeys in the former archdiocese were put under supervision of the Archdiocese of Cologne in 1648 and under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Northern Missions in 1670.

In political respect the Erzstift, the archiepiscopal and capitular temporalities, had gained imperial immediacy as prince-archbishopric in 1180. Its territory comprised only some parts of the archdiocesan area, such as the city of Magdeburg, the bulk of the Magdeburg Börde, and the Jerichow Land as an integral whole and exclaves comprising about the Saalkreis including Halle upon Saale, Oebisfelde and environs as well as Jüterbog and environs. The prince-archbishopric maintained its statehood as an elective monarchy until 1680. Then Brandenburg-Prussia acquired Magdeburg prince-archbishopric, and after being secularised, transformed it into the Duchy of Magdeburg, a hereditary monarchy in personal union with Brandenburg.

The 1994-founded modern Diocese of Magdeburg is a diocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic church located in the German states of Saxony-Anhalt (bulk), Brandenburg and Saxony (smaller fringes each).

Augustus, Elector of Saxony

Augustus (31 July 1526 – 11 February 1586) was Elector of Saxony from 1553 to 1586.

Breitenfeld, Leipzig

The village of Breitenfeld belongs to the city of Leipzig. The village lies in the vicinity of the old road to Landsberg. On the south, it borders of the borough of Gohlis, in the west on Lindenthal and in the east, on Wiederitzsch.

Christian I, Duke of Saxe-Merseburg

Christian I of Saxe-Merseburg (Dresden, 27 October 1615 – Merseburg, 18 October 1691), was the first duke of Saxe-Merseburg and a member of the House of Wettin.

He was the sixth (but third surviving) son of Johann Georg I, Elector of Saxony, and his second wife Magdalene Sibylle of Prussia.

Diocesan administrator

See: Catholic Church hierarchy#Equivalents of diocesan bishops in lawA diocesan administrator is a provisional ordinary of a Roman Catholic particular church.

Diploma Ottonianum

The Diploma Ottonianum (also called the Pactum Ottonianum, Privilegium Ottonianum or simply Ottonianum) was an agreement between Pope John XII and Otto I, King of Germany and Italy. It confirmed the earlier Donation of Pippin, granting control of the Papal States to the Popes, regularizing Papal elections, and clarifying the relationship between the Popes and the Holy Roman Emperors.

Eido I

Eido I, also Ido, Eid or Ägidius (955 – 20 December 1015), was the bishop of Meissen from 992 to 1015.


The Hassegau was a medieval shire (Gau) in the Eastphalia region of the Duchy of Saxony. It was located in the duchy's southeastern corner; confined by the Saale river to the east and its Unstrut and Wipper tributaries to the south and north. Its most important town was Merseburg. In present-day borders, it is in the southeastern part of Saxony-Anhalt.

The Hassegau was bordered by the Saxon shires of Schwabengau (Suavia) in the north and Friesenfeld in the west. The Friesenfeld is considered a distinct shire by some sources, but in other sources it is considered part of the Hassegau. In the southwest, it bordered on the Engilin shire of Thuringia. The lands beyond the Saale river in the east were settled by Polabian Slavs (Wends); they were incorporated into the Saxon Eastern March from the early 10th century onwards and divided into the adjacent Gaue of Nudzici (including the burgward of Wettin), Chutizi (later merged into the March of Merseburg) and Weitaha.

The meaning of the name Hassegau is unclear; but it may be derived from the Hesse region in the Duchy of Franconia, since several nearby shires have names that are clearly derived from other distant Germanic tribes (Schwabengau, Friesenfeld, Engilin). Possibly, these names signify the tribes that colonized the areas and most estates in the Hassegau were tributary to Hersfeld Abbey in Hesse.

In the mid 10th century, King Otto I established the County Palatine of Saxony in parts of the Hassegau. In 968, he founded the Bishopric of Merseburg, which had as temporal property inside the Hassegau only the town of Merseburg itself, where Merseburg Cathedral was erected from 1015 onwards. In the northern part of the shire, the comital House of Mansfeld established itself in the 11th century. By the year 1200, the shire had completely disintegrated, and apart from the Merseburg bishopric and the County of Mansfeld, parts of it belonged to the Archbishopric of Magdeburg (Halle) and the Lordship of Querfurt.

One Dedi (Theti) is mentioned as Count in the Hassegau in a 949 deed issued by King Otto I. His successors included members of the noble houses of Wettin and Mansfeld, among others. In 1017 the Wettin count Theodoric II received the Hassegau from the hands of Emperor Henry II for his support in the German–Polish. In 1029 Margrave Herman I of Meissen was appointed count in the Hassegau and the adjacent Chutizi territory by Emperor Conrad II. In 1069, King Henry IV ceded large parts of the territory to Count Hoyer of Mansfeld.

March of Merseburg

The March of Merseburg (German: Mark Merseburg) was a short-lived march of the Holy Roman Empire. It comprised the lands of the Polabian Slavs beyond the margravial residence at Merseburg on the Saale river.

