Bishopric of Utrecht

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Bishopric of Utrecht
Sticht Utrecht
Prinsbisdom Utrecht (nl)
Hochstift Utrecht (de)
Principauté d'Utrecht (fr)
State of the Holy Roman Empire
Flag Coat of arms
The Bishopric of Utrecht around 1350. The smaller, western territory, which was the bishopric's central territory centred around the city of Utrecht, was known as Nedersticht. The larger north-eastern territory was known as Oversticht.
Capital Utrecht
Languages Dutch, Low Saxon
Government Theocracy
Historical era Middle Ages
 -  Bishopric established 695
 -  Created Princes of
    Holy Roman Empire
 -  Territories sold to
    Emperor Charles V
21 August 1528
 -  Union of Utrecht 1579

The Bishopric of Utrecht is a diocese based in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

From 1024 until 1528, it was one of the Prince-Bishoprics of the Holy Roman Empire, constituting, in addition to its eccleaiastical aspect, a civil state within the Empire. In 1528, Emperor Charles V secularized its civil authority and territorial possessions and its entire worldly power. It continued to exist as an ecclesiastical entity, and in 1559 was elevated to an archbishopric.

By 1580, after the death of archbishop Frederik V Schenck van Toutenburg, the Protestant Reformation in Utrecht and surrounding regions rendered impossible several attempts to effectively continue the ecclesiastical archdiocese. The ecclesiastical archbishopric or archdiocese was reinstated in 1853 as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Utrecht by Pope Pius IX.

Since the early 18th century Old Catholic dissidents have claimed the restoration of the archdiocese took place as early as 1723 by the election and episcopal consecration of Cornelius van Steenoven, enthroned, consecrated and elevated in a so-called schuilkerk by certain members of Utrecht Catholic clergy without papal approval.



The Diocese of Utrecht was established in 695 when Saint Willibrord was consecrated bishop of the Frisians at Rome by Pope Sergius I. With the consent of the Frankish ruler, Pippin of Herstal, he settled in an old Roman fort in Utrecht. After Willibrord's death the diocese suffered greatly from the incursions of the Frisians,[citation needed] and later on of the vikings. Willibrord was most probably instated as archbishop, having received the pallium during his life; but it is uncertain why and when exactly this title was lost in later times.

Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht[edit]

Better times appeared during the reign of the Saxon emperors, who frequently summoned the Bishops of Utrecht to attend the imperial councils and diets. In 1024 the bishops were made Princes of the Holy Roman Empire and the new Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht was formed. The secular territory over which it ruled was known as Sticht Utrecht or Het Sticht (a sticht was any piece of land governed by a bishop or abbot). This territory was divided into the Nedersticht (Lower Sticht, roughly corresponding to the present day Dutch province of Utrecht) and Oversticht (Upper Sticht, encompassing the present-day provinces of Overijssel, Drenthe, and part of Groningen).

In 1122, with the Concordat of Worms, the Emperor's right of investiture was annulled, and the cathedral chapter received the right to the election of the bishop. It was, however, soon obligated to share this right with the four other collegiate chapters in the city: St. Salvator, St. John's, St. Peter's and St. Mary's. The Counts of Holland and Guelders, between whose territories the lands of the Bishops of Utrecht lay, also sought to acquire influence over the filling of the episcopal see. This often led to disputes and consequently the Holy See frequently interfered in the election. After the middle of the 14th century the popes repeatedly appointed the bishop directly without regard to the five chapters.

In 1527, the Bishop sold his territories and thus his entire direct secular authority to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the principality became an integral part of the Habsburg dominions. The chapters transferred their right of electing the bishop to Charles V and his government, a measure to which Pope Clement VII gave his consent, under political pressure after the Sacco di Roma.

Lordship of Utrecht[edit]

The Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht became the Lordship of Utrecht in 1528.

Apostolic Vicars of the Dutch Mission[edit]

Archbishops in partibus and Apostolic Vicars, in Utrecht[edit]

Roman Catholic archbishops after Restoration of the Roman-Catholic episcopal hierarchy[edit]

See also[edit]



Further reading[edit]

  • Ring, Trudy; Watson, Noelle; Schellinger, Paul, eds. (1995). "Utrecht". International dictionary of historic places 2. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 761. ISBN 188496401X. 

External links[edit]