Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg

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Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg
  • Elector of Mainz
  • Arch-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire
  • Prince of Regensburg
  • Prince-Primate of the Confederation of the Rhine
  • Grand Duke of Frankfurt
Portrait of Karl Theodor von Dalberg by Franz Stirnbrand.jpg
Portrait of Karl Theodor von Dalberg by Franz Stirnbrand, 1812
Other post(s)
  • Prince-Bishop of Worms (1787-1817)
  • Bishop of Konstanz (1788-1817)
  • Bishop of Regensburg (1805-1817)
Ordination3 February 1788
Consecration31 August 1788
by Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal
Personal details
Born(1744-02-08)8 February 1744
Herrnsheim, Holy Roman Empire
Died10 February 1817(1817-02-10) (aged 73)
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)Titular Archbishop of Tarsus (1788–1800)
SignatureKarl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg's signature
Coat of armsKarl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg's coat of arms

Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg (8 February 1744 – 10 February 1817) was Prince-Archbishop of Regensburg, Arch-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire, Bishop of Constance and Worms, prince-primate of the Confederation of the Rhine[1] and Grand Duke of Frankfurt.

Early life and career[edit]

Fürstenberg vase commemorating Dalberg's election in 1787 as Coadjutor of Mainz and Worms (Collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Born in Herrnsheim near Worms, Germany, as a member of Dalberg family, he was the son of Franz Heinrich von Dalberg (1716–1776), administrator of Worms, one of the chief counsellors of the Prince-elector and Archbishop of Mainz and his wife Baroness Maria Sophie Anna von Eltz-Kempenich (1722–1763). Karl devoted himself to the study of canon law, and entered the church. Having been appointed in 1772 governor of Erfurt, he won further advancement by his successful administration. In 1787 he was elected coadjutor cum iure successionis of the Archbishopric of Mainz and the Bishopric of Worms, and in 1788 of the Bishopric of Constance;[2] at the same time, he became titular archbishop of Tarsus in Cilicia and was ordained priest (11/11/1787) and bishop (8/31/1788). While he did succeed the respective bishops in Constance (1800) and Worms (1802), he failed to succeed in Mainz as bishop, though he did succeed in Mainz's temporal rights and also, de facto, in the pastoral ones as far as the right bank of the Rhine was concerned.

As statesman, Dalberg was distinguished by his patriotic attitude, whether in ecclesiastical matters, in which he leaned to the Febronian view of a German national church, or in his efforts to galvanize the atrophied machinery of the Empire into some sort of effective central government of Germany. Failing in this, he turned to the rising star of Napoleon, believing that he had found in him the only force strong enough to save Germany from dissolution.[1]

By the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801, in which all territories on the left bank of the river Rhine were ceded to France, Dalberg's predecessor had to surrender Mainz and Worms; the Concordat of 1801 had reduced Mainz to a simple diocese in the province of Mechelen that conscribed the French department of Donnersberg (including the city of Worms). For Mainz, Joseph Ludwig Colmar was soon appointed as bishop. (Worms, though it had lost its city, remained an extant diocese on the right bank of the Rhine, so Dalberg could succeed there.)

In the Final Recess of the Extraordinary Imperial Deputation of 1803, it was decided to compensate German princes for their losses to France by distributing the Church land among them, so Dalberg lost a couple of territories there (among other things, Constance), though (due to the prominent position of the Arch-Chancellor of the Empire, and perhaps also due to his personality and skilled diplomatics), he would be the only spiritual prince to retain at least some territory for temporal government: the Mainzian lands around Aschaffenburg, the Reichsstadt (Free Imperial City) of Wetzlar (with the rank of a Countship) and the Principality of Regensburg containing the Imperial City, the bishopric, and some independent monasteries. (Regensburg was also where the Imperial Deputation had taken place.) In addition, he was designated Archbishop of the (former Salzburg suffragan) Regensburg,[2] to which (spiritually now) the former Mainz lands on the right bank of the Rhine, and the former Mainzian suffragans were attached.

This was, of course, the decision of a state authority which, in its spiritual part, could not take effect until ratified by the Pope; in any case, Regensburg's bishop, Schroffenberg, was still alive at the time. So, Dalberg did not exercise spiritual authority in the older part of the Regensburg diocese until Bishop Schroffenberg died, at which point he made himself elected vicar capitular of the diocese; finally, on February 1st, 1805, he received the papal assent and was Archbishop of Regensburg.

Prince-primate of the Confederation of the Rhine[edit]

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Dalberg together with other princes joined the Confederation of the Rhine. He formally resigned the office of Arch-Chancellor in a letter to Emperor Francis II, and was appointed prince-primate of the Confederation of the Rhine by Napoleon.[2] At that point, the Reichsstadt of Frankfurt was included among his territories. Not long after, Dalberg appointed Napoleon's uncle, Cardinal Fesch, coadjutor in his archdiocese (an action for which he had no canonical rights).

After the Treaty of Schönbrunn (1810), he was elevated by the French to the rank of Grand Duke of Frankfurt.[1] This greatly augmented Dalberg's territories, although he had to cede Regensburg to the Kingdom of Bavaria. As Grand Duke of Frankfurt he ordered all restrictions on the Jews of Frankfurt lifted. This was opposed by the Christian town council, until 1811, when Dalberg issued a proclamation ending the requirement that Jews live in the ghetto or pay special taxes.[citation needed]

In 1813 he ceded all his temporal offices to Napoleon's stepson Eugène de Beauharnais, who had been heir apparent since 1810.[citation needed]

Death and legacy[edit]

Dalberg died in 1817 in Regensburg.

Though his political subservience to Napoleon was resented by a later generation in Germany, as a man and prelate he is remembered as amiable, conscientious and large-hearted. Himself a scholar and author, Dalberg was a notable patron of letters, and was the friend of Goethe, Schiller and Wieland.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dalberg § 2. Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 762–763.
  2. ^ a b c "Karl von Dalberg, Archbishop of Mainz and Prince Primate", The British Museum

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded byas Prince-Bishop Bishop of Constance
Prince-Bishop until 1803
Bishopric dissolved1
Preceded by Elector of Mainz, then Regensburg
Arch-Chancellor of Germany
Holy Roman Empire dissolved, territories mediatised
Preceded by Bishop of Worms
Prince-Bishop until 1803
Prince-Bishopric secularised,
spiritually returned to Mainz
Preceded by Archbishop of Regensburg
Prince-Archbishop until 1810
Sede vacante
Title next held by
Johann Nepomuk von Wolf [de]
as Bishop of Regensburg
Political offices
Preceded by
Kurmainzischer Governor of Erfurt
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Coadjutor of Mainz and Worms
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Coadjutor of Constance
Succeeded by
New creation Prince-Primate of the Confederation of the Rhine
Succeeded by
New office Grand Duke of Frankfurt
Notes and references
1. The Bishopric of Constance was dissolved by Pope Pius VII in 1821, without recognising Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg, who had been elected in 1817.