Franz Ehrle

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Franz Ehrle.
Coat of arms of Franziskus Ehrle

Franz Ehrle (17 October 1845 in Isny, Kingdom of Württemberg, Germany – 31 March 1934 in Rome, Italy) was a German Jesuit, Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church, he was named cardinal during the consistory of 11 December 1922, given the titulus of San Cesareo in Palatio.[1]

Early years and formation[edit]

Franz was the son of Franz Ehrle, a physician, and Berta von Frölich. He was educated at the Stella Matutina (Jesuit School) in Feldkirch. He joined the Society of Jesus on 29 September 1861. He followed the course of humanities at the College of Friedricksburg, Münster and later at Maria Laach Abbey in Germany where he studied philosophy (1865–1868). From 1868-1873 Ehrle was at Stella Matutina, where he taught, English, French and Philosophy. Because of an anti-Jesuit policy that followed the publication of the Kulturkampf in Germany, Ehrle, along with other German companions, had to carry on his studies abroad. He did his theology at Ditton Hall, Liverpool, England (1873–1877).

After being ordained priest on 24 September 1876 in Liverpool he did pastoral work in a home for the poor at Preston (England), before moving to Tervuren, Belgium (1878) where the German Jesuit periodical Stimmen aus Maria-Laach (in exile) had established its office.

Working in the Vatican Archives[edit]

When, in 1880, Leo XIII opened the Vatican archives, Erhle was called to Rome to do some research on the official correspondence between the Holy See and Germany during the 30 years war. The work progressed very slowly as a large number of documents were not properly catalogued. Ehrle got more and more involved, but responding to Leo XIII's call for a renewal in thomistic studies his interests shifted to gathering and cataloguing books and manuscripts on scholasticism. To do so he visited other European libraries too. Publications began in 1885 with the Bibliotheca Theologiae et Philosophiae Scholasticae selectae (5 volumes). In the beginning of 1890 he began the publication of a Historia Bibliothecae Romanorum Pontificum, a comprehensive history of the Avignon and Rome's Papal libraries.

In September of the same year (1890) he was made a member extraordinary of the Board of Councilors of the Vatican Library from 1890 to 1895 and served as its prefect from 1895 to 1914. He resided in Münich from 1918 to 1919. He was from 1919 a faculty member of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome from 1919 to 1922 and of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

In 1898 (30 September-1 October), Ehrle organized an international conference on the preservation of manuscripts at St Gall, Switzerland. As a result, a committee was established:

  • to study the processes of preservation that had been suggested and to recommend those which seem appropriate,
  • to publish the processes of preservation discussed at the conference,
  • to liaise with libraries and technical experts.

Ehrle published an account of the meeting[2] and the proceedings were also published.[3] This conference was particularly important as the first international meeting of those charged with the preservation of the historical heritage. It was not to be emulated again until the 1930s when the international museum committee of the League of Nations organized conservation conferences in Rome, Paris and Athens.

Cardinal Franz Ehrle died on 31 March 1934 in Rome at the age of 88.


  1. ^ Cardinal Deaconry S. Cesareo in Palatio
  2. ^ Franz Ehrle, Die internationale Konferenz in St Gallen am 30 September und 1 October 1898 zur Beratung über die Erhaltung und Ausbesserung alter Handschriften, Centralblatt fur Bibliothekswesen, 16 (1899) 27-51
  3. ^ Otto Posse, Handschriften-Konservirung nach den Verhandlungen der St Gallener Internationalen Konferenz zur Erhaltung und Ausbesserung alter Handschriften von 1898 sowie der Dresdener Konferenz Deutscher Archivare von 1899, Dresden, 1899
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Andreas Frühwirth
Oldest Living Cardinal
9 February 1933 – 31 March 1934
Succeeded by
Pierre Andrieu