Christianity was first introduced into Silesia by missionaries from Moravia and Bohemia. After the conversion of the Polish Duke Misiko (later Mieczyslaus) the work of bringing the people to the new faith went on more rapidly. Up to about the year 1000 Silesia had no bishop of its own, but was united to neighbouring dioceses. In this way arose the first connection of Silesia with Germany. The upper part of the River Oder formed the boundary of the Kingdom of Poland; all the territory which is now Silesia lying on the right-hand bank of the Oder belonged, therefore, to the Diocese of Posen, which was suffragan to the Metropolitan See of Magdeburg. This part of Silesia was thus under the jurisdiction of that Jordan who was, in 968, appointed first Bishop Posen. The part of Silesia lying on the left bank of the Oder belonged to the territory then included in Bohemia, and was consequently within the diocesan jurisdiction of Prague. The See of Prague, founded probably in 973, was suffragan to the Archdiocese of Mainz. The Polish ruler, Boleslaw Chrobry, the son of Misiko, obtained the Bohemian part of Silesia during his wars of conquest, and a change in the ecclesiastical dependence of the province followed. By a patent of Otto III, in 995, Silesia was attached to the See of Meissen, which, like Posen, was suffragan to the Archdiocese of Magdeburg. Soon after this the Emperor Otto III and Duke Boleslaw Chrobry, who was then the ruler of the whole of Silesia, founded the Diocese of Breslau, and Breslau, together with the Dioceses of Cracow and Colberg, was placed under the Archdiocese of Gnesen, which was founded by Otto in the year 1000. The first Bishop of Breslau is said to have been named Johannes, but nothing more than this is known of him, nor is there extant any official document giving the boundaries of the diocese at the time of its erection. However, they are defined in the Bulls of approval and protection issued by Pope Adrian IV, 23 April, 1155, and by Pope Innocent IV, 9 August, 1245.
The powerful Polish ruler, Boleslaw Chrobry, was succeeded by his son Misiko II, who had but a short reign. After his death a revolt against Christianity and the reigning family broke out, the new Church organization of Poland disappeared from view, and the names of the Bishops of Breslau for the next half century are unknown. Casimir, the son of Misiko, and his mother were driven out of the country, but through German aid they returned, and the affairs of the Church were brought into better order. A Bishop of Breslau from probably 1051 to 1062 was Hieronymus, said by later tradition to have been a Roman nobleman. He was followed by Johannes I (1062-72), who was succeeded by Petrus I (1071-1111). During the episcopate of Petrus, Count Peter Wlast entered upon that work of founding churches and monasteries which has preserved his name. Petrus was followed by: Zyroslaus I (1112-20); Heimo (1120-26), who welcomed St. Otto of Bamberg to Breslau in May, 1124, when the saint was on his missionary journey to Pomerania; Robert I (1127-42), who was Bishop of Cracow; Robert II (1142-46); and Johannes II (1146-49), who became Archbishop of Gnesen. With the episcopate of Bishop Walter (1149-69) the history of the Diocese of Breslau begins to grow clearer. At Walter's request Pope Adrian IV, in 1155, took the bishopric under his protection and confirmed to it the territorial possessions of which a list had been submitted to him. Among the rights which the pope then confirmed was that of jurisdiction over the lands belonging to the castle of Ottmachau which had been regarded as the patrimony of the diocese from its foundation. During Walter's episcopate the Polish Duke Ladislaus and his family were driven from home and took refuge in Germany; in 1163 the sons of Ladislaus returned and, through the intervention of Frederick Barbarossa, received as an independent duchy the part of Silesia which was included at that date in the See of Breslau. Bishop Walter built a new, massively constructed cathedral, in which he was buried. Zyroslaus II (1170-98) encouraged the founding of the Cistercian monastery of Leubus by Duke Boleslaw the Long. In 1180 Zyroslaus took part in the national assembly at Lenczyc at which laws for the protection of the Church and its property were promulgated. Jaroslaus (1198-1201), the oldest son of Duke Boleslaw, and Duke of Oppeln, was the first prince to become Bishop of Breslau. Cyprian (1201-7) was originally Abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery of St. Vincent near Breslau, then Bishop of Lebus, and afterwards Bishop of Breslau. During Cyprian's episcopate Duke Heinrich I and his wife, St. Hedwig, founded the Cistercian convent at Trebnitz. The episcopate of Bishop Lorenz (1207-32) was marked by his efforts to bring colonies of Germans into the church territories, to effect the cultivation of waste lands. This introduction of German settlers by the bishop was in accordance with the example set by Heinrich I and St. Hedwig. The monasteries of the Augustinian Canons, Premonstratensians, and Cistercians took an active part in carrying out the schemes of the rulers by placing great numbers of Germans, especially Thuringians and Franconians, on the large estates that had been granted them.
