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Minden on the Weser is first heard of in 798, and in 803 in the Treaty of Salz, made with the Saxons, it is spoken of as a see. The first bishop was Erkambert (Herumbert), probably a Saxon, who was appointed in 780 and died in 813. The third bishop, Dietrich I (853-80) fell in battle against the Northmen : the fifth, Drogo (887-902), founded a convent at Möllenbeck. The diocese gradually developed until it extended on the east across the Aller to Celle, on the west to Hunte, embracing the districts of Lidbekegowe, Enterigowe, Loingo, Merstem, Buki, and Tilithi. From the beginning the bishops of Minden were suffragans of Cologne. The later estates of the bishops comprised about a fourth of the diocese ; it extended from Porta Westfalica, on both sides of the river, to Schlüsselburg, and on the north-west across to Hunte. The most important places were Minden, Lübbecke, Petershagen, Schlüsselburg, Reineberg, and Rahden. The see suffered in the tenth century from the Hungarians, but began to flourish under the Saxon dynasty.
Bishop Landward (956-69) obtained from Otto I immunity from all foreign jurisdiction, and also obtained the revenues derived from the administration of justice ; Milo (969-96) on account of his loyalty to Otto II received important privileges, among others the right to elect the bailiff who represented the bishop in the imperial court, in 977 penal jurisdiction, the Weser toll, the right of coinage and of conducting a cattle market. The bishop became so important that he was almost an independent prince. The cathedral canons obtained in 961 the right to choose the bishop, provided a worthy man was chosen. Bishops Dietrich II (1002-22), Sigebert (1022-36), and Bruno (1037-55) were in the emperor's favour and consequently added to their church property. During the reign of Henry IV the bishops were caught in the Investitures conflict, and more than once papal and imperial sympathizers contended for the see. After the Concordat of Worms the bishopric under Sigward (1120-40) and Heinrich I (1140-53) made great strides. Werner (1153-70) and Anno (1170-85) guided the see safely through the struggle between Frederick Barbarossa and the Saxon Duke Henry the Lion. The episcopal dependence on the ducal power, and the prelates of Minden were henceforth subject to the emperor.
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Continuous conflict with encroaching nobles brought a load of debt and forced many bishops to pledge or sell the diocesan estates. The town of Minden profited by the financial embarrassment of its episcopal lords, gradually acquired more rights, and partially freed itself from the overlordship of the bishops ; on the other hand, the authority of bishop was restricted by the cathedral chapter which, in Minden as in other dioceses, acquired the right of choosing the provost and dean and made all important matters of administration subject to its consent. Bishop Gottfried von Waldeck (1304-24), to evade the oppression of the burgesses, moved his residence to the castle of Petershagen. With the papal nomination of Louis of Brunswick (1324-46) began the unedifying and detrimental series of conflicts between pope and chapter as to the nomination to the see. Louis involved the see in the feuds of neighbouring nobles. The town acquired the administration of Justice, the right to levy customs duties, and the right of coinage. Some energetic bishops followed: Gerhard I (1346-53); Gerhard II von Schauenburg (1361-66); Wedekind vom Berge (1369-83); Otto III (1384-97.
In the fifteenth century more than one double election took place. Wulbrand, Count of Hallermund (1406-36), endeavoured to bring order out of confusion; his successor, Albert II von Hoya, as coadjutor and as bishop (1436-73), was involved in a long dispute with Osnabrück and the Duke of Brunswick. His successor, Heinrich III von Schauenburg (1473-1508), sought better relations with his neighbours, but episcopal authority was so weakened that a return to former conditions was impossible. The power of the bishop was now so restricted by the chapter and the town, that he was unable to take any important step; without their consent ; indeed a complete co-regency of the chapter was set up. Almost all the castles were in the hands of the aristocratic canons, and the revenues of the bishop were extremely limited. The lives of the clergy did not in many cases conform to the canonical rules; concubinage was quite general, monastic discipline had relaxed, and the faith of the laity had grown cold. For these reasons the Reformation spread rapidly in the town and the diocese under Bishop Franz I of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1508-29), who involved the see in the Hildersheim chapter feuds, and died as the result of his excesses. His successor, Franz II von Waldeck, also Bishop of Münster and Osnabrück from 1532, led a dissolute life, and was an adherent of the new religious teachings, which he privately furthered with all his power. In 1553 he was forced to resign in favour of Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1553-54), who soon resigned in favour of his uncle, Georg (1554-66).
Under his successor Hermann von Schauenberg (1567-82), Protestantism spread rapidly; Hermann accepted the Council of Trent, it is true, but governed as a Protestant prince. Heinrich Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel (1582-85) declared the Confession of Augsburg the only authorized creed in his diocese. Otto von Schaunberg (1587-99) was a devoted Catholic, but, owing to disputes with the cathedral chapter and the estates, accomplished little for Catholicism. The last bishop but one, Christian of Brunswick (1599-1633, a Protestant ), troubled himself little about his diocese, and ruled it from his paternal estates. By the terms of his election he had to allow the free exercise of both creeds. The attempt of the cathedral chapter to turn over the church of St. John at Minden to the Jesuits (1604) was frustrated by the opposition of the citizens. By the Edict of Restitution (1629) the Catholics of Minden obtained the churches of St. Martin and St. Simeon; the Franciscans in 1630 established themselves in the cathedral until 1651, and even the Jesuits, though for only a short time, were welcomed to the city. Franz von Wartenberg (1633-48), last Bishop of Minden, endeavoured to restore the Catholic faith in his Sees of Minden, Osnabrück, and Verden; but in 1633 he was obliged to flee before the Swedes, and after the Treaty of Prague (1635) was unable to return.
By the Peace of Westphalia the diocese was suppressed, Franz Wilhelm retained the title of Bishop of Minden, but its temporal possessions, embracing more than twenty-two square miles, were awarded to the Electorate of Brandenburg. It was only in 1649 that Brandenburg was able to obtain possession; in 1650 the Elector Frederick William received the oath of allegiance from the town and the nobility at the episcopal castle of Petershagen. The "principality" of Minden remained at first a special jurisdiction, until in 1729 it was united to the Countship of Ravensberg. The Catholics retained only the cathedral with eleven canonries, all of which were suppressed early in the nineteenth century; but the cathedral is still in Catholic hands. After the suppression of the see, its territory was administered for ecclesiastical purposes by the Northern Mission. In 1821 most of it fell to Paderborn, and a small remnant to Hildesheim.
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