Help Now >
FREE Catholic Classes
A province of Prussia situated between the Rhine and the Weser. It is bounded on the northwest and north by the Netherlands and Hanover, on the east by Schaumburg-Lippe, Hanover, Lippe-Detmold, Brunswick, Hesse-Nassau, and Waldeck, on the south and southwest by Hesse-Nassau, on the west by the province of the Rhine and the Netherlands. It is the tenth in size and the third in population of the Prussian provinces, having an area of 7804 square miles, and 4,125,096 inhabitants. Of its population 2,121,534 are Catholics, and 1,947,672 Evangelicals. The province has 107 cities and 1468 village communities. In the south and northeast it is mountainous, in the other sections it is level. The chief industries are agriculture, breeding of cattle, mining, and manufactures. The industrial section on the Ruhr River contains the most productive coal beds of Germany and also the most valuable iron mines. Consequently this district is the seat of the most extensive mining industry, large iron forges, and innumerable factories for the manufacture of machinery and the working of iron. The relatively small district of 386 square miles contains some twenty towns of more than 20,000 inhabitants with altogether a population of 750,000. The other manufactures are chiefly linen and other textile products. 53.4 per cent of the inhabitants make their living in mining and manufacturing industries, 26.2 per cent in agriculture, 10 per cent in commerce and traffic. Still 42.4 per cent of the area is given up to farming and gardening.
In the earliest era the province was inhabited by the German tribes of the Sicambri, Bructeri, Marsi, and Cherusci. For a short time it was held by the Romans, having been conquered by Drusus and Tiberius, the sons of Augustus, in a series of campaigns during the years 12 B.C. to A.D. 5. The Romans were defeated in the great battle in the Teutoburg Forest (A.D. 9), and Germanicus was not able to reconquer the country. In the third century the Saxons pushed their way into the province from the Cimbrian peninsula; other tribes joined them, either voluntarily or under compulsion, and thus there arose a large confederation of tribes which bore the name of Saxons. The western part of the province between the Weser and the Lower Rhine appears from about the year 800 in the historical sources under the name of Westphalia, while the district on both banks of the Weser was called Engern, and the district between the Weser and the Elbe bore the name of Eastphalia. In the later Middle Ages the name Engern disappeared and the region of the Weser was then considered a part of Westphalia. No one has yet been able to give a satisfactory explanation of the names Westphalia and Eastphalia. Among the various meanings suggested have been: fâl , horse; fale , inhabitant of a lowland; vallum , boundary wall, etc.
The Westphalians were brought into contact with Christianity in the seventh century. The first apostles (about A.D. 695) were the two Ewalds, known from the colour of their hair as the White and the Black Ewald. However, the account of Bede (Hist. eccl. gent. Angl., lib. V, c.x) is uncertain and contradictory. At a later date the conversion of the Saxons especially engaged the attention of St. Boniface. He was not, however, able to carry out his desire, although Westphalian folk-lore has stories of the preaching of Boniface and even of his founding of churches. Probably, even though the proof is lacking, the attempts to found missions among the Saxons proceeded from Cologne. No permanent success was gained by the campaigns of the Frankish King Pepin (751-68) against the Saxons. The country was finally subdued after several bloody wars (772-804) by Pepin's son Charlemagne, who, as an apostle of the sword, brought the Saxons to Christianity. The questions asked the Saxon candidates for baptism are still in existence, as well as the answers that were to be made in which they were obliged to renounce the gods Donar, Wodan, and Saxnot. The baptism of the Saxon Duke Widukind (785) was of much importance; for after baptism he was unswervingly loyal to Christianity and its zealous promoter. The same is true of the Westphalians in general. After they had once accepted the Christian faith , which "had been preached to them with an iron tongue by their bitterest enemies", hardly any other people were as loyally and devotedly attached to Christianity. Charlemagne's chief assistants in the missionary work were Sturm (who converted the country around Paderborn ), Lebwin (who brought the western districts of Westphalia to Christianity ), and Liudger (who converted the district surrounding Münster). At the end of the eighth and the beginning of the ninth centuries the missionary districts of Osnabrück, Münster, Minden, and Paderborn were raised to dioceses. The southern part of the province, in the neighbourhood of Ruhr and Lippe, fell to the Archdiocese of Cologne. Louis the Pious continued the work of his father. During his reign the first monasteries were founded; the most celebrated of these are the Benedictine Abbey of Corvey (815), and the Abbey of Herford (819) for Benedictine nuns.