One of the most noted bishops of the diocese was Thomas I (1232-68); he continued the work of German colonization with so much energy that even the marauding incursions of the Mongols (1241) made but a temporary break in the process. His defence of the rights of the Church involved him in bitter conflicts with Duke Boleslaw of Liegnitz. Thomas began the construction of the present cathedral, the chancel being the first part erected. St. Hedwig died during his episcopate; and he lived until the process of her canonization was completed, but died before the final solemnity of her elevation to the altars of the Catholic Church. After Thomas I, Ladislaus, a grandson of St. Hedwig, and Archbishop of Salzburg, was Administrator of the Diocese of Breslau until his death in 1270. He was followed by Thomas II (1270-92), who was involved for years in a violent dispute with Duke Henry IV as to the prerogatives of the Church in Silesia. In 1287 a reconciliation was effected between them at Ratisbon, and in 1288 the duke founded the collegiate church of the Holy Cross at Breslau. Before his death, on the Eve of St. John in 1290, the duke confirmed the rights of the Church to sovereignty over the territories of Neisse and Ottmachau. Thomas II consecrated the high altar of the cathedral; he was present at the cumenical Council of Lyons (1274) and in 1279 held a diocesan synod. Johann III, Romka (1292-1301), belonged to the Polish party in the cathedral chapter. His maintenance of the prerogatives of the Church brought him, also, into conflict with the temporal rulers of Silesia; in 1296 he called a synod for the defence of these rights. In the election of Heinrich I, of Würben (1302-19), the German party in the cathedral chapter won, but this victory cost the new bishop the enmity of the opposing faction. He was made guardian of the youthful Dukes of Breslau, and this appointment, together with the factional disputes, led to the bringing of grave accusations against him. The researches of more recent times have proved the groundlessness of these attacks. He was kept in Avignon a number of years by a suit before the Curia which was finally settled in his favour. Notwithstanding the troubles of his life he was energetic in the performance of his duties. He carried on the construction of the cathedral, and in 1305 and 1316 held diocesan synods. The office of Auxiliary Bishop of Breslau dates from his episcopate. After his death a divided vote led to a vacancy of the see. The two candidates, Weit and Lutold, elected by the opposing factions, finally resigned, and Pope John XXII transferred Nanker, Bishop of Cracow, to Breslau (1326-41).