Like the neighbouring marches of Meissen and Zeitz, the Merseburg march was created by Emperor Otto I in the division of the vast Marca Geronis east of the Elbe and Saale rivers, following the death of Margrave Gero in 965. Merseburg, located in the Hassegau on the eastern border of the Saxon duchy, had been the site of a fortress and a Königspfalz built at the behest of King Henry the Fowler from about 919.

The first and only margrave at Merseburg was Gunther who had rendered services accompanying Otto on his Italian campaigns. However, when Gunther participated in the revolt of Duke Henry II of Bavaria, he was deposed as margrave in 976 and lost his territory to Margrave Thietmar of Meissen. Shortly before his death in the 982 Battle of Stilo, Gunther reconciled with Emperor Otto II and his march was restored.

Upon Gunther's death, Merseburg was reunited with the marches of Meissen and Zeitz under the rule of Margrave Rikdag of Meissen, who thus temporarily reunited all of the southern Marca Geronis save the Saxon Eastern March.

The March of Merseburg may refer to the earlier Marca Geronis, which also had its capital at Merseburg.


Merseburg ([ˈmɛɐzəbʊrk]) is a town in the south of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt on the river Saale, approx. 14 km south of Halle (Saale) and 30 km west of Leipzig. It is the capital of the Saalekreis district. It had a diocese founded by Archbishop Adalbert of Magdeburg.

The University of Merseburg is located within the town. Merseburg has around 33,000 inhabitants. Merseburg is part of the Central German Metropolitan Region.

Merseburg Cathedral

Merseburg Cathedral (German: Merseburger Dom) is the proto-cathedral of the former Bishopric of Merseburg in Merseburg, Germany. The mostly Gothic church is considered an artistic and historical highlight in southern Saxony-Anhalt.

Pope John XII

Pope John XII can also refer to Pope John XII of Alexandria.Pope John XII (Latin: Ioannes XII; c. 930/937 – 14 May 964) was head of the Catholic Church from 16 December 955 to his death in 964. He was related to the Counts of Tusculum and a member of the powerful Roman family of Theophylact which had dominated papal politics for over half a century. His pontificate became infamous for the alleged depravity and worldliness with which he conducted it.


The Duchy of Saxe-Merseburg was a duchy of the Holy Roman Empire, with Merseburg as its capital. It existed from 1656/57 to 1738 and was owned by an Albertine secundogeniture of the Saxon House of Wettin.

Sibylle Elisabeth of Württemberg

Sibylle Elisabeth of Württemberg (10 April 1584 - 20 January 1606), was a German Princess member of the House of Württemberg and by marriage Duchess of Saxony.

Born in Mömpelgard, she was the third of fifteen children born from the marriage of Duke Frederick I of Württemberg and Sibylla, daughter of Prince Joachim Ernest, Prince of Anhalt.

Thietmar of Merseburg

Thietmar (also Dietmar or Dithmar; 25 July 975 – 1 December 1018), Prince-Bishop of Merseburg from 1009 until his death, was an important chronicler recording the reigns of German kings and Holy Roman Emperors of the Ottonian (Saxon) dynasty. Two of Thietmar's great-grandfathers, both referred to Liuthar, were the Saxon nobles Lothar II, Count of Stade, and Lothar I, Count of Walbeck. They were both killed fighting the Slavs at the Battle of Lenzen.

Translatio imperii

Translatio imperii (Latin for "transfer of rule") is a historiographical concept, originating in the Middle Ages, in which history is viewed as a linear succession of transfers of an imperium that invests supreme power in a singular ruler, an "emperor" (or sometimes even several emperors, e.g., the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Holy Roman Empire). The concept is closely linked to translatio studii (the geographic movement of learning). Both terms are thought to have their origins in the second chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible (verses 39–40).

Wendish Crusade

The Wendish Crusade (German: Wendenkreuzzug) was a military campaign in 1147, one of the Northern Crusades and a part of the Second Crusade, led primarily by the Kingdom of Germany within the Holy Roman Empire and directed against the Polabian Slavs (or "Wends"). The Wends are made up of the Slavic tribes of Abrotrites, Rani, Liutizians, Wagarians, and Pomeranians who lived east of the River Elbe in present-day northeast Germany and Poland.The lands inhabited by the Wends were rich in resources, which played a factor in the motivations of those who participated in the crusade. The mild climate of the Baltic area allowed for the cultivation of land and livestock. Animals of this region were also thickly furred, supporting the dependence on fur trading. Access to the coast line also developed fishing and trade networks. The land was attractive for the resources it boasted, and the crusade offered an opportunity for noble families to gain part of it.

By the early 12th century, the German archbishoprics of Bremen and Magdeburg sought the conversion to Christianity of neighboring pagan West Slavs through peaceful means. During the preparation of the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, a papal bull was issued supporting a crusade against these Slavs. The Slavic leader Niklot preemptively invaded Wagria in June 1147, leading to the march of the crusaders later that summer. They achieved an ostensible forced baptism of Slavs at Dobin but were repulsed from Demmin. Another crusading army marched on the already Christian city of Szczecin (Stettin), whereupon the crusaders dispersed upon arrival (see below).

The Christian army, composed primarily of Saxons and Danes, forced tribute from the pagan Slavs and affirmed German control of Wagria and Polabia through colonization, but failed to convert the bulk of the population immediately.

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