Christoph Bernhard von Galen

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Christopher Bernhard von Galen
Christoph Bernhard von Galen

Christoph Bernhard Freiherr von Galen (12 October 1606, Drensteinfurt – 19 September 1678) was prince-bishop of Münster. He was born into a noble Westphalian family.

Background, education and conversion to Roman Catholicism[edit]

Christoph Bernhard von Galen was a child of Lutheran Protestant parents of the noble family of the Von Galen and was born on October 12, 1606. His father, Dietrich von Galen, had goods in Baltic and bore the title of Marshal of Courland. During a state assembly in Münster, Dietrich von Galen killed the Munster hereditary marshal Gerd Morrien to Nordkirchen on 15 February 1607, and consequently had to spend twelve years in detention at Burg Bevergern. Because his wife accompanied him voluntarily, the young Christoph Bernhard in 1616 was placed under the care of his uncle, the canon of Münster's Heinrich von Galen. He gave him a Catholic education Jesuits at Paulinum Catholic education in Münsterr.

At age 13, he got his first job and in 1619 he became a Cathedral chapter in Münster. When he reached the required age, he moved to Cologne and Mainz, to complete his education at a Jesuit school in 1626. An educational trip took him to Bourges and Bordeaux in France, from where he returned to Münster in July 1627. The time of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) coined it. In 1630 he was Treasurer of the cathedral and in 1634 chaplain advice. There was at that time not many canon political activists. Galen took many diplomatic missions. He repeatedly took part in negotiations with the imperial generals in part of Westphalia.


Reduced to poverty through the loss of his paternal inheritance, he took holy orders; but this did not prevent him from fighting on the side of the emperor Ferdinand III during the concluding stages of the Thirty Years' War. In 1650, he succeeded Ferdinand of Bavaria, archbishop of Cologne, as bishop of Münster.

Coat of Arms of Christopher Bernhard von Galen

After restoring some degree of peace and prosperity in his principality, Galen had to contend with a formidable insurrection on the part of the citizens of Münster; but in 1661 this was solved by occupying the city. The bishop, who maintained a strong army, became an important personage in Europe. In 1664, he was chosen one of the directors of the imperial army raised to fight the Turks, but his troops came too late to fight; after the peace which followed the Christian victory at the Battle of St. Gotthard in August 1664, he aided Charles II of England in his Second Anglo-Dutch War with the Dutch, until the intervention of Louis XIV and Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg compelled him to make a disadvantageous peace in 1666 in Cleve.[1]

When Galen again attacked the Dutch Republic six years later in the Franco-Dutch War, he was in alliance with Louis XIV, who helped him take Groenlo. His troops went more east and north and conquered not only Deventer and Coevorden. His army got stuck before the city of Groningen, failing to occupy the coast in the North, because of inundation of the fields on purpose and marshes that were almost impossible to cross. In October 1674 he withdrew his troops from the Dutch Republic and gave up his attempts to restore Catholic faith in the Eastern provinces. In 1675 he deserted his former ally, and fought for the emperor Leopold I against France. In conjunction with Brandenburg and Denmark he attacked Charles XI of Sweden, and conquered the Duchy of Bremen in the Bremen-Verden Campaign during the Swedish-Brandenburg War. Von Galen died at Ahaus.[1]

He showed himself anxious to reform the church, and probably his chief energies were directed to increasing his power and prestige,[1] but he succeeded in getting rid of foreign armies, occupying Westphalia since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

In popular culture[edit]

In the Netherlands he carries the nickname "Bommen Berend" (Bernhard Bombs) because he unsuccessfully lay siege to the Dutch city of Groningen using bombs. A holiday of this name is still celebrated in the city of Groningen on 28 August to commemorate the breaking of the siege.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Galen, Christoph Bernhard, Freiherr von". Encyclopædia Britannica 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 398.  This has the following references:
    • K. Tücking, Geschichte des Stifts Münster unter C. B. von Galen (Munster, 1865)
    • P. Corstiens, Bernard van Galen, Vorst-Bisschop van Munster (Rotterdam, 1872)
    • A. Hüsing, Fürstbischof C. B. von Galen (Münster, 1887)
    • C. Brinkmann in the English Historical Review, vol. xxi . (1906).
    • There is in the British Museum a poem printed in 1666, entitled Letter to the bishop of Munster containing a Panegyrick of his heroick achievements in heroick verse.
  2. ^ Groningen tourism site

External links[edit]

Christoph Bernhard von Galen
Born: 12 October 1606 in Drensteinfurt Died: 19 September 1678 in Ahaus
Catholic Church titles
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ferdinand I of Bavaria
Prince-Bishop of Münster
as Bernard
Succeeded by
Ferdinand II of Fürstenberg (de)