Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Last Elector and Archbishop of Mainz, b. 3 Jan., 1719, at Mainz ; d. 25 July, 1802, at Aschaffenburg. He was an unworthy brother of Franz Ludwig, the Prince- Bishop of Bamberg and Würzburg, received his education at Reims, held prebends in Bamberg and Mainz at an early age, became canon at the cathedral of Mainz in 1753, rector of the university in 1754, president of the Aulic Council in 1758, and custos of the cathedral in 1768. From 1769-1774 he was plenipotentiary of the Electorate of Mainz at the imperial court of Vienna. On 18 July, 1774, he succeeded the deceased von Breidbach-Burresheim as Elector and Archbishop of Mainz and eight days later as Prince- Bishop of Worms. He was ordained priest on 11 Sept., 1774, and received episcopal consecration the following year on 14 May. At the beginning of his reign it appeared as if he would try to stem the tide of rationalism which had swept over the Church of Mainz during the weak rule of von Breidbach-Burresheim. One of his first acts as bishop was the dismissal of the free-thinking councillors of his predecessor. Soon, however, he became one of the most notable supporters of free-thought in theology and of Febronianism in the government of the Church. George Forster, a Protestant, became his librarian and William Heinse, another Protestant, and author of the lascivious romance "Ardinghello", was his official reader. Erthal suppressed the Carthusian monastery and two nunneries at Mainz and used their revenues to meet the expenses of the university, in which he appointed numerous Protestants and free-thinkers as professors. Notorious unbelievers such as Anthony Blau and others were invited to the university in 1784 to supplant the Jesuits in the faculty of theology.

As a spiritual ruler, Erthal was guided by the principles of Febronianism. In union with the Archbishops Max Franz of Cologne, Clemens Wenzeslaus of Trier, and Hieronymus Joseph of Salzburg he convoked the Congress of Ems at which twenty-three antipapal articles, known as the "Punctuation of Ems", were drawn up and signed by the plenipotentiaries of the four archbishops on 25 August, 1786. The purpose of the Punctuation was to lower the papal dignity to a merely honorary primacy and to make the pope a primus inter pares , with practically no authority over the territories of the archbishops. In order to increase his political influence he joined (25 October, 1785) the Confederation of Princes which was established by King Frederick the Great. In 1787 he apparently receded from the schismatic position of the Punctuation of Ems and applied to Rome for a renewal of his quinquennial faculties and for the approbation of his new coadjutor, Karl Theodor von Dalberg. Somewhat later, however, he resumed his opposition to papal authority and continued to adhere to the Punctuation even after the other archbishops had rejected it. His opposition was made futile by the revolutionary wars which raged in his electorate from 1792-1801. By the treaty of Campo-Formio in 1797 Erthal was deprived of his possessions west of the Rhine and by the Concordat of 1801 he lost also spiritual jurisdiction over that part of his diocese. The negotiations concerning the reimbursement of Erthal for the loss of his territory west of the Rhine were not yet completed when he died.

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 between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy 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


Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
12 for the Lord is a judge who is utterly impartial.13 He ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23
2 I will praise Yahweh from my heart; let the humble hear and ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 18:9-14
9 He spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on ... Read More

Reading 2, Second Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
6 As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 23rd, 2016 Image

St. John of Capistrano
October 23: St. John was born at Capistrano, Italy in 1385, ... Read More