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DIOCESE OF EICHSTÄTT (EYSTADIUM) [EYSTETTENSIS or AYSTETTENSIS]

The Diocese of Eichstätt, in Bavaria, lies north of the Danube, and is suffragan to Bamberg. The diocese was founded by St. Boniface, who consecrated his nephew St. Willibald (born 700 of an Anglo-Saxon royal family ) first as abbot and regional bishop (741), and then (745) circumscribed and organized the diocese. Willibald called to his aid his brother Wunibald, who, together with St. Boniface, had been active on the German mission of Thuringia, and also his sister St. Walburga. He erected for them the monastery of Heidenheim on the Hahnenkamm, where the saintly pair laboured most effectively and found their resting-place (Wunibald d. 761, Walburga d. 779). Willibald, well known for his knowledge of the Christian Orient and as a pilgrim to Palestine, founded in Eichstätt a flourishing school over which he presided as magister. He died in 781. The unbroken series of his successors down to the present time (1909) counts seventy-five names. Bishop Erchanbold (882-912) of the Carlovingian line laid the foundation for the secular power of the see. Gradually this increased, especially through the inheritance of the Counts of Hirschberg (extinct in 1305), under Bishop Johann von Dirpheim (1305-1306), who was also chancellor of Emperor Albrecht I. Like other German princes, the bishops of Eichstätt acquired sovereignty (under Bishop Hartwig in 1220), and after various struggles became, from the fourteenth century, independent rulers over a territory which at one time comprised 437 square miles with 56,000 subjects. In the "secularization" of 1803 these domains were made over to Bavaria.

There were many illustrious incumbents of the See of Eichstätt. Bishop Reginold (965-989) was admired as a poet, musician, scholar, and orator. Bishop Heribert (1022-1042) was a patron of the cathedral school. Gundekar II (1057-1075) rebuilt the cathedral, composed the "Pontificale", in which the lives of his predecessors, the "Vitae Pontificum Eystettensium", and many other subjects, especially liturgical, are treated. This work, still preserved in the original (Codex M), is of great value for the history of the diocese. Gundekar is venerated as a saint. His predecessor was Gebhard I (1042-1057), the chancellor and friend of Henry III. Hildebrand, afterwards Gregory VII, did not rest until this emperor allowed the reluctant Gebhard to assume the papal dignity. He was the first pope whom in a long time the clergy and people of Rome had chosen freely. As Victor II (1055-1057) he was friendly to reforms, an extremely energetic man, and saintly in his life. Had he lived longer he would have taken rank among the greatest of the popes ; he died in 1057 at the age of thirty-nine. Bishops Eberhard I (1099-1112), Ulrich II (1112-1125), Gebhard 11 (1125-1149), and Otto (1182-1195) vigorously inaugurated reforms that were perfected and confirmed in the diocesan synod of 1186. A similar activity was displayed by Bishops Henry IV (1246-1259), Reunboto (1279-1297), and Philipp von Rathsamshausen (1306-1322). The last-named was a prolific writer, patron of the cathedral school, and by synods tried to raise clergy and people to a higher level. Berthold (1354-1365), a Hohenzoller by birth, built the Willibaldsburg, provided for the material welfare of the clergy, and protected them against the attacks of laity, nobility, and princes (Constitutio Bertholdiana). On all sides we meet with evidence of his regulating and stimulating zeal (Synodal statutes of 1354).

The Western Schism left its traces on the diocese. Bishop Johann III von Eich (1446-1464), a saintly man, did all in his power to efface them. He reformed the monasteries, organized the instruction of the clergy, issued pastoral directions, protected vigorously the property of the Church , and attracted to Eichstätt a number of scholars (among them the Humanist Albert of Eyb). Having been, before his election, chancellor of the emperor and his representative at the Council of Basle, he continued as bishop to serve the State on diplomatic missions of great importance. Thus, he represented the emperor in the congress of princes which Pius II called at Mantua. His friend and successor, Wilhelm von Reichenau (1464-1496), the tutor of Maximilian I, was a Statesman, diplomat, and patron of the fine arts, but also a bishop who walked in the footsteps of his predecessor and left after him the memory of a brilliant administration. In 1480 he made a visitation of the whole diocese. The original records of this visitation, the oldest thus far known, are still extant, and give us an interesting picture of religious life in the Middle Ages, in which, however, there are not lacking deep shadows. His successors, the cultured Gabriel von Eyb (1496-1535) and the noble Moritz von Hutten (1539-1552), were men who fully understood the critical situation and set themselves against the perilous innovations of their time, but they could not prevent the imperial, cities of Nuremberg and Weissenburg, the margraves of Ansbach and the palgraves of the Rhine, from annexing a large part of the territory of the diocese in order to restore their finances by means of church property, and from forcing the people to apostatize. Bishop Moritz gathered about him men of ability (Vitus von Ammerbach, Cochlæus ), and convoked (1548) a diocesan synod whose records exhibit the spreading spiritual desolation.

