Prince-abbot

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Adolf von Dalberg, Prince-Abbot of Fulda 1726-1737

A prince-abbot (German: Fürstabt) is a title for a cleric who is a Prince of the Church (like a Prince-bishop), in the sense of an ex officio temporal lord of a feudal entity, usually a State of the Holy Roman Empire. The territory ruled by a prince-abbey is known as a princely abbey, a prince-abbacy or an abbey principality. The holder, however, does not hold the ecclesiastical office of a Bishop.

The designated abbey may be a community of either monks or nuns. Thus, because of the possibility of it being a female monastery, an abbey-principality is one of the few cases in which the rule can be restricted to female incumbents, styled Princess-Abbess.

In some cases, the holder was a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichsfürst), with a seat and a direct vote (votum virile) in the Imperial Diet. Most immediate abbots however, while bearing the title of a "Prince-Abbot", only held the status of an Imperial prelate with a collective vote in the Imperial Diet. The Imperial prelates were represented in the Diet by the envoys of the Swabian Circle and the Rhenish College, both holding one collective vote. Actual Prince-Abbots were:

Other examples of Prince-Abbots include the Abbot Nullius of Pinerolo in the Piedmont, Italy and Belmont Abbey, North Carolina, which had the status of an Abbey Nullius until 1977.

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