Archbishopric of Mainz
Erzbistum Mainz
c. 80 - present

Electoral Rhenish
Council of Electors
Established as Diocese c. 80
Made Archdiocese 780/2
Prince of the Empire 954
Confirmed Elector 1356
Secularised to Nassau-Weilburg and Hesse-Darmstadt 1803

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Mainz, (French: Mayence) is a Latin rite of the Catholic church in Germany. It was founded in 304, promoted in 780 to Metropolitan Archbishopric of Mainz and demoted back in 1802 to bishopric. The diocese is suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Freiburg.[1][2][3] Its district is located in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. The seat of the diocese is in Mainz at the Cathedral dedicated to Saints Martin and Stephen.[4] It is the only Roman Catholic diocese in the world – other than Rome – which bears the title of a Holy See.[5]

Bishopric of MainzEdit

Crescens is traditionally and fradulently claimed to have founded the Bishopric of Mainz in c. AD80. The legend of him being the founder origintes from the desire to attribute apostolic origins to the see. The true details of the founding of the see are unknown. St Irenæus states (and has received archæological confirmation in the early 20th Century) the existence of a Christian community in Mainz as early as the 2nd Century. The first historically confirmed bishop is Martin II mentioned in 343. Other historically mentioned bishops are not mentioned on the traditional list: Bothardus (who constructed a basilica in honour of St Nicomedes), Riuthardus (who was imprisoned when the Alemannian prince Rando sacked Mainz in 368), and Aureus (who was executed by the Alemannian king Crocus in 406).

It was not until Mainz was taken over by the Franks during the Great Migrations that Mainz began to recover. Bishop Sidonius II (reigned until 589) rebuilt all of the old churches in the region and constructed new ones. The Frankish king Dagobert II established Mainz as his capital and constructed fortifications around the city, and during his reign the Altmünsterkloster was built by St Bithildis. Bishop Gerold fell in battle against the Saxons in 743 and was succeeded by his son Gewielieb. After the death of Gewielieb, St Boniface became the archbishop of Mainz.

Archbishopric (745 - 1328)Edit

St Boniface, already the Archbishop over Germany, was appointed the Bishop of Mainz in 745. The ecclesiastical importance of Mainz dates from his reign. After Boniface's death in 754 Mainz reverted to a Bishopric, but his successor Lullus was raised permanently to an archbishopric in 780 or 782. The Bishoprics of Liège, Cologne, Worms, Speyer, Utrecht, Erfurt, Büraburg, Eichstätt, Augsburg, Constance, Strasbourg and Chur were made suffragan (of these: Erfurt and Büraburg ceased to exist after the death of their first bishop, and Cologne was raised to an Archbishopric in 798 with Utrecht and Liège as suffragans). The bishoprics of Paderborn, Hildesheim, Halberstadt and Verden were upon their erections made suffragan to Mainz. Lullus' quarrels with the Abbey of Fulda led to the latters complete exemption from Mainz's jurisdiction, which led to the founding of the Abbey of Hersfeld in c. 769.

Richulf (787 - 813) founded the Abbey of St Alban which became famous for its school. Rabanus Maurus (847 - 856) who was also the abbot of Fulda was a renown theologian. Under the reign of Liutbert (863 - 889) the diginity of Arch-Chancellor of the Empire first became associated with Mainz. Hatto I (891 - 913) was extremely influential throughout Germany, and Hildebert (928 - 937) successfully defended the rights of the archbishops of Mainz to crown the kings of Germany from the archbishops of Trier and Cologne. Frederick (937 - 954) confirmed the dominance of Mainz in ecclesiastical affairs in Germany in his pursuit of the title "Vicar-Apostolic for Germany". William (954 - 968) confirmed the title "Arch-Chancellor of Germany" to remain a title of the Archbishops.

Under Willigis (975 - 1011) the bishoprics of Prague and Olomouc were erected and made suffragan to Mainz. Willigis constructed a new cathedral which burnt down the day of its consecration. He fostered the development of commerce in the city, saved the empire from disintegration during the minority of King Otto III, and also obtained from the Pope that all future synods in Germany would be presided over by the archbishop of Mainz. Bardo (1031 - 1051) completed the new cathedral of Mainz begun by Willigis in 1037.