Help Now >
Westphalia, as has already been said, was only a part of Saxony, and in about the year 900 Saxony was made a duchy, after Ludolf, the ancestor of the ducal house, had been made a margrave in 850 during the reign of Louis the German. The duchy continued to exist until 1180. The last and greatest of the dukes was Henry the Lion, who lost the duchy through disloyalty to the emperor. This led to the division of Westphalia into numerous principalities. The southern part, the "Sauerland", fell as the Duchy of Westphalia to the Archdiocese of Cologne which retained it until 1803. This duchy had its own constitution and its own diet. The head of the ecclesiastical government was the court of the officiality. Up to 1434 the court was held at Arnsberg, and after that at Werl. The attempts of the Archbishops of Cologne to extend the ducal power even over the northern part of the province were unsuccessful. Instead of the jurisdiction of Cologne, the Bishops of Münster, Osnabrück, Paderborn, and Minden, who had long had secular sovereignty, became independent ruling princes. At the same time numerous smaller principalities were created, such as the countships of Mark, Ravensberg, Tecklenburg, Rietberg, and Steinfurt, the free imperial city of Dortmund, the principality of the Abbot of Corvey. In 1394 the Countship of Mark was united with Cleves. In 1346 the Countship of Ravensberg was united with Julich and in 1511 also with Cleves. In this article the Diocese of Osnabrück , as is generally the case, is not taken into consideration, although it belongs to the original territory of Westphalia and in earlier ages included large districts of the present dioceses of Münster and Paderborn, because from 1648 it was entirely independent, and in 1815 it became a part of the Kingdom of Hanover with which, in 1866, it was incorporated into Prussia.
In the meantime the Church had developed in all directions. The number of monasteries and religious foundations that were established during the Middle Ages exceeded 250. Among these should be mentioned: the Benedictine abbeys at Grafschaft (1072), Marienmünster (1128), St. Moritz at Minden (1042), Abdinghof at Paderborn (1015); the Cistercian abbeys at Bredclar (1196), Hardchausen (1140), and Marienfeld (1185); the Premonstratensian abbeys at Kappenberg (1122), Klarholz (1133), and Varlar (1128); the Augustinian monasteries at Osnabrück (1288), Herford (before 1288), and Lippstadt (1281); the Dominican monasteries at Dortmund (1310), Minden (1236), Münster (1346), Soest (1231), and Warburg (1280); the Minorite monasteries at Soest (1232), Paderborn (1232), Münster (about 1247), and Herford (1223?). In the Conflict of Investitures the Westphalian bishops, with few exceptions, held to the Emperors Henry IV and Henry V, and only at times, and then under strong compulsion, did they support the Church. In the same way they were partisans of Emperor Frederick I (1152-90) in his quarrel with the pope. During the reign of Frederick II (1215- 1250), on the contrary, they were actively connected with the pope. The strong religious feeling of the medieval Westphalians is shown by the large number of ecclesiastical institutions dependent upon the charity of the people. Thus Lippstadt, with a population of 2700, had four parish churches, and there were hospitals in very small places. Numerous pilgrimages were undertaken as far as Spain and France. Many also took part in the Crusades. In 1217 one of the leaders was Count Gottfried II of Arnsberg. In the fourteenth century the object of the Crusades was the heathen land of the Prussians. Thus in 1337 the Counts of Lippe, Arnsberg, and Wittgenstein joined the expeditions against the Prussians.
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
The Carthusian Werner Rolevinck (b. in 1425 in the District of Münster; d. in 1502) said of his countrymen: "I am bold to assert that the people are genuinely pious, especially in fasting, in hearing the Divine Word, in attendance at church, in the acceptance of their pastors, in frequent pilgrimages, in the giving of alms, hospitality to strangers, and other works of Christian charity ". It is probable, however, that Rolevinck describes the beautiful and earlier period of the fathers. At the beginning of the fourteenth century Westphalia was in a terrible state of disorganization caused by the political schemes of its ecclesiastical princes, as, for instance, by the three counts of Mors who occupied the sees of Cologne, Paderborn, Osnabrück, and Münster, or more especially by the Soest feud (1441-49), and the Münster feud (150-56). After 1456 better conditions prevailed for a time; order was restored in the monasteries ; the bishops encouraged religious life ; the diocesan synods were more regularly held, and favourably influenced both clergy and people. But conditions again grew bad when suddenly, in the year 1508, all the Westphalian sees were vacant and the former competent bishops were succeeded by persons unequal to the duties of their office. Until towards the end of the Middle Ages Westphalia in intellectual matters was under the influence of Cologne and its university. Yet in the era of Humanism a vigorous independent life was developed in the province. Many Westphalians attended the school at Deventer which flourished under the guidance of Alexander Hegius, a native of Westphalia. At Münster, Rudolf of Langen and Johannes Murmellius exerted an active and far-reaching influence for the spread of humanistic training. The Westphalian Hermann von dem Busche was one of the greatest wanderers among the itinerant humanistic teachers. Although a eulogist like Hermann Hamelmann goes too far when he asserts, as Hamelmann continually does, that the Westphalians were the first to revive Classical learning in Germany, nevertheless a large share must be ascribed to them in this revival.
