Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Prince- Bishop of Würzburg, b. 18 March, 1545, in the Castle of Mespelbrunn, Spessart (Bavaria); d. 13 Sept., 1617, at Würzburg. Descended from an ancient family in the service of the archbishops of Mainz, he received a good education in the schools of that city, also at Louvain, Douai, Paris, Angers, Pavia, and Rome ; it was in Rome that he became a licentiate of canon and civil law. In 1567 he entered on his duties as canon of Würzburg, an office to which he had been appointed in 1554; in 1570 he became the dean of the cathedral chapter, and in 1573, at the age of twenty-eight, even before his ordination to the priesthood, was appointed Prince- Bishop of Würzburg. Various causes had combined to bring the diocese into a sad state. Deeply in debt and poorly administered, it had an almost entirely Protestant population. The clergy, in point of virtue and learning, were for the most part unequal to their task, and the cathedral chapter was adverse to any ecclesiastical reform. During the first ten years of Echter's government the attempt to unite the Abbey of Fulda and the Bishopric of Würzburg, after the deposition of the Prince-Abbot Balthasar von Dernbach, caused much confusion. This was due to the youthful ambition of Echter, and not, as some wish to interpret it, a sign of any anti-Catholic sentiments on his part. From the outset he endeavoured to carry out a thorough ecclesiastical restoration. For this reason he encouraged, as far as possible, the Jesuits and promoted their beneficient ministry. In the same spirit he conceived the plan of founding a university at Würzburg, and despite all difficulties it was solemnly opened (2 Jan., 1582) and became a model for all similar Counter-Reformation institutions. Under the Jesuits it flourished, grew rapidly, and furnished the see with the priests and officials needed to counterbalance the more or less irreligious temper of the population. The bishop was now able to take decisive steps against Protestantism. He banished all Lutheran preachers from his territory and removed all priests who were unwilling to observe the rules of their office. the public officials had to be Catholics, and none but Catholic teachers could be appointed. He began, moreover, courses of careful instruction for non-Catholics, and to some extent threatened them with penalties and even with banishment. Within three years about 100,000 returned to the Catholic Church. Public worship was also improved by the introduction of new devotions, processions, and the establishment of confraternities. Bishop Echter restored ruinous monasteries or devoted their revenues to the erection of new parishes and to the building of three hundred new churches. The tapering towers of these churches, called after the bishop "Julius towers", still preserve his memory. His most beneficial and lasting monument, after the university, is the Julius Hospital, which he founded with the endowment of the abandoned monastery of Heiligenthal. By skilful administration he improved the decadent economic conditions of his ecclesiastical states, reduced taxes, perfected the administration of justice, and established many primary schools. In a word, he proved himself one of the most capable rulers of his time. Not only in his own diocese did he display an extraordinary and varied activity, but as the founder and soul of the Catholic League, he exercised a decisive influence on the future of Germany.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 18th, 2014 Image

St. Rufus
December 18: Rufus and Zosimus were citizens of Antioch (or perhaps Philippi) ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter