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Diocese and prince-bishopric of Schwerin

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Coat-of-arms of the Prince-Bishopric of Schwerin

The Diocese and Prince-bishopric of Schwerin was a Catholic diocese in Schwerin, Mecklenburg, in Germany. The first registered bishop was ordained in the diocese in 1053, and the diocese ceased to exist in 1994.

Pre-Reformation Catholic (prince-)bishopric


The bishops of the Roman Catholic diocese of Schwerin (German: Bistum Schwerin), a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Bremen, were simultaneously secular (political) rulers of princely rank (prince-bishop) in the Prince-Bishopric of Schwerin (Hochstift Schwerin); established 1180 and secularised in 1648), an imperially immediate state of the Holy Roman Empire. Schwerin was the seat of the chapter, Schwerin Cathedral and residence of the bishops until 1239. In 1180 a prince-episcopal residence was established in Bützow, which became the main residence in 1239.

Titulature of the Schwerin bishops


Not all incumbents of the Schwerin see were imperially invested with princely temporal power as Prince-Bishops and not all were papally confirmed as bishops. In 1180 part of the Schwerin diocesan territory was disentangled from the Duchy of Saxony and became an own territory of imperial immediacy called Prince-Bishopric of Schwerin, an imperially immediate feudal member state of the Holy Roman Empire like many prince-prelatures.

Bützow Castle, prince-episcopal residential castle in Bützow
Cathedral of SS. Mary and John the Baptist, church of the bishops in Schwerin, view before 1845.

The prince-bishopric was an elective monarchy, with the ruling prince being the respective bishop usually elected by the Cathedral chapter, and confirmed by the Holy See, or exceptionally only appointed by the Holy See. Papally confirmed bishops were then invested by the emperor with the princely regalia, thus the title prince-bishop. However, sometimes the respective incumbent of the see never gained a papal confirmation, but was still invested the princely regalia. Also the opposite occurred with a papally confirmed bishop, never invested as prince. A number of incumbents, elected by the chapter, neither achieved papal confirmation nor imperial investiture, but as a matter of fact nevertheless de facto held the princely power. From 1532 to 1648 all incumbents were Lutherans.

The respective incumbents of the see bore the following titles:

  • Bishop of Mecklenburg until 1162
  • Bishop of Schwerin 1162 to 1181
  • Prince-Bishop of Schwerin from 1181 to 1516, except o the years of 1474 to 1479 and 1506 to 1508
  • Administrator of the Prince-Bishopric of Schwerin 1474 to 1479, 1506 to 1508, and again 1516 to 1648. Either simply de facto replacing the Prince-Bishop or lacking canon-law prerequisites the incumbent of the see would officially only hold the title administrator (but nevertheless colloquially referred to as Prince-Bishop).

Catholic bishops of Mecklenburg and Schwerin (1053–1181)

Catholic Bishops of Mecklenburg and Schwerin (1053–1181)
Episcopate Portrait Name Birth and death
with places
Reason for
end of office
1053–1066 John Scotus
as John I
*approx. 990 – 10 November 1066* death martyr, sacrificed by pagans to Radegast
1066–1148 sede vacante the diocese was abandoned after the Wendish uprising
1148–1162 Eberhard
also: Emmehard
1162–1191 Berno of Amelungsborn[1]
*unknown – 14 January 1191* death Apostle of the Obotrites, gained princely power in part of his diocese by 1181 on the carve-up of Saxony

Catholic Prince-Bishops (1181–1474)