During the first years of the era of the Reformation Westphalia was little affected. It is true that here, as elsewhere in Germany, a strong anti-clerical opposition had been in existence for a long time, but this antagonism did not at once join the new dogmatic opposition of Luther. The revolts which in 1525 arose in Minden and Münster, were social in the main, and were aimed both against abuses in the lives of the upper and lower clergy which were inconsistent with the dignity of the clerical calling and which had become intolerable, and against historically sanctioned privileges of ecclesiastics in civil and political affairs. The earliest adherents of Luther in Westphalia were Augustinian monks and Humanists. The Augustinians studied at the University of Wittenberg and brought the new doctrine home with them. Thus in 1524 the Lutheran opinions were preached at Lippstadt by the prior Westermann, and the lector Koiten, and at Herford by the prior Kropp. Among the Humanists who maintained the Lutheran cause were Hermann Marburg von dem Busche, who watched and supported from Marburg the advance of the new dogma in his native region, Jacob Montanus at Herford, and a large number of school teachers of the younger generation of Humanists, as Gerhard Cotius, John Glandorp, and Adolf Clarenbach at Münster. It was not until after 1525 that Lutheranism gained ground among the common people in Westphalia. As the common people had little comprehension of the dogmatic controversies, the success of the Reformation is rather explicable by the fact that the old popular opposition to the life and constitution of the Church learned to look upon Luther as its leader. The adherents of the movement continually grew in number by means of the accounts given by itinerant merchants, by the agitation carried on by preachers and students of Wittenberg University, and by popular literature. Among the cities, Lippstadt, Soest, and Herford were the first to introduce the Evangelical Confession; Tecklenburg was the first of the countships. The secular principalities gradually became Protestant. In the ecclesiastical principalities the position of the ruler was of great importance. Münster was won for the new doctrine by the preacher Bernhard Rothmann; it was recognized as a Lutheran city by the bishop in the Treaty of 14 February, 1533. The Protestant faith was also established in a number of country towns in the Diocese of Münster . However, in the years 1534-35, the Anabaptists carried on their wild regime at Münster, and their overthrow put an end for a time to the progress of the Reformation. The Archbishop of Cologne and Bishop of Paderborn, Hermann von der Wied, sought to introduce the Reformation in the Duchy of Westphalia and in the Diocese of Paderborn , but he was deposed in 1547 and his successor re-established Catholicism in both districts. In Minden the bishops themselves were friends of the new doctrine, consequently Protestantism was able to maintain itself. The check given by the Augsburg Interim (1548) to Protestantism was only a partial and temporary one, especially as a number of the princes rejected it altogether. After the Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555) the Church lost Dortmund, a large part of the Diocese of Münster, as is shown by the visitation of 1571, and Paderborn, which was under the Protestant Bishop of Lauenburg (1577-85).
Lutheranism was also partially superseded by Calvinism, as in the countships of Mark and Tecklenburg, in the Diocese of Münster, and in Southern Westphalia (Wittgenstein and Nassau-Siegen), while the flourishing cities of Soest, Lippstadt, Herford, Bielefeld, and Dortmund held to the Lutheran faith, the stronghold and pattern of Lutheranism being Soest. However, after the Church had been re-invigorated by the Council of Trent , it took more decisive steps against Protestantism in Westphalia as well as other regions. Here also the Jesuits deserve the most credit for the Counter-Reformation. Their first collegium was established at Paderborn in 1580, the next at Münster at 1589. During the following century other collegiate foundations and missions were added to these. By means of their gymnasial schools they gained over the rising generation and brought large numbers back to the Church, in districts far beyond the places of their settlement, by means of missions, retreats, brotherhoods, and sodalities. The new Capuchin and Franciscan monasteries, a fairly large number of which were founded between 1600 and 1650, exerted influence in the same manner. It must, however, be said, that the "secular arm" had a large share in the Counter-Reformation, often a larger one than spiritual weapons. The exercise of the Evangelical religion was forbidden and the non-Catholic clergy, teachers, and officials were deposed and expelled. The Counter-Reformation was begun in the Diocese of Münster by Bishop John von Hoya (1566-74), and brought to a victorious close by Ernst of Bavaria (1585-1612), and Ferdinand of Bavaria (1612-50).
