Folmar of Karden

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Folmar of Karden
Archbishop of Trier
Elected 25 May 1183
Term ended 26 June 1189
Predecessor Arnold I
Successor John I
Other posts Papal Legate
Consecration 1 June 1186
by Urban III
Personal details
Born ca. 1135
Died ca. November 1189
Nationality German
Denomination Roman Catholic

Folmar of Karden (ca. 1135 – 1189), also occurring in the variant forms Fulmar, Vollmar, Formal, or Formator, was the Archbishop of Trier from 1183 and the last not also to be a prince elector.[1] He opposed the emperor in the late twelfth-century phase of the Investiture Controversy. The historian Bernhard von Simson characterized Folmar as "that restless, ambitious, and hard-hearted man."[2]


Early career[edit]

Possibly a relation of the Counts of Bliescastel,[3] Folmar was provost in the city of Karden on the Moselle, and became an archdeacon in Trier and Metz.[4]

Silver denier of the Archbishop of Trier, issued ca. 1186-1189 by the cathedral chapter. Obverse shows the mitered archbishop with a crosier; reverse shows two towers and a roofed apse surmounted by a cross, probably representing the cathedral. (This coin is identified as representing either Rudolf of Wied or Folmar of Karden, more likely the former.)


On the death on May 25, 1183 of the previous archbishop, the pro-Staufen Arnold I, the succession came into dispute between Folmar, the candidate of the pro-papal party, Henry III, Duke of Limburg (the Vogt of the church of Trier) and other local nobles, the citizens,[5] and the smaller part of the clergy; and the Provost of Trier, Rudolf of Wied, the candidate favored by the emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the greater part of the canons and prelates present for the election. After a certain amount of intriguing by various factions,[6] Folmar was elected archbishop by a part of the cathedral chapter and by popular acclaim in 1183; Lucius III somewhat dubiously ratified the election. Nevertheless, the Emperor had Rudolf formally invested as anti-archbishop.[7] Folmar proceeded to Italy, where the case was argued inconclusively before the Roman Curia.[8] At length, Folmar was consecrated by Pope Urban III in Verona on Whit-Sunday (June 1) of 1186.


He hastened to return in disguise from Italy, pausing in Toul, where Bishop Peter of Brixey, a suffragan of Trier and an adherent of Barbarossa's, refused to receive him; he fared better with Bishop Bertram of Metz, who received him as his metropolitan with a solemn procession. Unable to proceed to Trier, which was held by the adherents of Rudolf, Folmar set out for his erstwhile home in the Abbey of Saint-Pierremont (German: Abtei Petersberg) in Avril, then in the territory of Count Theobald I of Bar; thence he immediately began to issue edicts against Rudolf and his supporters. Strife arose in the bishopric between the followers of Folmar and Rudolf, to the point that Philip II of France had to obtain from Barbarossa the release of a French Cistercian who had been transmitting Folmar's letters on the condition that no such messengers would be allowed to leave France again.[9] Folmar's claim was strengthened by the support of the Archbishop of Köln, Philip of Heinsberg, who erected a fortress in Zeltingen to that purpose,[10] and by Folmar's appointment to the position of Papal legate. In 1187, Folmar called a provincial synod in Mouzon, which duly pronounced the excommunications of Peter of Brixey and Bishop Henry of Verdun.[11] (These excommunications were nullified by a bull of Gregory VIII issued on the 30th of November 1187.)[12] Armed clashes between the two factions became common, and it was said that the violence in the diocese was a fulfillment of the baleful prophecies of Hildegard of Bingen.[13]

Exile, Deposition, and Death[edit]