Bishop Martin von Schaumberg (1560-1590) founded the first Tridentine seminary (1564) one year after the close of the Council, and secured for it excellent teachers (Robert Turner, Peter Stewart, Frederick Staphylus ). Bishop Konrad von Gemmingen (1593-1612) rebuilt the Willibaldsburg, founded the "Hortus Eystettensis", a garden well known to all European botanists, ordered frequent visitations of the diocese, and embellished the cathedral with precious jewels. Bishop Christoph Johann von Westerstetten (1612-1636) invited the Jesuits to Eichstätt built a magnificent ( Renaissance ) church for them, and committed the episcopal seminary to their care. In 1634 the Swedes reduced almost the whole episcopal city to ashes, but it soon rose to new splendour under the long and prosperous reign of Bishop Marquard II (1636-1685), a scion of the family of Schenk von Castell. He reorganized the ecclesiastical and secular administration of the diocese, won part of its territory (in the Upper Palatinate) back to Catholicism and was for years imperial plenipotentiary at the diets and eminent as a diplomat.

The eighteenth century brought peace and prosperity, and many a magnificent structure in city and diocese rose under the gifted prince-bishops of those days (residence and garden, the fountains called Marienbrunnen and Willibaldsbrunnen, castle of Hirschberg, monastery of Notre-Dame). Bishop Raymund Anton, Count of Strassoldo (1757-1781), prepared for his clergy the well-known "Instructio Pastoralis", a book of pastoral direction, which in its latest (fifth) edition (Freiburg im Breisgau; 1902) is even yet much admired. The "secularization" (1803) robbed the Bishop of Eichstätt of his ancient secular authority, but the diocese remained and was reorganized by the Bull of circumscription of 1821. Cardinal Karl August von Reisach ( Bishop of Eichstätt, 1835-1846) renewed its ecclesiastical and religious life, opened the seminary for boys (1838) and the lyceum (1844), with a philosophical and a theological faculty, and in union with Joseph Ernst (d. 1869), president ( Regens ) of the latter institution, breathed into it the true spirit of the Church, a spirit which since then has never failed. Bishop Georg von Oettl (1847-1866) and his Successor, Franz Leopold von Leonrod (1867-1905), faithfully continued and conpleted the work begun by Reisach. The conditions of the diocese are as well regulated as is possible; its people are solidly grounded in the Faith, while the learning, life, and labours of the clergy are considered exemplary throughout Germany.

The diocese is rich in monuments of ecclesiastical architecture and art: The Gothic cathedral exhibits many excellent works of art from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century; especially noteworthy is its mortuarium . The Gothic church of Our Lady in Irigolstadt and the conventual churches of Kaste (Romanesque) and Freystadt ( Renaissance ): are important monuments. Among ecclesiastical artists may be mentioned: Hans Paur (fifteenth century), Hans Pildschnitzer (fifteenth century), Loy Hering (sixteenth century), Gabriel de Gabrielis (seventeenth-eighteenth century), Ignaz Breitenauer (eighteenth century). In the Middle Ages Eichstätt possessed a flourishing cathedral school dating from the time of St. Wulibald. Mostly with ecclesiastical funds and through the zeal of Wilhelm von Reichenau, the University of Ingolstadt was founded in 1472. Many of its professors became famous. Among its theologians are Johann Eck, P. Canisius, Gregory of Valencia, Salmeron, Jacob Gretser ; among its canonists: Reiffenstuel, Pirhing, Schmalzgrueber ; among its jurists, Wiguleus Kreittmayr, Ad. Ickstatt; among its philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians: Johann Reuchlin, Conrad Celtes, Christoph Scheiner, Caspar Scioppius, Philipp and Petrus Apian, Fuchs Leonhard, and others. Early in the nineteenth century the university was transferred to Landshut, thence to Munich.