In Paderborn Henry of Lauenburg was followed by Theodore of Fürstenberg (1585-1618), who defeated the Protestant opposition by the taking of Paderborn in 1604; he restored Catholicism with the aid of the Jesuits, and gave the Counter-Reformation a centre by founding the University of Paderborn in 1614. In 1623 Paderborn was once more entirely Catholic. The Archbishop of Cologne, Gebhard Truchess of Waldburg (1577-84), made a second fruitless attempt to introduce Protestantism in the Duchy of Westphalia. The three successors of Truchess made the duchy once more completely Catholic. The Counter-Reformation was introduced in the domains of the Abbey of Corvey by the Prince Abbot Dietrich of Beringhauses (1585-1616), but it made little progress under the inactive and incapable Abbot Henry of Aschebrock (1616-1624), and Hoxter remained Protestant. In the same way the attempts of the dukes of Cleves, who had returned to the Church, to drive Protestantism out of the countships of Mark and Ravensberg failed, especially as in 1614 both countships became a part of Brandenburg. Rietberg was completely regained for Catholicism by the conversion to Catholicism of the heiress of the Countship of Rietberg, Sabina Katharina, and by her marriage with the convert John III of East Freisland, a grandson of King Gustavus Vasa. In 1610 the exercise of Protestantism was forbidden in Rietberg. The ruler of Buren, Elizabeth, was converted in 1613; her son Moritz became a Jesuit, and presented his seigniorial domain to the order. The attempts to re-establish Catholicism which were undertaken during the Thirty Years War, on account of the Edict of Restitution of 1629, had only a temporary success. Among these efforts were the one at Minden, where the Jesuits laboured for a short time and where in 1632 a diocesan synod was held, and that at Herford.
The Treaty of Westphalia (1648) established as the basis of ecclesiastical affairs the conditions of the year 1624. Accordingly, since then the territories of Minden, Ravensberg, Mark, Tecklenburg, Rheda, Hohenlimburg, Siegen-Hilchenbach, Wittgenstein, and the imperial city of Dortmund have been entirely or mainly Protestant, while Münster, Paderborn, the Duchy of Westphalia, and Rietberg have been Catholic. The Countship of Steinfurt and the Seigniory of Gemen gradually became for the most part Catholic. Until modern times territorial boundaries were also denominational boundaries, especially in Westphalia. With the present era the denominational compactness was broken by the growth of the cities and the immigration of large numbers of factory hands from all parts of Germany. In 1648 Brandenburg-Prussia received by the Treaty of Westphalia the Diocese of Minden, in 1702 the Countship of Lingen by inheritance from the line of Orange, and in 1707 the Countship of Tecklenburg by purchase. From the end of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century Church life was torpid and little progress was made. The cathedral chapters at Münster and Paderborn withdrew more and more from their spiritual duties. From the fifteenth century they were open only to members of the old families of the nobility, of whom but a few were ordained. The others did not live differently from the secular nobility. The old Benedictine and Cistercian abbeys had also become very worldly, but little was done for the training of their inmates in learning, although,in general, good discipline and order were maintained. Only the mendicant orders, especially the Franciscans, laboured actively for the cure of souls. The system of schools was very defective. In the Diocese of Münster the seminary for priests founded by the Prince-Bishop Ferdinand in 1613 was allowed to fall into decay, so that the training of priests was very unsatisfactory.
