Burchard of Basle

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Burchard of Basle, also known as Burchard of Hasenburg or of Asuel, was a Bishop of Basle in the eleventh century and a warm partisan of Henry IV (1056–1106).


He belonged to the Swiss family of the counts of Neuenburg or Neuchatel, and was born towards the middle of the eleventh century. Having entered the ecclesiastical state he was made Bishop of Basle in Switzerland (1072) by Emperor Henry IV; in recognition of this favour he was loyal to the king, and became one of his advisers. In Henry's first difficulties with the Saxons (1073–75) Burchard rendered him full assistance.

When the conflict of Investiture between the king and Pope Gregory VII (1073–85) broke out, Burchard was among the bishops who assembled at Worms (January 1076), proclaimed the deposition of the pope, and wrote him an insulting letter. Together with Bishop Huzmann of Speyer he also went to Northern Italy for the purpose of inducing the Lombard bishops to take similar action with regard to the pope. In this he was successful; a synod was assembled at Piacenza, and the Lombard bishops renounced obedience to Gregory. For these acts Burchard was excommunicated and deposed by the pope in the Lenten synod of 1076; a similar sentence was inflicted on other bishops and on Burchard's royal master. King Henry obtained absolution at Canossa in January 1077; and Burchard, who accompanied him on the penitential pilgrimage, was reinstated in office.

During the civil war in 1077 and the following years, between Henry and his rival, Duke Rudolf of Rheinfelden, raised to the throne by many princes, Burchard stood on the side of Henry, in whose interest he fought repeatedly, both against Rudolf and his supporter, Berthold of Zahringen. In 1078 Burchard and his friend suffered a crushing defeat, and he saved his life by a rapid flight. But the fortunes of war turned; Burchard and his partisans ravaged the country of Alemannia or Suabia, the home of Rudolf and Berthold, and many cruelties were committed. Churches, sanctuaries and perhaps monasteries as well were destroyed by the soldiery. But it all helped the cause of Henry and weakened that of his rival, who was finally vanquished and killed in 1080. Henry rewarded Burchard for his services with grants of land. It is not certain that he was present in the synod held at Brixen (in Tyrol) in June, 1080, where the partisans of Henry again deposed Gregory VII and elected in his stead Wibert, Archbishop of Ravenna. He was certainly with Henry, however, when the king took possession of Rome on 21 March 1084, and it may be taken for granted that he assisted at the installation of the antipope Clement III (1084–1100) on March 24 and at the imperial coronation of Henry, events occurring on 31 March respectively. Shortly afterwards Burchard returned to Germany with his royal master.

Two synods were held there during the year 1085, in which Burchard, though not present, was directly concerned. The first, in the latter part of April, was held at Quedlinburg by the partisans of Gregory VII; it condemned all adversaries of the pope, including Bishop Burchard. Henry's faction held its synod at Mainz in the early part of May; Pope Gregory and all the bishops loyal to him were deposed. For the next twenty years Burchard was less active in the cause of Henry, but he remained to the end loyal to his king. When Henry was hard pressed in Italy by his son Conrad (in rebellion since 1093) and by other enemies, Burchard was one of the very few bishops of Germany who brought him any comfort. In 1095 he appeared at the king's court at Padua, and after Henry's return to Germany he paid several other visits to the royal court. How much Henry counted on the loyalty of Burchard was made evident in a letter which the monarch wrote to the princes of the empire from Liège in the early part of the year 1106, shortly before his death. Henry asked the princes to give him time to consult with the princes and bishops about the matters relating to his abdication or reconciliation with his rebellious son Henry V (1106–25), and among the bishops faithful to him he mentioned the name of Burchard of Basle.

After the death of Gregory VII, particularly after the election of Pope Urban II (1088–99), Burchard sought a reconciliation with the Holy See; and he became instrumental in the erection of several monasteries and other religious institutions. Among those founded by him were St. Alban's Abbey in Basle and the monastery of St. John, or Erlach Abbey, erected partly by his brother and partly by himself at Erlach in the neighbourhood of his ancestral castle. He also built the chapter house of Moutier-Grandval Abbey.[1] In spite of his attachment to Henry IV he died on 12 April 1107 reconciled with the pope.


  1. ^ Latin: Grandis Vallis

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Burchard of Basle". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.