Bibra family

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

House of Bibra
Noble house
Bibra-Wappen MK1916.jpg
Ancestral arms of Bibra
CountryBanner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806).svg Holy Roman Empire
Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Bavaria 1835-1918.svg Kingdom of Bavaria
Imperial Coat of Arms of the Empire of Austria.svg Austro Hungarian Empire
Place of originFrankenrechen.svg Duchy of Franconia
Founded1119, 1151
Bibra coat of arms, gothic style
Representation of a Bibra knight in front of the castle Bibra
Siebmachers Wappenbuch of 1605, listing the Bibra family as the most important family of Franconia under the rank of Freiherr (Baron)
Detail of bronze coat of arms by Peter Vischer
Prince-Bishop Lorenz von Bibra,detail of tomb by Tilman Riemenschneider in Würzburg Dom (cathedral)
Prince-Bishop Conrad von Bibra
Prince-Bishop Heinrich von Bibra by his court painter, Johann Andreas Herrlein
Ernst von Bibra
Map of Grabfeld showing localities with strong Bibra family ties
Burg Bibra
Castle Adelsdorf
Castle at Schwebheim in 1870 engraving
Schloss Kleinbardorf

The House of Bibra (German: [ˈbiːbʁa]) was one of the leading Uradel (ancient noble) families in Franconia (northern part of Bavaria) and present day Thuringia from the mid-15th century to about 1600. Later on the family rose from Reichsritter (Imperial Knights) to Reichsfreiherr (Barons of the Holy Roman Empire). After the Holy Roman Empire dissolved, they were made ‘’Freiherr’‘ (Barons) of Bavaria and Bohemia.


The earliest references to the family include a document of Bishop Otto of Bamberg from the year 1119 of a Rupertus de Bibra. In 1151 a Pertholdus (Berthold) de Bibra and his sons Pertholdus (Berthold) and Tagino are referenced in another document. The family prospered in numbers, wealth, and influence in the 15th century and early 16th century. By the time of Siebmachers Wappenbuch of 1605, the family is listed as the most important family of Franconia under the rank of Freiherr. By 1600 most of the family died off without heirs partially due natural causes such as the Bubonic plague and the number of family members who took church positions. After the death of Heinrich von Bibra in 1602, the Prince-Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn seized most of the family’s assets as part of the Counter-Reformation resulting in a 79-year lawsuit. The lawsuit (Reichskammergericht) was eventually settled with the family receiving all the properties except Burgwallbach but without income during the suit. From 1602 on there were many important members of the family but the family itself never recovered the leading position it previously had in the late 15th and 16th centuries. Between 1698 and 1772, the various lines were raised to Reichsfreiherr (Barons of the Holy Roman Empire). In later times, the family spread to the Austrian Empire, the British Empire, and the United States. According to Wagenhöfer, the Bibra family is the most researched family of the low nobility in Franconia after the Guttenberg and Seckendorff families.

Prominent members of the family[edit]

Riemenschneider patronage[edit]

The tomb of Lorenz von Bibra by Tilman Riemenschneider (c. 1460 – 7 July 1531) in the Würzburg Dom (cathedral) is one of Riemenschneider's most famous works. Lorenz also commissioned Riemenscheider to do the tomb of his predecessor, Rudolf von Scherenberg. In Bibra the family commissioned Riemenschneider to do the Altar of the Apostles, Altar of the Church Fathers, Altar of the Annunciation, Carving of St. Kilian, a crucifix, and an epitaph of Hans von Bibra (Lorenz' father). Kilian von Bibra also commissioned a work by Riemenscheider other than at Bibra.

Localities associated with family[edit]

Family seat (Stammsitz):

  • Burg Bibra near Meiningen (c.1100–present) is reportedly the longest continuously owned castle by a family in Thuringia having been in the family since written records began including during the East German period. While the burg itself remained in the family, the forest, farmland and Lower Castle was sold at auction in 1936.