Roman Catholic Prince-Bishops of Schwerin (1181–1474)
Reign and episcopate Portrait Name Birth and death
with places
Reason for
end of office
1162–1191 Berno of Amelungsborn
*unknown – 14 January 1191* death Apostle of the Obotrites, gained princely power in part of his diocese by 1181 on the carve-up of Saxony
1191–1238 Brunward
1191–1195 Hermann of Hagen
1238–1240 Frederick of Hagen
as Frederick I
1240–1247 Dietrich
1247–1249 William
1249–1262 Rudolph I *unknown – 1262* death
1263–1291 Hermann of Schladen
as Hermann I
left image
Godfrey von Bülow
as Godfrey I
(Bülow family)
*unknown – 1314* death uncle of Henry I and Ludolph
1315–1322 Hermann von Maltzan
as Hermann II
1322–1331 Johann Gans zu Putlitz
as John II
(Gans zu Putlitz)
left image
Ludolph von Bülow
(Bülow family)
*before 1298 – 23 April 1339*, Warin death nephew of Godfrey I, brother of the next, uncle of Frederick II
right image
Henry von Bülow
as Henry I
(Bülow family)
*unknown – 1347* death brother of the former, nephew of Godfrey I, uncle of Frederick II
1347–1348 Willekin Pape
1348–1356 Andrew of Wislica
1356–1363 Albert of Sternberg
German: Albrecht
*c. 1333 – 14 January 1380*, Litomyšl became Bishop of Litomyšl also Bishop of Litomyšl (1364–1368, and again 1371–1380), Prince-Archbishop of Magdeburg (1368–1371)
1363–1365 Rudolph of Anhalt
as: Rudolph II
(House of Ascania)
*unknown – 1365*, Coswig in Anhalt death son of Albert II, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst
right image
Frederick von Bülow
as: Frederick II
(Bülow family)
*unknown – 1366* death nephew of Ludolph and Henry I
1377–1381 Melchior of Brunswick and Lunenburg, Grubenhagen line
(House of Welf)
*1341 – 6 June 1384* before Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück (1369–1375); rivalled in Schwerin by anti-bishop Marquard in 1377/1378
1377–1378 Marquard Bermann anti-bishop
1381–1390 John Potho of Pothenstein
also: Pottenstein
as John III
*unknown – 1390* death before Prince-Bishop of Münster (1379–1382) appointed only, de facto he could not prevail over his rivals in Schwerin
1381–1388 Johann Junge
as John IV
1381–? Gerard of Hoya
(Counts of Hoya)
1390–1415 Rudolf of Mecklenburg-Stargard
as: Rudolph III
(House of Nikloting)
*unknown – 1415* death before Bishop of Skara (1387–1391), son of John I, Duke of Mecklenburg-Stargard
1416–1418 Henry of Nauen
as Henry II
1419–1429 Henry of Wangelin
as Henry III
1429–1444 Hermann Köppen
as Hermann III
*unknown – 3 January 1444* death
1444–1457 Nicholas Bödeker
as Nicholas I
1458 Godfrey Lange
as Godfrey II
1458–1473 Werner Wolmers

Catholic Administrators and Prince-bishops (1474–1532)

Catholic Administrators and Prince-Bishops (1474–1532)
Reign and episcopate Portrait Name Birth and death
with places
Reason for
end of office
1474–1479 Balthasar of Mecklenburg
(House of Nikloting)
*1451 – 16 March 1507*, Wismar resigned tired from pursuing investiture, turned secular before Administrator of the Prince-Bishopric of Hildesheim (1471–1474); only administrator, never invested bishop; since duke in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, co-ruling with his brother Magnus II
1479–1482 Nicholas of Pentz
as Nicholas II
1482–1503 Conrad Loste
1504–1506 John Thun
as John V
1504 Reimar von Hahn
(Hahn family)
1506–1508 Ulrich von Malchow only administrator, never invested as bishop
1508–1516 Petrus Wolkow
1516–1522 Zutpheld Wardenberg
only administrator for the minor Magnus, also Dean (Domdechant) of Schwerin Cathedral
1522–1532 Heinrich Banzkow
also: Banzcow or Bantzkow
*before 1499–1540* resigned when Magnus came of age only administrator for the minor Magnus, never pursued investiture as bishop; also provost of Hamburg Cathedral

Due to the Reformation, the Catholic diocese was suppressed in 1555, without formal successor.

Lutheran Schwerin


Lutheran Administrators of the Prince-Bishopric (1532–1648)

