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A German diocese immediately dependent on the Papal See . According to legend the Diocese of Strasburg was founded in the third or fourth century. St. Arbogast and Florentius were distinguished bishops of the sixth or seventh century. The first bishop known to history is Ansoald, one of the signers of the Acts of the Council of Paris of 614. His successor Eddo or Heddo, of the ducal family of Ettichos, organized his ecclesiastical diocese in conjunction with St. Boniface, aided by the Carlovingians. The boundaries then given remained essentially the same throughout the Middle Ages. On the left bank of the Rhine the diocese extended over the present Province of Alsace with exception of the south-eastern part between the Ill, Blind, and Rhine; on the right bank it extended from the Rhine to the crest of the Black Forest, and southward from the mouth of the Murg to the Elz. This territory was divided into seven archdiaconates, of which one included Strasburg, and one the region on the right bank of the Rhine. This subdivision remained substantially the same from the eleventh century to the French Revolution.
Charlemagne granted Bishop Heddo unlimited jurisdiction in the valley of the Breusch, and in 775 the bishop received freedom from customs duty throughout the empire for himself and his vassals ( homines ecclesiae ). By the Treaty of Verdun (843) the Diocese of Strasburg fell to the empire of Lothair; in 870 it became part of the east Frankish kingdom, later the Holy Roman Empire, so that the German character of the diocese was preserved. Both Lothair and Louis the German confirmed the privileges that their forefathers had granted to the Church of Strasburg. Bishops Udo (950-65) and Erchanbald (965-91) restored Church discipline which had fallen into decay at the beginning of the tenth century. Emperor Otto I granted Udo the ownership of the royal mint at Strasburg; Otto II (974) confirmed this gift and gave the bishop the right to establish a mint in any town of the diocese he desired. In 982 Otto II granted Erchanbald absolute jurisdiction over the city of Strasburg and its environs, thus forming the main foundation of the secular supremacy of the bishop. Werner I of Habsburg (1001-29) received from emperors Henry II and Conrad II a large number of grants including the old Abbey of St. Stephen with all its rights. A new cathedral, to replace the one destroyed in 1002 by Hermann of Swabia, was begun by Werner I in 1015 and dedicated in 1031. The bishop gave to the library of the minster numerous manuscripts which he had collected in Italy. During the conflict of investitures the bishops generally sided with the imperial party: Werner II (1065-79); Theobald (1079-82), who took part in the election of the antipope Clement III ; and Otto of Hohenstaufen (1082-1100), who accompanied Godfrey of Bouillon on the First Crusade . Gebhard I (1131-41) and Burkhard I (1141-62) were zealous promoters of Church reform; during the episcopate of Berthold I of Teck (1223-44), about 1230, the new orders of Franciscans and Dominicans settled at Strasburg.
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The city of Strasburg developed under episcopal administration, and in the twelfth century it prospered greatly. Its efforts to abolish episcopal suzerainty and to obtain new privileges were especially successful during the Conflict of Investitures . The town-council acquired great independence and the right of co-optation, although the right of the bishop to appoint the council had been reconfirmed in 1214 by charter of Emperor Frederick II. At the beginning of his episcopate Walter of Geroldseck (1260-63) wished to enforce this right, to dispose of communal property, and to regulate the taxes. The populace, siding with the council and the patricians, defeated the episcopal forces at Hausberger, 8 March, 1262, thus practically establishing the independence of the city. The succeeding bishop, Henry of Geroldseck (1263-73), made a treaty in 1263 by which at the close of the official year the council elected its own successors, and the citizens themselves had the right to settle all questions regarding communal property. The bishop retained only the right to appoint the town magistrate, the castellan of the castle, the official in charge of the collection of the customs, and the superintendent of the mint. These offices, except that of magistrate, gradually sank in importance, and the bishop no longer appointed the officials. Conrad of Lichtenberg (1273-99) completed the rebuilding in Gothic style of the nave of the minster, and began the construction of the beautiful west façade. Bishops Johannes of Dirpheim (1306-28), chancellor of King Albert II , and Berthold II of Bucheck (1328-53) were both capable administrators, appointed by the pope. Notwithstanding their share in imperial politics, these bishops found time to hold synods and labour effectually for church discipline in the diocese.
In 1359 John II of Lichtenberg (1353-65) obtained the Landgraviate of Lower Alsace from the Counts of Oettingen. A land-register, that gave exact information concerning the secular possessions of the diocese, was drawn up during his administration. The diocese included: in Lower Alsace the districts of Benfield, Markolsheim, Schirmeck, Dachstein, Kochersberg, Wanzemau, and Zabern; in Upper Alsace the stewardship of Rufach; in the present Duchy of Baden the districts of Oberjirch and Ettenheim. The episcopal possessions in Alsace were only exceeded in area by those of Hamburg. With shrewd policy the bishops had opportunely broken the power of the local governors, and had successfully opposed the restoration of imperial administrative suzerainty over diocesan territories. Under John's successors began the decline of the diocese, promoted by unhappy political conditions and by the Great Schism. This decay was especially rapid during the episcopate of William of Diest (1394-1439), who, to carry on innumerable private and public wars, frequently mortgaged and squandered the episcopal lands. His successors, who, with the aid of the cathedral chapter, finally paid off his debts, were: Rupert of the Pfalz (1440-78), who called the celebrated preacher Geiler von Kaysersberg to the pulpit of the minster; Albert of the Pfalz (1478-1506); and William III of Honstein (1507-41).
