Pankraz Vorster

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Pankraz Vorster
Pankraz Vorster
Pankraz Vorster
Born 31 July 1753 (1753-07-31)
Naples, Italy
Died 9 September 1829 (1829-09-10) (aged 76)
Muri, Switzerland
Occupation Swiss-bishop

Pankraz Vorster (July 31, 1753, Naples – 9 September 1829, Muri) was a Swiss abbot. He served as the last abbot of the Abbey of Saint Gall from 1796 to 1805.

Life[edit]

Pankraz Vorster was born in Naples of an old family from Fürstenland, the son of Captain Joseph Zacharias Vorster and Countess Anna Maria Rosa Berni. He was raised mainly by his uncle, who was a pastor in Grub and Wittenbach. In 1771, he completed his profession in St. Gallen and then taught Philosophy, Science, and Theology at a school. On July 13, 1777, he was ordained as a priest. In 1784, he undertook a study trip with Johann Nepomuk Hauntinger to Swabia and Bavaria. In 1785, he led the opposition against Abbot Beda Angehrn. In the eyes of many monks he threatened the existence of the monastery's large investments and its autocratic administration. He was penalized and was moved in September 1788 as 'suboeconomus' to Ebringen, Freiburg im Breisgau, once an enclave. In 1796, Vorster was reconciled with Angehrn and returned to St. Gallen.

On June 4, 1796, Vorster was elected abbot and immediately agreed with the efforts for democracy in the dominions of the monastery. In 1797, he had to concede the region its own seal and ancient right of choice of a magistrate. On February 3, 1798, the chapter arbitrarily granted its subjects their independence, ending the secular rule of the monastery. The last Vogt of the Abbey in the County of Toggenburg, Karl von Müller-Friedberg, had arbitrarily dismissed the Counts of Toggenburg to independence on January 1. On February 14 in Gossau, the Constituent Landsgemeinde of the "Republic of Free St. Gallen" met. Vorster moved to Neu-Ravensburg, an exclave north of Lake Constance, and formally raised a protest against the action of his subjects on March 3, 1798. After the invasion of France, Vorster tried in vain to remove the Abbey from Switzerland with a proclamation on June 9, 1798, so as to rejoin the Holy Roman Empire. With the arrival of the troops of the coalition in St. Gallen, Vorster returned once again to the monastery on May 26, 1799, and began to rebuild the Dominion. He had to flee again on September 29 to Mehrerau after the defeat of the coalition in Zurich.

From his exile in Ebringen, the last territory under the rule of the monastery, being in the sphere of influence of Austria, Vorster worked continuously for the recovery of his monastery. Uncompromising, he refused all offers of a restoration of the monastery without sovereignty. In 1803, he sent an emissary to the Helvetic Republic and to the Consulta in Paris, to obtain the restoration of the monastery by Napoleon personally. Despite the assurance in the Act of Mediation that all monasteries should be restored, Karl von Müller-Friedberg prevented St. Gallen being restored to Vorster because of Vorster's extensive demands and because the existence of the newly established canton would have endangered St. Gallen. Nevertheless, Vorster received St. Gallen from the bishop of Basel, Franz Xaver von Neveu, on November 4, 1804 in Offenburg, with his blessing. It was decided by the Great Council of the Canton of St. Gallen on May 8, 1805 to approve the liquidation of the monastery. Vorster was called "the gravedigger of his monastery" because he prevented any compromise solution.

Vorster remained abbot of the monastery from the perspective of the Catholic Church, because its dissolution was not Church-sanctioned. Therefore in 1814 he appointed his close advisor Aemilian Hafner as parish priest of Ebringen. This was a right of the abbot of St Gall according to a treaty with the diocese of Constance. In 1814/15 Vorster personally strove at the Congress of Vienna to recover his rule of the monastery, but could only obtain an award to him from Congress of a pension of 6000 florins on November 20, 1815; the canton retained control of St. Gallen. Vorster unsuccessfully attempted, with the support of the pope, to get the affiliation of at least one Diocese of St. Gallen before the Federal Council at Tagsatzung on July 16, 1816. In the same year he moved to Arth. From 1819 he withdrew bitterly into the Muri Abbey, where he died in 1829. Formally, he remained the abbot of St. Gallen until his death, because from the perspective of the Catholic Church the monastery was only abolished in 1845. In 1923 his body was interred in the St. Gallen Cathedral.

Further reading[edit]

  • Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz, Bd. 7, Neuenburg 1934, S. 300.
  • Alfred Meier: Abt Pankraz Vorster und die Aufhebung der Fürstabtei St. Gallen. Freiburg i.Ue. 1954 (Studia Friburgensia NF 8).
  • Werner Vogler: Abt Pankraz Vorster von St. Gallen und der Wiener Kongress 1814/15. St. Gallen 1982.
  • Pankraz Vorster, in: Helvetia Sacra III/1/2 (1986), S. 1348–1350.

External links[edit]