Much was done at the end of the eighteenth century for the improvement of education by the distinguished minister and Vicar- General of Münster, Freiherr Franz von Fürstenberg. His work affected at first only the Diocese of Münster , but the example had an influence on the whole of Westphalia, and indeed was felt throughout Germany. He reorganized the entire school system of Münster from the lowest elementary instruction up to the university on a well constructed plan, founded the University of Münster in 1771, re-established the seminary for priests, and founded the normal school over which he placed Overberg. The era of the French Revolution and of the Napoleonic empire brought violent changes. On account of the Peace of Luneville (1801) and of the Enactment of the Imperial Delegation (1803), the secular sovereignty of the bishops was suppressed and their territories used to compensate the princes who were obliged to yield their possessions on the left bank of the Rhine to France. Thus Prussia received the Diocese of Paderborn and a part of the Diocese of Münster, that is the half of the upper section of the diocese with the capital. The other half was used to form petty principalities for the Princes of Salm, Croy, and Looz-Corswaren; the lower diocese and the district called Emsland were given to the Dukes of Oldenburg and of Arenberg. The Duchy of Westphalia went to the Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. The new rulers at once secularized the monasteries for men, a right given them by the enactment of the imperial delegation. Thus in the spring of 1803 Prussia suppressed the monasteries of Kapenberg, Marienfeld, Liesborn, Abdinghof, Hardehausen, Dalheim, and Boddeken. By an Edict of 17 October, 1803, Landgrave Louis of Hesse suppressed the monasteries in his territories.
In 1807 Prussia had to concede its Westphalian possessions to France. The western part of Westphalia was obliged to change its nationality several times, it belonged in part to the French Empire, in part to the Grand Duchy of Berg under Joachim Murat. The eastern section of Westphalia was made, in conjunction with territories taken from Prussia, Hesse, Hanover, and Brunswick, into the Kingdom of Westphalia, the name of which was a misnomer, as the larger part of the new kingdom was composed of lands that were not Westphalian. The Kingdom of Westphalia was given to Napoleon's brother Jerome. The French continued the secularization of the monasteries, nor did they spare the convents. On 13 May, 1809, Jerome decreed the suppression of six convents and on 1 November, 1809, ordered the suppression of all religious foundations, chapters, abbeys, and priories with exception of those devoted to education. Similar decrees were issued by Napoleon himself on 14 November, 1811, for the territories of Münster. As far as possible the lands were sold. In 1815, after the French had been driven out of the country, Prussia received, besides its earlier possessions, the former Duchy of Westphalia, the Abbey of Corvey, the former free imperial city of Dortmund and a number of mediatised principalities and seigniories. In 1816 the Province of Westphalia was formed from these acquisitions. At a later date (18510 the whole of Lippstadt, which up to then had been divided between Prussia and Lippe, was added to the province. Under Prussian administration the province has reached a high degree of prosperity.
The life of the Church has also greatly developed in connection with the revival of German Catholicism in general. There are in Westphalia a large number of religious, political, social, and charitable associations of Catholics, and brotherhoods which are very active and have many thousand members. the Catholic Press of Westphalia also is in a prosperous condition. There are 82 Catholic newspapers, of which the "Westfälischer Merkur" of Münster, the "Westfalisches Volksblatt" of Paderborn, and the "Tremonia" of Dortmund should be mentioned, besides numerous Catholic periodicals. A diocesan synod was held at Paderborn in 1868 and at Münster in 1897. Next to the province of the Rhine, Westphalia is the most important Catholic part of Prussia. The ecclesiastical divisions have been so arranged by the Bull "De salute animarum" of 1821, that the Diocese of Münster includes the government district of Münster, one parish in the government district of Minden, as well as three enclaves in the government district of Arnsberg; the County of Königssteele in the government district of Arnsberg belongs to the Archdiocese of Cologne , and all else to the Diocese of Paderborn. The government district of Münster contains 800,302 Catholics, and 182,044 Evangelicals; the government district of Arnsberg, 1,081,343 Catholics and 1,276,187 Evangelicals; the government district of Minden, 239,889 Catholics and 489,441 Evangelicals. For ecclesiastical statistics see articles MUNSTER and PADERBORN.
Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.
Nicene Creed (Latin)
Mysteries of the Rosary
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saint of the Day for Sunday, July 3rd, 2022
The Apostles' Creed
Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
Saints & Angels
- Daily Readings for Sunday, July 03, 2022
- St. Thomas: Saint of the Day for Sunday, July 03, 2022
- A Prayer of Gratitude for God's Blessings - Acts of Thomas: Prayer of the Day for Sunday, July 03, 2022
- Daily Readings for Saturday, July 02, 2022
- St. Bernardino Realino: Saint of the Day for Saturday, July 02, 2022
- Prayer for Employment: Prayer of the Day for Saturday, July 02, 2022
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.