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.


History of the Low Countries
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Frisii Belgae
Chamavi, Tubanti[2] Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Gallia Belgica (55BC-5th c.)
Salian Franks Batavii[3]
(4th-5th c.)
Saxons Salian Franks[4]
(4th-5th c.)
Frisian Kingdom
(6th c.–734)
Frankish Kingdom (481-843) - Carolingian Empire (800-843)
Austrasia (511-687)
Middle Francia (843–855) West

Kingdom of Lotharingia[5] (855– 959)
Duchy of Lower Lorraine[6] (959–)
Frisia Arms of Flanders.svg

Friesland (kleine wapen).svg
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County of
Coat of arms of Utrecht city.gif
Bishopric of
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Duchy of
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Duchy of
County of
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County of

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County of

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of Liège

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Duchy of

  Flag - Low Countries - XVth Century.png
Burgundian Netherlands (1384–1482)
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Habsburg Netherlands (1482–1795)
(Seventeen Provinces after 1543)[14]
Dutch Republic
(Seven United Netherlands)
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Spanish Netherlands
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Austrian Netherlands
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United States of Belgium
R. Liège
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Batavian Republic (1795–1806)
Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810)
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part of French First Republic (1795–1804)
part of First French Empire (1804–1815)
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Princip. of the Netherlands (1813–1815)
United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830)

Kingdom of the Netherlands (1839–)
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Kingdom of Belgium (1830–)
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Gr D. L.
Gr D. of



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.

Bishops until Protestant Reformation[edit]


Apostolic Vicars of the Dutch Mission[edit]

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

Pro-Apostolic Vicars[edit]

in Brussels:

in Münster and Amsterdam:

in The Hague:

Old-Catholic archbishops who notified their election to the Pope[edit]

For more information on the Old-Catholic hierarchy, see main article.

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

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Roman foederati
  2. ^ The Chamavi merged into the confederation of the Franks; the Tubanti merged into the confederation of the Saxons.
  3. ^ Roman foederati
  4. ^ Roman foederati
  5. ^ Part of East Francia after 939, divided in Upper Lorraine (as part of West Francia) and Lower Lorraine (as part of East Francia) in 959.
  6. ^ Lower Lorraine - also referred to as Lothier - disintegrated into several smaller independent territories and only the title of a "Duke of Lothier" remained, held by Brabant.
  7. ^ Lordship of Frisia and Lordship of Groningen (including the Ommelanden) after 1524 and 1536 respectively.
  8. ^ Including County of Zeeland, that was ruled by neighboring County of Holland and County of Flanders (until 1432).
  9. ^ Utrecht included Lordship of Overijssel (until 1528), County of Drenthe (until 1528) and County of Zutphen (until 1182).
  10. ^ Duchy of Brabant included since 1288 also the Duchy of Limburg (now part of the Belgian Province of Liège) and the "Overmaas" lands Dalhem, Valkenburg and Herzogenrath (now part of the Dutch Province of Limburg).
  11. ^ The county, later duchy, of Guelders consisted of four quarters, as they were separated by rivers: situated upstream Upper Quarter (the present day northern half of the Dutch province of Limburg), spatially separated from the three downstream Lower Quarters: County of Zutphen (after 1182), Veluwe Quarter and Nijmegen Quarter. The three lower quarters formed the present day province of Gelderland. Guelders did not include the Cleves enclave Huissen and the independent counties of Buren and Culemborg, that were much later seceded to the province of Gelderland.
  12. ^ Including County of Artois (part of Flanders until 1237) and Tournaisis.
  13. ^ Throughout the Middle Ages, the bishopric was further expanded with the Duchy of Bouillon in 1096 (ceded to France in 1678), the acquisition of the county of Loon in 1366 and the county of Horne in 1568. The Lordship of Mechelen was also part of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.
  14. ^ The name Seventeen Provinces came in use after the Habsburg emperor Charles V had re-acquired the Duchy of Guelders, and an continuous territory arose.

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]