Folmar proceeded to France, until through the influence of Barbarossa he was expelled by Philip Augustus, and then departed to the Angevin territory of Henry II of England, where he was received and honorably maintained at the royal expense in the Augustinian Priory of St. Cosmas (French: Prieuré de Saint-Cosme) at La Riche near Tours; on the 7th of July 1189 he took part in Henry's sepulture at Fontevraud Abbey[14] and departed thence to London, where, according to Roger of Hoveden's Chronicle, "Formalis Treverensis archiepiscopus" was among those prelates concelebrating the coronation of King Richard I of England on September 3, 1189,[15] subsequently attending a royal council at Pipewell.[16] In view of the devastation of the archbishopric and the fact that neither he nor his competitor Rudolf ever gained full possession of the see, both had been deprived by Pope Clement III[17] in a papal bull of June 26, 1189;[18] Folmar died the same year, still in exile, at Northampton.[19] The schism was ended in 1190 with the consecration of John, Archdeacon of Speyer and Provost of the monastery of St. Germain, as John I.[20]

In Popular Culture[edit]

Folmar is among a number of historical characters depicted in the 2013 German historical novel, Das Salz der Erde (German: The Salt of the Earth) by Christoph Lode (writing under the name "Daniel Wolf").


  1. ^ Because Folmar was never formally installed in the see, he is often omitted (as is Rudolf of Wied) from official lists of the Bishops of Trier, e.g., the list displayed in Trier Cathedral.
  2. ^ German: der unruhige, ehrgeizige und harte Mann. Geschichte der deutschen Kaisterzeit, Vol. VI, p. 142. Simson's prejudice against "ultramontane" interference in German internal politics, typical of the Protestant historiography of the Wilhelmine German Empire, must be taken into account in his evaluation of Folmar's character and actions.
  3. ^ ADB, Vol. 14, p. 420. Simson disputes this, GddK, Vol. VI, p. 58, n. 1.
  4. ^ GddK, Vol. VI, p. 58.
  5. ^ Concilium Germaniæ, p. 437. Schannat lays stress on the choice of Folmar by the "people or the nobility," while Rudolf had been chosen by the "Clerus Trevericus."
  6. ^ Gesta Treverorum, Vol. 1, pp. 272-275. According to the Gesta, Folmar insisted that the election be held immediately after the funeral of the deceased archbishop; while most of Rudolf's adherents expected to be called for a formal ballot in the afternoon, Folmar's supporters insisted on an immediate vote during which most of the canons and prelates in attendance were still at lunch. Rudolf's supporters immediately sent messengers to Barbarossa, then at Konstanz, to dispute the election.
  7. ^ ADB, vol. 7, p. 431. Under the terms of the Concordat of Worms, disputed elections were to be settled by the Emperor. When both parties were summoned to Konstanz, Folmar alleged threats to his safety and failed to appear; Barbarossa unsurprisingly ruled in Rudolf's favor.
  8. ^ GddK, Vol. VI, p. 130. The Papal Chancellor, Cardinal Alberto di Morra, who generally pursued a conciliatory line toward the Emperor, argued strongly in favor of setting aside both candidates and allowing the canons of Trier to hold a new election, but was overruled by Pope Urban.
  9. ^ GddK, Vol. VI, p. 142.
  10. ^ ADB, Vol. 26, pp. 3-8.
  11. ^ Concilium, loc. cit. The two latter, suffragans of Trier, had refused either to attend the Synod of Mouzon or to lend aid to recover the Archbishopric from Rudolf.
  12. ^ GddK, Vol. VI, p. 170.
  13. ^ GddK, Vol. VI, p. 142.
  14. ^ GddK, Vol. VI, pp. 175-176.
  15. ^ Hoveden, Chronica, Volume 3., p. 8.
  16. ^ Hoveden, Chronica, Volume 3., p. 15.
  17. ^ Benedict, Gesta Henrici, Volume 2., p. 79, n. 1.
  18. ^ Heinrich Beyer; Leopold Eltester; Adam Goerz (1860–1873) (in German), Mittelrheinisches Urkundenbuch (MRUB), Band II, Koblenz, pp. 130-132 
  19. ^ Hoveden, Chronica, Volume 3., p. 18.
  20. ^ ADB, Vol. 14, p. 420.


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Arnold I of Vaucourt
Archbishop of Trier
Succeeded by
John I