The constant division and subdivision of Silesian territory into small principalities for the members of the ruling families resulted in a condition of weakness that necessitated dependence on a stronger neighbour, and Silesia thus came, from the year 1327, under the control of Bohemia. A quarrel broke out between Bishop Nanker and the suzerain of Silesia, King John of Bohemia, when the king seized the castle of Militsch which belonged to the cathedral chapter. The bishop excommunicated the king and those members of the Council of Breslau who sided with him. On account of this he was obliged to flee from Breslau and take refuge in Neisse, where he died. Preczlaus of Pogarell (1341-1376) was elected bishop while pursuing his studies at Bologna, and was consecrated bishop at Avignon. Through his friendship with Carl, the son of King John, he was soon able to settle the discord that had arisen under his predecessor. The diocese prospered greatly under his rule. He bought the Duchy of Grottkau from Duke Boleslaw of Brieg and added it to the episcopal territory of Neisse. The Bishops of Breslau had, therefore, after this the titles of Prince of Neisse and Duke of Grottkau, and took precedence of the other Silesian rulers who held principalities in xxx. Carl IV, the emperor at this date, wished to separate Breslau from the Archdiocese of Gnesen and to take make it a suffragan of the newly erected Archbishopric of Prague, but the plan failed, owing to the opposition of the Archbishop of Gnesen. Preczlaus added to the cathedral the beautiful Lady Chapel, in which he was buried and where his tomb still exists. Dietrich, dean of the cathedral, who was elected as successor to Preczlaus, could not obtain the papal confirmation, and the Bishop Olmütz, who was chosen in his place, soon died. After a long contest with the Bohemian King and German Emperor Wenzel, Bishop Wenzel of Lebus, Duke of Liegnitz, was transferred to Breslau (1382-1417). The new bishop devoted himself to repairing the damage inflicted on the Church in Silesia by the despotic procedure of the Emperor Wenzel. He held two synods, in 1410 and 1415, with the object of securing a higher standard of ecclesiastical discipline; and he settled the right of inheritance in the territory under his dominion by promulgating the church decree called "Wenzel's law". Resigning his bishopric in 1417, Wenzel died in 1419. The episcopate of Conrad, Duke of Oels, the next bishop (1417-47), fell in the trying time for Silesia of the Hussite wars. Conrad was placed at the head of the Silesian confederation which was formed to defend the country against hostile incursions. In 1435 the bishop issued a decree of which the chief intent was to close the prebends in the Diocese of Breslau to foreigners, and thus prevent the Poles from obtaining these offices. The effort to shut out the Polish element and to loosen the connection with Gnesen was not a momentary one; it continued, and led gradually to a virtual separation from the Polish archdiocese some time before the formal separation took place. The troubles of the times brought the bishop and the diocese into serious pecuniary difficulties, and in 1444 Conrad resigned, but his resignation was not accepted, and he resumed his office. In 1446 he held a diocesan synod and died in the following year. Conrad's successor was the provost of the cathedral of Breslau, Peter Novak (1447-56). By wise economy Bishop Peter succeeded in bringing the diocesan finances into a better condition and was able to redeem the greater part of the church lands which his predecessor had been obliged to mortgage. At the diocesan synod of 1454 he endeavoured to suppress the abuses that had arisen in the diocese.
Jodokus of Rosenberg (1456-67) was a Bohemian nobleman and Grand Prior of the Knights of St. John. His love of peace made his position a very difficult one during the fierce ecclesiastico-political contention that raged between the Hussite King of Bohemia, George of Podiebrad, and the people of Breslau, who had taken sides with the German party. Jodokus was followed by a bishop from the region of the Rhine, Rudolf von Rüdesheim (1468-82). As papal legate, Rudolf had become popular in Breslau through his energetic opposition to George of Podiebrad; for this reason the cathedral chapter requested his transfer from the small Diocese of Lavant in Carinthia, after he had confirmed their privileges. From this time these privileges were called "the Rudolfian statutes". Under his leadership the party opposed to Podiebrad obtained the victory, and Rudolf proceeded at once to repair the damage which had been occasioned to the Church during this strife; mortgaged church lands were redeemed; in 1473 and 1475 diocesan synods were held, at which the bishop took active measures in regard to church discipline. As coadjutor, he had selected a Swabian, Johann IV, Roth, Bishop of Lavant, a man of humanistic training. Urged by King Matthias of Hungary, to whom Silesia was then subject, the cathedral chapter, somewhat unwillingly, chose the coadjutor as bishop (1482-1506). His episcopate was marked by violent quarrels with the cathedral chapter. But at the same time he was a promoter of art and learning, and strict in his conception of church rights and duties. He endeavoured to improve the spiritual life of the diocese by holding a number of synods. Before he died the famous worker in bronze, Peter Vischer of Nuremberg, cast his monument, the most beautiful bishop's tomb in Silesia. His coadjutor with right of succession was Johann V (1506-20), a member of the noble Hungarian family of Turzo. Johann V took an active part in the intellectual life of the time and sought at the diocesan synods to promote learning and church discipline, and to improve the schools. On the ruins of the old stronghold of Fauernig he built the castle called Johannisberg, now the summer residence of the Prince-Bishop of Breslau.