Soon after 1520 the Reformation gained many adherents in the city of Strasburg, owing to the labours of Luther's friends, Wolfgang Capito and Martin Bucer, the efforts of the preacher Matthias Zell and of the Humanists Sturm and Hedio. In 1529 the council abolished the Mass; in 1531 the city joined the Smalkaldic League , whereupon the bishop, transferred his see to Zabern. Despite the rigorous opposition of William of Honstein and Erasmus of Limburg (1541-68), all the secular lordships of the diocese in Lower Alsace adopted the new doctrine, except the landgraviate; even part of the cathedral chapter became Protestant. John IV of Manderscheid-Blankenheim (1569-92) summoned the Jesuits to Molsheim to check the apostasy and encouraged the Counter-Reformation. After his death there was a double election: the Protestant cathedral canons chose John George of Brandenburg as administrator ; the Catholic canons, Cardinal Charles of Lorraine. The struggle between the two candidates, called the Bishops' War of Strasburg (1592-1604), caused the diocese great misery. Charles of Lorraine was victor. Catholic ownership was further secured in the successive election of two Austrian archdukes as bishop : Leopold (1607-25), a brother of Emperor Ferdinand II , and Leopold William (1625-62), one of Ferdinand's sons. During the Thirty Years' War the territory was so ravaged by Ernst of Mansfeld, the Swedes, and the French, that the population decreased 75 per cent. In 1680, during the episcopate of Charles Egon of Fürstenberg (1663-82), whose sympathies were French, Louis XIV seized all the territory of the diocese on the left bank of the Rhine under pretence of "reunion"; the city of Strasburg became a French possession in 1681. The bishop retained the internal administration of his possessions in Alsace and the title of landgrave. The districts on the right bank of the Rhine remained within the German Empire , and the bishop was still their ruler as prince of the empire. The occupation of Strasburg by the French brought the minster once more into the hands of the Catholics. William Egon of Fürstenberg (1682-1704) established the seminary for priests at Strasburg and placed the Jesuits in charge of it. The succeeding four bishops belonged to the French princely family of de Rohan; the last of these, Louis Rene de Rohan (1779-1802), was involved in the notorious affair of the diamond necklace. In 1790 the Constituent National Assembly secularized the Alsatian possessions of the diocese and Rohan transferred his see to the German portion of his bishopric. In Strasburg Brendel, a constitutional bishop, was elected; Eulogius Schneider, whom he appointed vicar-general, persecuted Catholic priests who refused to take the oath, until the overthrow of the Reign of Terror in Paris put an end to this injustice.
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By the Concordat of 1801 the Diocese of Strasburg received new boundaries, extending the jurisdiction of the bishop over and beyond Alsace to the Lake of Bienne in Switzerland, and south-westerly as far as Montbeliard. Rohan having resigned at the request of the pope, Peter Saurine (1802-13), former constitutional bishop, became Bishop of Strasburg. The districts on the right bank of the Rhine fell to Baden on account of the secularization of the German Church in 1803. The diocese, which had been a suffragan of Mainz until 1802, became (1822) a suffragan of Besançon ; it was reduced in size towards the south and south-west. Bishop Andreas Raess (1842-87) endeavoured to revive Catholicism in Germany, to promote the education of the clergy, and to establish religious associations. When Alsace became a German possession in 1871, the diocese received its present extent and was declared directly dependent on the Holy See by Decrees of 10 and 14 July, 1874, and by the Treaty of Paris of 7 October, 1874. Raess was succeeded by Peter Paul Stumpf (1887-90), and the present bishop, Adolf Fritzen, consecrated on 21 July, 1891. Bishop Fritzen has especially encouraged Catholic associations, the Catholic press, Church liturgy and psalmody. In 1902 he established a theological faculty at the University of Strasburg.
The Diocese of Strasburg includes the departments of Upper and Lower Alsace in the German Crown-Province of Alsace-Lorraine. In 1911 it contained 57 deaneries, 710 parishes, 283 curacies, 710 parish priests, 454 curates and ecclesiastics in other positions, 92 priests retired or on leave elsewhere, 106 regulars, and 846,100 Catholics while 350,000 of the population belonged to other faiths. The bishop is appointed by the pope in agreement with the German Emperor, and the cathedral chapter is appointed by the bishop. In regard to educational and charitable institutions and religious houses of the diocese, see ALSACE-LORRAINE. The most important church is the minster at Strasburg, the oldest parts of which belong to the eleventh century. The crypt is Romanesque, the upper part of the choir and the transepts belong to the Transition period, the nave is Gothic. The famous façade is the chief work of Erwin of Steinbach (1284-1318). The north tower, about 465 feet high, was completed in 1429-39 by Johann Hültz of Cologne. The minster is rich in stained glass of the period from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. Other churches are: St. Martin at Colmar, St. George at Schlettstadt, St. Theobald at Thann, St. Nicholas at Hagenau, St. Leodegar and the Church of Our Lady at Gebweiler, Old and New St. Peter at Strasburg, etc. Much frequented places of pilgrimage are: Drei Aehren near Colmar, St. Odilien near Barr, Dusenbach near Rappoltsweiler, St. Morand near Altkirch, etc.
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