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An Austrian bishopric in the southern part of Styria, suffragan of Salzburg. The original seat of the bishopric lay in the eastern part of Carinthia in the valley of the Lavant. It was here that Eberhard II, Archbishop of Salzburg, established, 20 Aug., 1212, at St. Andrä, with the consent of Pope Innocent III and Emperor Frederick II , a collegiate chapter, the canons of which followed the Rule of St. Augustine ; its members were chosen from the cathedral chapter of Salzburg. On account of the great remoteness and the difficulty of travelling, the archbishop, about the year 1223, asked Pope Honorius III to allow him to found a bishopric at St. Andrä. After the pope had had the archbishop's request examined by commissioners, and had given his consent, Eberhard drew up the deed of foundation, 10 May, 1228, wherein he secured the possession of the episcopal chair for himself and his successors in perpetuity. He named as first bishop his court chaplain Ulrich, who had formerly been priest of Haus, in Styria (died 1257).
In the deed of foundation of the new bishopric, no boundaries were defined. In a deed of Archbishop Frederick II of Salzburg of 1280, seventeen parishes, situated partly in Carinthia and partly in Styria, were described as belonging to Lavant; the extent of the diocese was rather small, but the bishops also attended to the office of vicar-general of the Archbishops of Salzburg for some scattered districts; they also frequently attended to the office of Vicedom ( bishop's deputy in secular affairs) at Friesach. The tenth bishop, Dietrich Wolfhauer (1318-32), is mentioned in deeds as the first prince-bishop; he was also secretary of Frederick III the Handsome, of Austria, and was present at the battle of Mühldorf in 1322. Since the twenty-second bishop, Theobald Schweinbeck (1446-63), the bishops have borne without intermission the title of prince. The following prominent bishops deserve special mention: the humanist Johann I von Rott (1468-82), died as Prince- Bishop of Breslau ; Georg II Agrikola (1570-84), who after 1572 was also at the same time Bishop of Seckau ; Georg III Stobäus von Palmburg (1584-1618), a worthy promotor of the Counter-Reformation ; Maximilian Gandolph Freiherr von Kienburg (1654-65), did much towards increasing the financial resources of the diocese.
By the new regulations under Emperor Joseph II , several bishoprics were added to the Diocese of Lavant. Prince-Archbishop Michael Brigido of Laibach in 1788 ceded a number of parishes in the southern part of what is now the Diocese of Lavant; and the district of Völkermarkt, which was afterwards again detached, was added to the bishopric at that time. The present extent of the diocese was brought about by the circumscription of 1 June, 1859. The valley of the Lavant and the district of Völkermarkt in Carinthia fell to Gurk ; in consequence of which the District of Marburg was transferred from Seckau to Lavant; since then the diocese comprises the whole of southern Styria. By the decree of the Congregation of the Consistory of 20 May, 1857, the see of the bishop was removed from St. Andrä to Marburg; the parish church of St. John the Baptist in that place being erected into a cathedral, and the title "of Lavant" being preserved. On 4 Sept, 1859, Bishop Anton Martin Slomschek (1846-62) made his solemn entry into Marburg. His successors, Jakob Maximilian Stepischnegg (1862-89), and Michael Napotnik (since 1889) have shown great zeal for the promotion of the spiritual life by introducing religious orders and founding educational and charitable institutions and clubs. But the most beneficial work done for the religious life of the diocese was that of the diocesan synods, held by Stepischnegg (1883), and by Napotnik, who followed his example (1896, 1900, 1903, and 1906).
The bishopric is divided into 24 deaneries, and numbered (1909) 223 parishes, 200 chaplaincies (48 unoccupied), 7 unoccupied offices and benefices, 375 priests engaged in the cure of souls, 39 secular priests and 53 regular clergy in other positions, 37 clergy without office, 675 churches and chapels, and 521,896 souls. The cathedral chapter, which is four-fifths Slovene and one-fifth German, consists of one mitred cathedral provost, one mitred cathedral dean, and five canons. The old cathedral chapter, which was composed of the canons of the Augustinian order, was dissolved in 1808, and its property was assigned to the "Religionsfond" founded by Joseph II ; in 1825 a new cathedral chapter was provisionally erected, and definitively so in 1847. Besides the actual canons, there are six stalls for honorary canons (four temporarily vacant ). The council is composed of six advisors; the prince-bishop is the president. In the theological diocesan college there are eleven lecturers; the episcopal priests' seminary numbers (1909) 4 classes, with 42 students; the "Maximilianum-Viktorinum", an episcopal seminary for boys, 8 classes, with 80 students. Eight clerical teachers taught in 7 state schools.
In the diocese there are the following establishments of religious orders: 1 monastery of Minorites of Sts. Peter and Paul, at Pettau (founded 1239), with nine fathers; 4 Franciscan monasteries, with 31 fathers, 23 lay brothers, and 5 clerical novices ; 1 Capuchin monastery at Cilli (founded 1611), with 6 fathers, and 4 lay brothers ; 2 mission houses of the Fathers of St. Vincent de Paul , with 8 priests, and 10 lay brothers ; 1 Trappist abbey, Maria Erlösung, at Reichenburg (founded 1881 by French Trappists ), with 21 fathers, and 48 brothers. Orders of women : Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul , 82, in 6 establishments, who are dedicated to the nursing of the sick; School Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi, 1 motherhouse, 14 affiliated houses, 190 sisters ; School Sisters from the mother-house of Algersdorf, Graz, 9, with 1 institution 1 magdalen asylum, with 17 canonesses, and 15 lay sisters; Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross, 3, with one establishment; Sisters of the Teutonic Order, 9, with one hospital ; 1 Carmelite Convent of Perpetual Adoration (10 sisters). The School Sisters conduct a training school for female teachers, 1 lyceum, 11 girls' schools, 5 boarding-schools, 6 kindergartens, 2 orphan asylums, 2 schools of domestic economy, and one home for servant-girls. There are 36 Catholic clubs and confraternities in the diocese, besides 25 associations for the building and adornment of churches.
The most prominent ecclesiastical buildings in the diocese are: the cathedral and parish church of St. John the Baptist, at Marburg, which was begun in the middle of the twelfth century as a Romanesque basilica, rebuilt after 1520 in the Gothic style, again restored after the fire in 1601, and once more in 1885; the provostship and parish church of St. Georg, at Pettau, erected in the Gothic style about 1314; the abbey and parish church of St. Daniel, at Cilli, dates from the middle of the sixteenth century; and the shrine of St. Maria der Wüste, in the neighbourhood of Marburg (built 1628), in the baroque style.
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