The religious disturbances of the sixteenth century began to be conspicuously apparent during this episcopate, and soon after Johann's death Protestantism began to spread in Silesia, which country had, since 1526, belonged to Austria. Princes, nobles, and town councils were zealous promoters of the new belief; even in the episcopal principality of Neisse-Grottkau Protestant doctrines found approval and acceptance. The successors of Johann V were partly responsible for this condition of affairs. Jacob von Salza (1520-39) was personally a stanch adherent of the Church; yet the gentleness of his disposition caused him to shrink from carrying on a war against the powerful religious movement that had arisen. To an even greater degree than Jacob von Salza his successor, Balthasar von Promnitz (1539-63), avoided coming into conflict with Protestantism. He was more friendly in his attitude to the new doctrine than any other Bishop of Breslau. Casper von Logau (1562-74) showed at first greater energy than his predecessor in endeavouring to compose the troubles of his distracted diocese, but later in his episcopate his attitude towards Lutheranism and his slackness in defending church rights gave great offence to those who had remained true to the Faith. These circumstances make the advance of Protestantism easy to understand. At the same time it must be remembered that the bishops, although also secular rulers, had a difficult position in regard to spiritual matters. At the assemblies of the nobles, and at the meetings of the diet, the bishops and the deputies of the cathedral chapter were, as a rule, the only Catholics against a large and powerful majority on the side of Protestantism. The Austrian suzerains, who lived far from Silesia, and who were constantly preoccupied by the danger of a Turkish invasion, were not in a position to enforce the edicts which they issued for the protection of the Church.
The Silesian clergy had in great measure lost their high concept of the priestly office, although there were honourable exceptions. Among those faithful were the majority of the canons of the cathedral of Breslau; they distinguished themselves not only by their learning, but also by their religious zeal. It was in the main due to them that the diocese did not fall into spiritual ruin. The chapter was the willing assistant of the bishops in the reform of the diocese. Martin von Gerstmann (1574-85) began the renovation of the diocese, and the special means by which he hoped to attain the desired end were: the founding of a seminary for clerics, visitations of the diocese, diocesan synods, and the introduction of the Jesuits. His successor, Andreas von Jerin (1585-96), a Swabian who had educated at the German College at Rome, followed in his footsteps. At the diocesan synod of 1592 he endeavoured to improve church discipline. Besides his zeal in elevating the life of the Church, he was also a promoter of the arts and learning. The silver altar with which he adorned his cathedral still exists, and he brought the schools in the principality of Neisse into a flourishing condition. The bishop also rendered important services to the emperor, as legate, at various times. Bonaventura Hahn, elected in 1596, as the successor of Andreas von Jerin, was not recognized by the emperor and was obliged to resign his position. The candidate of the emperor, Paul Albert (1599-1600), occupied the see only one year. Johann VI (1600-8), a member of a noble family of Silesia named von Sitsch, took more severe measures than his predecessors against Protestantism, in the hope of checking it, especially in the episcopal principality of Neisse-Grottkau.