The archbishops as the most preeminent of the ecclesiarchs in Germany could not remain neutral during the Investiture Controversy and the power struggles between the Emperor and the Pope. Siegfried I (1059 - 1084) was a supporter of the pope against the emperor, promulgated the law of celibacy of Pope Gregory VII, and crowned both of King Henry IV's rivals: Rudolph of Rhinefelden and Herman of Luxembourg. Wezilo (1084 - 1088) was a supporter of the emperor and supported his Anti-Pope Victor III. Ruthard (1089 - 1109) and Adalbert I of Saarbrücken (1111 - 1137) were both opponents of the emperor; the latter of which was imprisoned for three years for his fidelity to the pope until the citizens of Mainz secured his release. In recognition of their assistance Adalbert granted Mainz a town charter. Adalbert also ensured that only certain princes held the right to partake in the election of the Emperors, thus beginning the foundation of the College of Princes.

Adalbert's brother and successor Adalbert II of Saarbrücken (1138 - 1141) enjoyed the same popularity. But Arnold of Selenhofen (1153 - 1160) squandered the good will of his people through his sinisterness and taxation to support the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa's campaigns in Italy. Arnold was murdered by the townsfolk in the Abbey of St Jacob during a riot. Barbarossa revoked the town charter and destroyed Mainz's fortifications in punishment. Conrad I of Wittelsbach (1161 - 1165; 1183 - 1200), although appointed by the emperor, did not support the Antipope Paschal III and was forced to flee from the diocese. Frederick appointed Christian I of Buch (1165 - 1183) archbishop in his stead. After Christian's death, Conrad returned from the Archbishopric of Salzburg to take up his former office, and at the Diet of Gelnhausen persuaded the German bishops to support the emperor against Rome.

Siegfried II of Eppstein (1200 - 1230) obtained the right to crown the King of Bohemia, a right enjoyed by the archbishops until 1343. Siegfried at his death left the diocese in heavy debt. Siegfried's nephew and successor Siegfried III of Eppstein (1230 - 1249) supported Pope Innocent III against the Hohenstaufens, and crowned two of their rivals king (Henry Raspe of Thuringia and William II of Holland). Siegfried in 1223 managed to secure the liquidation of the debts of the archdiocese after swearing to the clergy never to incur debts and to never burden the clergy. The canons bound themselves to an oath to never elect an archbishop who did not make the same oath, and in that manner in later centuries would extract more and more rights and powers from candidates.

The began to prosper in the 13th Century, and the Archbishops gained even more power after becoming permanent electors of the Holy Roman Empire in 1263. Werner of Eppstein (1259 - 1284) secured the election of King Rudolph I of Habsburg, whom he hoped to use against the rising power of the landgraves of Hesse (which he correctly saw as the greatest threat to the archdiocese). Gerhard II of Eppstein (1288 - 1305) likewise ensured the election of Adolph of Nassau as king, but not receiving the expected assistance instead joined with King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia to elect Albert I of Habsburg. Under Peter of Aspelt (1306 - 1320) Mainz reached the pinacle of its power.

Archbishopric (1328 - 1803)Edit

Pope John XXII appointed Henry III of Virneburg archbishop in 1328; in opposition the cathedral chapter unanimously elected Baldwin of Luxembourg instead, who granted the chapter several powers. It was not until Baldwin's death in 1337 and after confirming the rights granted to the cathedral chapter that Henry could enter Mainz. As a supporter of King Louis IV of Bavaria, Henry came into conflict with Pope Clement VI who separated the suffragans Prague and Olomouc in 1343 and deposed him in 1346. Henry however managed to maintain rulership of the see until 1353 when Clement's appointee Gerlach of Nassau (1346 - 1371) entered the diocese. By means of his personal property Gerlach greatly increased the power of the archbishopric. On his death King Charles IV of Luxembourg, fearing the power of the House of Nassau, managed to appoint John I of Luxembourg-Ligny (1371 - 1373) and Louis of Meissen (1374 - 1381).

However in 1375 the cathedral chapter instead unanimously elected Adolph I of Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein (1375 - 1390) instead. In the violent ensuing war the archdiocese was greatly weakened at the expense of the landgraves of Hesse, and Louis abdicated by agreement in 1381. Adolph founded the University of Erfurt in 1389. John II of Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein (1397 - 1419) engineered the deposition of King Wenceslaus of Germany and the election of King Rupert of the Palatinate in 1400. Under Conrad III of Wild-Rhine-Dhaun (1419 - 1434) Pope Martin V commissioned Cardinal Branda to investigate the capituations oath of the archbishopric, and he forced the chapter to change it.