Second seat:

Historical holdings still in family:

  • Schloss Brennhausen (1681–present) is a unique and beautifully situated castle frequently featured in books and calendars.
  • Dörfleshof farming estate (between Aubstadt and Ottelmannshausen)(1859–present)

Estates, castles, manor houses, and villages that previously came under Bibra control (Germany unless otherwise stated):

German cities with close association:


Monasteries closely associated with Bibra family:

  • Rohr (just north of Meiningen) during the 14th century (last Bibra burial 1473)
  • Henneberg Kloster Veßra in the 15th century (last Bibra burial 1488)


Coats of arms of municipalities[edit]

The Bibra coat of arms is incorporated into several municipalities.

Organization of the family[edit]

For the last four centuries the family has divided itself between two Branches named after the two brothers whom all living Bibra descend: Valentine (1560–1595) and Bernhard (1562–1609). Within each branch, the family has divided further in Lines centered on castles and a manor house (Gleicherwiesen). The last two centuries, the Lines are as follows:

Valentine Branch

Adelsdorf Line (extinct in the male line since 1993)
Raised to Imperial Barons (Reichsfreiherr) 1698
Became Bavarian Barons 1815
Gleicherweisen Line
Raised to Imperial Barons (Reichsfreiherr) 1698
Became Bavarian Barons 1815
Schwebheim Line (extinct 1958)
Raised to Imperial Barons (Reichsfreiherr) 1698
Became Bavarian Barons 1817
Schnabelwaid, later Weisendorf Line (extinct 1856)
Raised to Imperial Barons (Reichsfreiherr) 1698
Became Bohemian (part of the Austrian Empire) Barons 1810

Bernhard Branch

Brennhausen Line
Raised to Imperial Barons (Reichsfreiherr) 1772
Became Bavarian Barons 1828
Bibra-Bibra Line
Raised to Imperial Barons (Reichsfreiherr) 1772
Became Bavarian Barons 1816
Irmelshausen Line (Older sub-line & Younger sub-line)
Raised to Imperial Barons (Reichsfreiherr) 1713
Became Bavarian Barons 1816

All branches of the family were raised to Freiherr. Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a former title (translated as Baron). In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin. In 1919, all nobility predicates were transformed into constituents of the family name in Germany.

Outline of family[edit]


Schloss Roßrieth
Bibra Palais (Bibra Haus), Bamberg
Epitaph of Bernhard and Sibylle von Bibra at Irmelshausen
Grave of Friedrich Kaspar von Bibra (1681–1750) in Höchheim
Bibra Lake located in the Perth Australia suburb, Bibra Lake

Erbuntermarschallamt (hereditary under-marshal office) of Prince-Bishopric of Würzburg 1357 – 1803[edit]

1357: The counts of Henneberg had the title to the office in 1357 transferred to the Bibra family, but then withdrawn and returned to it to the von der Kere family.

1405: In two contracts of 1405 and 1486, both families finally agreed on the alternating exercise of the office. When the Henneberg family renounced the Obermarschall of Würzburg in 1533 for political reasons, there were no more changes with the Untermarschallamt until the extinction of the Henneberg house in 1584.

1572: The sole right of succession claimed by the Bibra after the extinction of the von der Kere family in 1572 was contested by Prince Bishop Julius Echter of Mespelbrunn (ruled 1573–1617), and the share of the Kere family transferred to his own family. Until the extinction of the Mespelbrunn (1665), members of both families exercised an alternating office.

1665 -1803 (secularization): The Bibras stand unchallenged. Beginning in 1803, it became an "empty title" with no Prince-Bishopric.

The Erbntermarschallamt was held by the Familiensenior or Senior familiae (Family Senior) which is the eldest male member of the Bibra family when the family held the position. Friedrich Gotthelf (1736-1813, Brennhausen line) claimed office in 1783 (five years early) even though Prince Bishop Heinrich (1711-1788) was older but was unable to fulfill role.

Erbuntertruchsess of the Prince-Bishopric of Bamberg[edit]

Beginning in 1721, members of the Schabelwaid/Weisendorf line had the Erbuntertruchsess of the Prince-Bishopric of Bamberg. This officed ended in 1803 when then bishopric was secularized.

Bibra family / Bibran-Modlau family relationship[edit]

Bibran-Modlau family (Bibran, Bibra und Modlau, Bibra-Modlau) was a Silesian noble family which was raised to Reichsfreiherr (Imperial barons) 1624.