Bishop Carl (1608-24), Archduke of Austria, had greater success than his predecessor after the first period of the Thirty Years War had taken a turn favourable to Austria and the Catholic party. The battle of the White Mountain (1620) broke not only the revolt in Bohemia, but also the opposition of the allied Protestants of Silesia. Bishop Carl began the restoration of the principality of Neisse to the Catholic Faith. The work was completed by his successor, Carl Ferdinand, Prince of Poland (1625-55). Carl Ferdinand spent most of his time in his own country, but appointed excellent administrators for the diocese, such as the Coadjutor-Bishop Liesch von Hornau, and Archdeacon Gebauer. Imperial commissioners gave back to the Catholic Church those church buildings in the chief places of the principalities which had become the property of the sovereign through the extinction of xxx. According to the terms of the Treaty of Westphalia, the remaining churches, 693 in number, of such territories were secularized in the years 1653, 1654, and 1668. This led to a complete reorganization of the diocese. The person who effected it was Sebastian of Rostock, a man of humble birth who was vicar-general and administrator of the diocese under the bishops Archduke Leopold Wilhelm (1656-62) and Archduke Carl Joseph (1663-64), neither of whom lived in the territory of Breslau. After Sebastian of Rostock became bishop (1664-71) he carried on the work of reorganization with still greater success than before. Friedrich, Landgrave of Hesse, Cardinal, and Grand Prior of the Order of St. John, was the next Bishop of Breslau (1671-82). The new bishop was of Protestant origin and had become a Catholic at Rome. Under his administration the rehabilitation of the diocese went on. He beautified the cathedral and elaborated its services. For the red cap and violet almutium of the canons he substituted the red mozetta. He was buried in a beautiful chapel which he had added to the cathedral in honour of his ancestress, St. Elizabeth of Thuringia. After his death the chapter presented Carl von Liechtenstein, Bishop of Olmütz, for confirmation. Their choice was opposed by the emperor, whose candidate was the Count Palatine Wolfgang of the ruling family of Pfalz-Neuburg. Count Wolfgang died, and his brother Franz Ludwig (1683-1732) was made bishop. The new ruler of the diocese was at the same time Bishop of Worms, Grand Master of the German Knights, Provost of Ellwangen, and Elector of Trier, and later, he was made Elector of Mainz. He separated the ecclesiastical administration and that of the civil tribunals, and obtained the definition, in the Pragmatic Sanction of 1699, of the extent of the jurisdiction of the vicariate-general and the consistory. In 1675, upon the death of the last reigning duke, the Silesian Duchy of Liegnitz-Brieg-Wohlau lapsed to the emperor, and a new secularization of the churches begun. But when Charles XII of Sweden secured for the Protestants the right to their former possessions in these territories, by the treaty of Altranstädt, in 1707, the secularization came to an end, and the churches had to be returned. The Emperor Joseph I endeavoured to repair the loss of these buildings to the Catholic Faith by founding the so-called Josephine vicarships.
The next bishop, Philip, Count von Sinzendorf, Cardinal and Bishop of Raab (1732-47), owed his elevation to the favour of the emperor. During his episcopate the greater part of the diocese was added to the territory of Prussia. King Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great) desired to erect a "Catholic Vicarite" at Berlin, which should be the highest spiritual authority for the Catholics of Prussia. This would have been in reality a separation from Rome, and the project failed through the opposition of the Holy See. Bishop Sinzendorf had neither the acuteness to perceive the inimical intent of the king's scheme, nor sufficient decision of character to withstand it. The king desired to secure a successor to Sinzendorf who would be under royal influence. In utter disregard of the principles of the Church, and heedless of the protests of the cathedral chapter, he presented Count Philip Gotthard von Schaffgotsch as coadjutor-bishop. After the death of Cardinal Sinzendorf the king succeeded in overcoming the scruples of the Holy Father, and Schaffgotsch became Bishop of Breslau (1748-95). Although the method of his elevation caused the new bishop to be regarded with suspicion by many strict Catholics, yet he was zealous in the fulfilment of his duties. During the Seven Years War he fell into discredit with Fredrick on account of his firm maintenance of the rights of the Church, and the return of peace did not fully restore him to favour. In 1766 he fled to the Austrian part of his diocese in order to avoid confinement in Oppeln which the king had decreed against him. After this Frederick made it impossible for him to rule the Prussian part of his diocese, and until the death of the bishop this territory was ruled by vicars Apostolic.