In the devastating war between rival archbishops Theodoric of Isenburg-Büdingen and Adolph II of Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein, Adolph had the city of Mainz plundered and its town charter revoked. Theodoric (1475 - 1482) founded the University of Mainz in 1477, but Mainz never recovered its former glory. The chapter petitioned the pope to appoint Adalbert III of Saxony archbishop in 1482 to recover the wrecked finances of the archbishopric. During his short reign (1482 - 1484) the city of Erfurt was recovered. Not even Berthold of Henneberg-Aschach-Römhild (1484 - 1504), the greatest archbishop of Mainz, could recover the power of the archbishopric. In blatant opposition to the Saxons, who seemed certain to annex Erfurt, the cathedral chapter elected Albert III of Brandenburg (1514 - 1545). His indulgent attitude allowed the Reformation to spread rapidly throughout the archdiocese and fueled the Peasant's War (1525).

Sebastian of Heusenstamm (1545 - 1555) and Daniel Bredel of Homburg (1555 - 1582) worked tirelessly to heal the scars of the reformation, and the latter invited the Jesuits to Mainz. Wolfgang of Dalberg (1582 - 1601) however did little towards the Counter-Reformation and was suspected of conspiring with the Protestants. John Schweikhard of Kronberg (1604 - 1626) restored Catholicism in Eichsfeld and Bergstrasse. Mainz suffered greatly during the Thirty Years' War. George Frederick of Greiffenclau (1626 - 1629) led the archdiocese basically unscathed, but Anselm Casimir Wambolt of Umstadt (1629 - 1647) had to flee from the Swedes in 1631. When Imperial troops arrived in Mainz in 1637, the retreating Swedes committed many atrocities. The French later ravaged Mainz from 1644 - 1648.

At the end of the war, the abolition of Mainz seemed imminent with King Gustavus Adolphus demanding its secularisation. But the energetic protests of Duke John George I of Saxony and the efforts of Archbishop John Philip of Schönborn (1647 - 1673) managed to ensure its survival. Lothar Frederick of Metternich-Burscheid (1673 - 1675) adopted a friendly attitude to King Louis XIV of France as the Thirty Years' War left Mainz dangerously exposed. Anselm Francis of Ingelhelm (1679 - 1695) had to cede Mainz to the French in 1688, but Imperial troops repulsed them the following year. Lothar Francis of Schönborn (1695 - 1729) managed to restore somewhat the power and prosperity of the archdiocese. After the death of Francis Louis of Palatinate-Neuburg (1729 - 1732), Philip Charles of Eltz (1732 - 1743) was swiftly elected to forestall the interference of the great houses of Germany.

Under John Frederick Charles of Ostein (1743 - 1763) the Seven Years' War laid waste to the archdiocese several times. Emmerich Joseph of Breidbach zu Bürresheim (1763 - 1774) and Frederick Charles Joseph of Erthal (1774 - 1802) were proponents of the Enlightenment. The French revolutionary forces occupied Mainz in 1792, but were repulsed by the Germans the following year. It was ceded to the French in 1797, and confirmed by the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801. After Frederick's death in 1802, his coadjutor Charles Theodore of Dalberg became archbishop with all dignities. The Archbishopric was secularised in 1803, although Charles Theodore obtained the former Bishopric of Regensburg as a secular principality.

Modern Bishopric (1802 - present)Edit

Electoral Rhenish Circle
Arenberg | Beilstein | Coblenz | Cologne | Lower Isenburg | Mainz | Palatinate
Rheineck | Thurn and Taxis | Trier

Earlier Members
Gelnhausen | Neuenahr | Reifferscheid | Selz | St Maximin

See alsoEdit


  1. website of the Archdiocese of Freiburg
  2. "Diocese of Mainz" David M. Cheney. Retrieved February 29, 2016
  3. "Diocese of Mainz" Gabriel Chow. Retrieved February 29, 2016
  5. "Radio Vatikan: Frag den Pater : Es antwortet Pater Bernd Hagenkord SJ". "„Bis heute wird der Bischofssitz von Mainz als „Heiliger Stuhl“ Sancta sedes Moguntia bezeichnet.“" 

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