Lutheran Administrators of the Prince-Bishopric (1532–1648)
Reign and episcopate Portrait Name Birth and death
with places
Reason for
end of office
1532–1550 Magnus of Mecklenburg
(House of Nikloting)
Stargard, *4 July 1509 – 28 January 1550*, Bützow death bishop elect since 1516, due to minority only officiating since 1532 as administrator, due to lack of papal confirmation, Magnus introduced the Reformation in 1533
1550–1603 Ulrich of Mecklenburg
as Ulrich I
(House of Nikloting)
Schwerin, *5 March 1527 – 14 March 1603*, Güstrow death grandfather of the next; also Duke of Mecklenburg-Güstrow (1555–1603)
1603–1624 Ulrik of Denmark
as Ulrich II
(House of Oldenburg)
Koldinghus Palace, Kolding, *30 December 1578 – 27 March 1624*, Rühn death grandson of the former, uncle of the next; also Lutheran Bishop of Schleswig (1602–1624)
1624–1629 Ulrik of Denmark
as Ulrich III
(House of Oldenburg)
Frederiksborg Palace, Hillerød, *2 February 1611 - 12 August 1633*, Schweidnitz resigned when his father Christian IV renounced posts held by his family in the Empire in 1629 (Treaty of Lübeck) nephew of the former; since 1628 de facto deposed by Wallenstein's conquest of the prince-bishopric
1629–1634 sede vacante territory of the Prince-Bishopric was part of Wallenstein's duchy of Mecklenburg
1634–1648 Adolf Frederick of Mecklenburg
(House of Nikloting)
Schwerin, *15 December 1588 – 27 February 1658*, Schwerin prince-bishopric transformed into principality by Peace of Westphalia also Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin as Adolphus Frederick I

(1592–1628, and again 1631–1658)

after 15 May 1648 The Prince-Bishopric was converted into a heritable monarchy, the Principality of Schwerin, ruled in personal union by the House of Nikloting in Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

Lutheran Regional Bishops of Mecklenburg since 1921

Cathedral of Ss. Mary and John the Baptist, Schwerin, preaching venue of the Landesbischof of Mecklenburg.

When the Grand dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz abdicated, the Lutheran state churches became independent and adapted their new Church Orders, providing for a function called Landesbischof (state bishop). In 1934 the regional churches merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg.

New Catholic hierarchy in Schwerin from the 20th century

Provostry Church of St. Anna, seat of the auxiliary bishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Hamburg in Schwerin.

After a century and a half of abandonment, the Catholics on the territory were merely taken care of as missionary, part of the vast Apostolic Vicariate of the Northern Missions of Northern Germany, the first post-Reformatory parish having been established in 1709 (St. Anna, Schwerin).

Since 1930, the Catholic parishes in the former diocese of Schwerin (and all of Mecklenburg) were part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Osnabrück.

However, Mecklenburg Soviet occupation zone, whereas Osnabrück was in the British occupation zone (i.e. in the other half of partitioned Germany, and of the political world during the Cold War), so the Bishop of Osnabrück appointed an episcopal commissary. Since 1959, the Osnabrück diocese posted an auxiliary bishop in Schwerin, responsible for Mecklenburg's Catholic parishes :

  • Bernhard Schräder, first 1946 – 1959 episcopal commissary for the episcopal commissariate of Schwerin, then 1959 – 1971 auxiliary bishop of Osnabrück diocese for the episcopal commissariate in Schwerin.
  • 1971 – 1973 (see below): Heinrich Theissing, coadjutor of Osnabrück diocese for the episcopal commissariate in Schwerin

On July 23, 1974, the jurisdiction was restored as pre-diocesan 'permanent' Apostolic Administration of Schwerin, its territory being formally split off from the Diocese of Osnabrück. It got two episcopal incumbents :

  • Heinrich Theissing, Apostolic Administrator (July 23, 1973– retired December 5, 1987) with episcopal rights of a residing bishop for the episcopal office in Schwerin; Titular Bishop of Mina (March 13, 1963 – death November 11, 1988), first as Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Berlin (March 13, 1963 – February 12, 1970), then as Coadjutor Bishop of Schwerin (February 12, 1970 – July 23, 1973), finally an emeritate
  • Theodor Hubrich, Apostolic Administrator (1987.11.23 – death 1992.03.26) with episcopal rights of a residing bishop for the episcopal office in Schwerin; previously Titular Bishop of Auca (1975.12.05 – 1987.11.23) as Auxiliary Bishop of Magdeburg (Germany) (1975.12.05 – 1987.11.23).

The diocese was suppressed on October 10, 1994, its territory reassigned to the already established Metropolitan Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hamburg, thus the Catholic parishes of Mecklenburg became part of the new Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hamburg.

See also



  1. ^ Wollenberg, Klaus (2022). "The Danish Cistercian Houses in Northern Germany: A Master Plan or Planned Masterpieces? - ProQuest". Cistercian Studies Quarterly. 57 (2): 167–241.