The most important monastery of the diocese in olden times was the Benedictine abbey founded by St. Willibald in 740 and out of which grew the diocese. At the end of the tenth century it became the cathedral chapter with secular canons. Heidenheim was at, first a double monastery, founded by St. Willibald; it was changed (800) to a chapter of canons; later it became again a Benedictine monastery. Before the change the monks moved to Herrieden and erected there, under Abbot Dietker and through the benevolence of Charlemagne, a new monastery, which was changed to a chapter of canons in 888 and secularized in 1804. The nuns moved from Heidenheim to Monheim, taking with them some of the relics of St. Walburga, which were lost in the "secularization" of the sixteenth century. St. Walburg (Benedictine nuns ) in Eichstätt (founded 870) was endowed in 1035 by Count Leodegar and reorganized by Bishop Heribert. It is yet flourishing despite its temporary secularization (1802-1835), and possesses some relics of St. Walburga. Kastel in the Upper Palatinate, founded 1098 ( Benedictines from the Cluniac congregation), took a prominent part in the reforms of the twelfth century; it was secularized in 1556, and in 1636, during the Counter-Reformation, its domains were transferred to the Jesuit college in Amberg, and after the suppression of the Jesuits (1773) to the Knights of Malta ; in 1806 it was secularized once more. Plankstetten ( Benedictines, founded 1129) was also secularized in 1802. Heilsbronn (Cistercians, founded 1132), also zealous for ecclesiastical reforms, was secularized in 1530 by the margraves of Ansbach. Rebdorf (Augustinian canons, founded 1159 through the powerful help of Frederick Barbarossa ) was the home of Prior Kilian Leib (1471-1552), linguist and historian; the abbey was secularized in 1802. Bergen (Benedictine nuns, founded 976) was suppressed in 1552 by the Protestant princes of Neuburg; its estates passed later into the hands of the Jesuits, who used them to found the seminary and gymnasium in Neuburg on the Danube (1664). The "Schottenkloster zum heiligen Kreuz" (The Irish Monastery of the Holy Cross), an Irish foundation of 1140 in Eichstätt, passed over to the Capuchins in 1623, lived through the "secularization" of the early nineteenth century, and is still flourishing. In the thirteenth century arose the monasteries of Engelthal (suppressed in 1550 by the people of Nuremberg ); Seligenporten (Cistercian nuns ), secularized in 1556, after the re-Catholicizing of the Upper Palatinate given to the Salesian nuns of Amberg and Munich, and again secularized in 1802; Gnadenthal in Ingolstadt (Franciscan nuns, founded in 1276), still flourishing. In the fifteenth century were founded: Gnadenberg (Brigittines), Mariastein near Rebdorf (Augustinian nuns ), Königshofen, Marienburg near Abenberg, all of which disappeared during the last secularization (1802-1806). Eichstätt had still other monasteries in the Middle Ages : thus the Dominicans had a monastery in the city (founded 1279, secularized in 1802); the Carmelites in Weissenburg, the Franciscans in Ingolstadt (1275). From the seventeenth century the Jesuits had flourishing colleges in Eichstãtt and Ingolstadt, the Capuchins in Eichstätt and Wemding (1669). The Teutonic Knights had a flourishing commandery in Ellingen which was secularized in 1802.

At present (1909) the diocese numbers one monastery of the Benedictines (Plankstetten), four of the Franciscans (Ingolstadt, Dietfurt, Berching, Freystadt), two of the Capuchins (Eichstätt, Wemding), two convents of nuns (St. Walburg and Gnadenthal), and about forty-six houses of female congregations, among them the flourishing institute of the English Ladies in Eichstãtt. The seminary, restored by Reisach, was enlarged in 1844 by the addition of a philosophico-theological academy (lyceum), and under eminent scholars has attained a high degree of prosperity and scientific fame. (Professors: Johann Pruner, d. 1907; G. Suttner, d. 1888; Franz Morgott, d. 1900; Valent. Thalhofer, d. 1891; Alb. Stöckl, d. 1895; Math. Schneid, d. 1893; Phil. Hergenröther, d. 1890; Mich. Lefflad, d. 1900.) Since about 1898 bishops of the United States have been sending students to the Lyceum for training in philosophy and theology. During the nineteenth century the Diocese of Eichstãtt also contributed several prominent men to the Church in the United States among them Archbishop Michael Heiss of Milwaukee. Foundations of Benedictine nuns were also made in the United States from the convent of St. Walburg. In 1908 the diocese had about 185,000 Catholics 206 parishes, 63 benefices, 79 assistancies, 373 secular and 39 regular priests.


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