The family and the three sons-in-law of the apparent last Silesian Bibran-Modlau used multiple variations of the name including:

"Bibra" instead of "Bibran"
von Bibran und Modlau
Block von Bibran und Modlau
Kölichen gen. Freiherren von Bibra u. Modlau
Schönberg von Bibra und Modlau.

One source (Origines familiae Bibranorum in Francia orientali utraque Silesia et Lusatia ...) reports that the family descends from a Sigmund von Bibra (Franconian Bibra family) who traveled to Silesia in the 11th century, however the different coat of arms casts doubt on the connection.[2] The description with the published (c. 1860) print of Schloss Modlau describes the Bibran family as having split off from the Franconia Bibras five hundred years ago.[3] By 1480 Modlau and Profen were already in possession of the family. At the end of the family, it was centered at Reisicht and Modlau, in present-day Poland. Prominent members of the family were: Friedrich Heinrich von Bibran-Modlau, Abraham von Bibran Kittlitztreben und Woitsdorf, and Sigismund Heinrich von Bibran-Modlau who was one of the largest land owner in Silesia.

David Heinrich von Bibran-Modlau was the apparent last male member of the family in Silesia. When he died in 1828, he had three daughters. His three sons-in-law (von Kölichen, von Block and von Schönberg) incorporated the Bibran-Modlau into their names.[4] The son-in-law Ernst Heinrich von Kölichen, who had incorporated the Bibran-Modlau name and coat of arms died (1832) with a daughter, Agnes, but no sons. Ernst’s son-in-law, Ludwig von Senden again incorporated (c. 1836) the Bibran name into his own becoming "von Senden-Bibran" as in Gustav von Senden-Bibran.


  1. ^ The Von Bibra Story Lois Nyman and Graeme von Bibra, November 1996, Foot & Playsted Pty Ltd., Launceston ISBN 0-9597188-1-8 pp. 64–66
  2. ^ Neues allgemeines Deutsches Adels-Lexicon, Vol. 1, Leipzig, 1859, pp. 412–413
  3. ^ Archived 12 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine Picture and History of Schloss Moldau including relationship of Bibran (Silesia) family to Bibra (Franconian) (German) F. Pazelt, Theodor Albert (1822–1867), Alexander Duncker (1813–1897)
  4. ^ Neues preussisches Adels-Lexicon, oder, Genealogische und diplomatische Nachrichten: von den in der preussischen Monarchie ansässigen oder zu derselben in Beziehung stehenden fürstlichen, gräflichen, freiherrlichen und adeligen Häusern, mit der Angabe ihrer Abstammung, ihres Besitzthums, ihres Wappens und der aus ihnen hervorgegangenen Civil- und Militärpersonen, Helden, Gelehrten und Künstler, bearbeitet von einem Vereine von Gelehrten und Freunden der vaterländischen Geschichte unter dem Vorstande des, Volume 1 Leopold Zedlitz (Freiherr von), 1836–1843.