The former coadjutor of von Schaffgotsch, Joseph Christian, Prince von Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Bartenstein (1795-1817), succeeded him as bishop. During this episcopate the temporal power of the Bishops of Breslau came to an end through the secularization, in 1810, of the church estates in Silesia. Only the estates in Austria remained to the see. The cathedral foundation, eight collegiate foundations, and over eighty monasteries were suppressed, and their property confiscated. Only those monastic institutions which were occupied with teaching or nursing were allowed to exist. Bishop Joseph Christian was succeeded by his coadjutor, Emmanuel von Schimonsky. The affairs of the Church in Prussia had been brought into order by the Bull "De salute animarum", issued in 1821. Under its provisions the cathedral chapter elected Schimonsky, who had been administrator of the diocese, as the first Exempt Bishop of Breslau (1824-32). The bishop received for himself and his successors the title of prince as partial compensation for the loss of the secularized principality of Neisse. He combated the rationalistic tendencies which were rife among his clergy in regard to celibacy and the use of Latin in the church services and ceremonies. During the episcopate of his predecessor the Government had promulgated a law which was a source of much trouble to Schimonsky and his immediate successors; this was that in those places where Catholics were few in number, the parish should be declared extinct, and the church buildings given to the Protestants. In spite of the protests of the episcopal authorities, over one hundred church buildings were lost in this way. King Frederick William put an end to this injustice, and sought to make good the injuries inflicted. For several years after Schimonsky's death the see remained vacant. It was eventually filled by the election, through Government influence, of Count Leopold von Sedlnitzki (1836-40). Bishop von Sedlnitzki was neither clear nor firm in his maintenance of the doctrines of the Church; on the question of mixed marriages, which had become one of great importance, he took an undecided position. At last, upon the demand of Pope Gregory XVI, he resigned his see. He went afterwards to Berlin, where he was made a privy-councillor, and where he later became a Protestant. The dean of the cathedral, Dr. Ritter, administered the diocese for several years until the election of the Grand Dean of the countship of Glatz, Joseph Knauer (1843-44). The new bishop, who was seventy-nine years old, lived only a year after his appointment.
His successor was Melchior, Freiherr von Diepenbrock (1845-53). This episcopate was the beginning of a new religious and ecclesiastical life in the diocese. During the revolutionary period the bishop not only maintained order in his see, which was in a state of ferment, but was also a supporter of the Government. He received unusual honours from the king and was made a cardinal by the pope. He died 20 January, 1853, at the castle of Johannisberg and was buried in the cathedral. His successor, Heinrich Förster (1853-81) carried on his work and completed it. Bishop Förster gave generous aid to the founding of churches, monastic institutions, and schools. The strife that arose between the Church and the State brought his labours in the Prussian part of his diocese to an end. He was deposed by the State and was obliged to leave Breslau and retire to the castle of Johannisberg. Here he died, 20 October, 1881. He was buried in the cathedral at Breslau. Leo XIII appointed as his successor in the disordered diocese Robert Herzog (1882-86), who had been delegate of the prince-bishop and provost of St. Hedwig's at Berlin. Bishop Herzog made every endeavour to bring order out of the confusion into which the quarrel with the State during the immediately preceding years had thrown the affairs of the diocese. Unfortunately, his episcopate was but short duration; he died after a long illness, 26 December, 1886. The Holy See appointed as his successor a man who had done much to allay the strife between Church and State, the Bishop of Fulda, George Kopp. Bishop Kopp was born, 25 July, 1837, at Duderstädt in the Diocese of Hildesheim; he was ordained to the priesthood, 29 August, 1862; consecrated and installed Bishop of Fulda, 27 December, 1881; transferred to Breslau, 9 August, 1887, installed 20 October, 1887; created a cardinal, 16 January, 1893.