  • RHEINHOLD ALBERT: Chronik der Gemeinde Sulzdorf an der Lederhecke. (2 Volumes, zus. 860 S.) hrsg. von der Gemeinde Sulzdorf a. d. L., Verlag Frankenschwelle (Hildburghausen) Pages. 515 – 534. 1994. This is the most thorough source on Brennhausen.
  • MARINA VON BIBRA, Heinrich VIII. – Fürstbischof von Fulda. In: Gerhard Pfeiffer (Hg.), Fränkische Lebensbilder, Bd. 4, Würzburg 1971, 213–229;
  • WILHELM FRHR. VON BIBRA, Geschichte der Familie der Freiherrn von Bibra, 1870;
  • WILHELM FRHR. VON BIBRA, Beiträge zur Familien Geschichte der Reichsfreiherrn von Bibra, Ernster Band (vol. 1), 1880; [1] Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf
  • WILHELM FRHR. VON BIBRA, Beiträge zur Familien Geschichte der Reichsfreiherrn von Bibra, Zweiter Band (vol. 2), 1882; Digitized copy Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf
  • WILHELM FRHR. VON BIBRA, Beiträge zur Familien Geschichte der Reichsfreiherrn von Bibra, Dritter Band (vol. 3), 1888; Digitized copy Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf
  • A. GNAU, Das kirchliche Wirken Heinrich VIII. von Bibra, Fürstbischofs von Fulda (1759–1788), in: Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Diözese Fulda 6 (1902) 12–19;
  • JOHANN EBERHARD VON KAISER, Regierungsgeschichte des jetztigen Fürsten-Bischofs Heinrich des VIII. zu Fulda im Grundriße, Vornehmlich in Hinsicht der innern Landes-Anstalten und Verbesserungen, in: Patriotisches Archiv für Deutschland 2 (1785) 1–102;
  • HANS KARLINGER, Die Kunstdenkmäler von Bayern, III, 13. Bezirksamt Königshofen. – Munich, 1915 (Reprint Munich, 1983, ISBN 3-486-50467-3)
  • WERNER KATHREIN, Bibra, Heinrich, in: Erwin Gatz (Hg.), Die Bischöfe des Heiligen Römischen Reiches 1648–1803, Berlin 1990, 29f.;
  • JOSEF LEINWEBER, Die Fuldaer Äbte und Bischöfe, Frankfurt a.M. 1989, 159–163;
  • MICHAEL MÜLLER, Fürstbischof Heinrich von Bibra und die katholische Aufklärung im Hochstift Fulda (1759–88). Wandel und Kontinuität des kirchlichen Lebens, Fulda 2005;
  • FRANZ SAYN-WITTGENSTEIN, Schlosser in Franken : Residenzen Und Landsitze Im Frankischen, 1974 ISBN 3-406-03575-2 ISBN 978-3-406-03575-3;
  • WERNER WAGENHÖFER, Die Bibra: Studien und Materialien zur Genealogie und zur Besitzgeschichte einer fränkischen Niederadelsfamilie im Spätmittelalter, Verlag Degener & Co, 1998, 699 pages, ISBN 3-7686-9147-0;
  • WERNER WAGENHÖFER, Grablegen des Niederadels im Spätmittelalterlichen Franken – das Beispiel der Bibra, Wirtschaft – Gesellschaft – Mentalitäten im Mittelalter, Festschrift zum 75. Geburtstag von Rolf Sprandel, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 2006 ISBN 3-515-08882-2, ISBN 978-3-515-08882-4, Pages.335–359.
  • ALFRED WENDEHORST, Das Bistum Würzburg: Teil 3. Die Bischofsreihe von 1455 -1617, 1978, ISBN 3-11-007475-3;
  • PETER ADOLPH WINKOPP, Beiträge zur Lebensgeschichte Heinrich des achten Fürstbischofen zu Fulda, welcher am 25. September 1788 das Zeitliche mit dem Ewigen verwechselte, in: Der neue deutsche Zuschauer 1 (1789) 93–102.134–144;
  • KLAUS WITTSTADT, Der Bibliotheksgründer Fürstbischof Heinrich VIII. von Bibra (1759–1788), in: Artur Brall (Hg.), Von der Klosterbibliothek zur Landesbibliothek. Beiträge zum zweihundertjährigen Bestehen der Hessischen Landesbibliothek Fulda (Stuttgart 1978) 269–293;
  • F. ZWENGER, Heinrich v. Bibra. Fürstbischof von Fulda, in: BuBl 4 (1923) 139f., 143f., 148 [Weitgehend auf Wilhelm von Bibra beruhend];


  • JULIEN CHAPUIS, Tilman Riemenschneider: Master Sculptor of the Late Middle Ages, National Gallery London Publications, 11 October 1999, ISBN 0-300-08162-6 ISBN 978-0-300-08162-6
  • LOIS NYMAN AND GRAEME VON BIBRA, THE VON BIBRA STORY, Foot & Playsted Pty. Ltd., Launceston, Australia, 1996, ISBN 0-9597188-1-8;
  • ERNST VON BIBRA Plant Intoxicants: A Classic Text on the Use of Mind-Altering Plants 1995 Translation of Die narkotischen Genussmittel und der Mensch Translated by Hedwig Schleiffer, Foreword by Martin Haseneier and extensive technical notes by Jonathan Ot, an ethnobiologist- ISBN 0-89281-498-5;
  • HILLAY ZMORA, State and nobility in early modern Germany: The knightly feud in Franconia 1440–1567, Cambridge University Press, 1997 (hardback), 2002 (paperback), ISBN 0-521-56179-5;

External links[edit]