The Diocese of Breslau includes the whole Prussian Province of Silesia with the exception of a part of the districts of Ratibor and Leobschütz, which belong to the Archdiocese of Olmütz, and the Countship (Grafschaft) of Glatz, also in Prussian Silesia, which is subject to the Archbishop of Prague. In Austrian Silesia the Diocese of Breslau includes the Principality of Teschen and the Austrian part of the Principality of Neisee. In the Province of Brandenburg the diocese still includes the districts of Schwiebus-Züllichau and Krossen, as well as the part formerly called Nieder-Lausitz. With the exception of the districts of Bütow and Lauenburg, the rest of Brandenburg and the Province of Pomerania have, since 1821, been supervised by delegation from the Prince-Bishop of Breslau. (See BERLIN, BRANDENBURG.)
Including the district governed by delegation the diocese contains, according to the last census (1 December, 1905), 3,342,221 Catholics; 8,737,746 Protestants; and 204,749 Jews. There are actively employed in the diocese 1,632 secular, and 121 regular, priests. The cathedral chapter includes the two offices of provost and dean, and has 10 regular, and 6 honorary, canons. The prince-bishopric is divided into 11 commissariates and 99 archpresbyterates, in which there are 992 cures of various kinds (parishes, curacies, and stations), with 935 parish churches and 633 dependent and mother-churches. Besides the theological faculty of the University of Breslau, the diocese possesses, as episcopal institutions for the training of the clergy, 5 preparatory seminaries for boys, 1 home (recently much enlarged) for theological students attending the university, and 1 seminary for priests. The statistics of the houses of the religious orders in the dioceses are as follows: Benedictines, 1 house; Dominicans, 1; Franciscans, 8; Jesuits, 3; Piarists, 1; Brothers of Mercy, 8; Order of St. Camillus of Lellis, 1; Redemptorists, 1; Congregation of the Society of the Divine Word, 1; Alexian Brothers, 1; Poor Brothers of St. Francis, 2; Sisters of St. Elizabeth, 6; Magdalen Sisters, 1; Ursulines, 6; Sisters of the Good Shepherd, 4; Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, (a) from the mother-house at Trebnitz, 181, (b) from the mother-house at Trier, 5; Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 2; Sisters of Poor Handmaids of Christ, 3; Sister-Servants of Mary, 27; German Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine of Siena, 11; Sisters of St. Francis, 9; Grey Sisters of St. Elizabeth, 169; Sisters of St. Hedwig, 9; Sisters of Mary, 27; Poor School-Sisters of Notre Dame, 15; Vincentian Sisters, 7; Sisters of the Holy Cross, 1; Sisters of St. Joseph, 1. In the above-mentioned monastic houses for men there are 512 religious; in those for women, 5,208 religious.
The founding of a university at Breslau was first debated in 1409, when the Czech made it impossible for the Germans to continue their studies at the University of Prague and virtually drove them from it. But Leipzig and not Breslau obtained the new seat of learning. About a century later, under the quickening impulse of Humanism, the project was again taken up by the city of Breslau in conjunction with the bishop, Johann Roth, and his coadjutor, Johann Turzo, and a "generale literarum gymnasium" to contain all four faculties was planned. The charter of this institution had been signed at Ofen, 20 July, 1505, by King Ladislaus of Hungary, to which Silesia then belonged, when the University of Cracow, fearing competition, succeeded in bringing the scheme to naught. The efforts made in 1527 by the Protestants to found a Silesian University at Liegnitz and in 1616 at Beuthen also failed. The Catholics sought to establish a theological school for the education of the diocesan clergy, and the endeavour led to the founding at Breslau, in 1565, of a theological seminary which was transferred in 1575 to Neisse. In 1623 the Bishop of Breslau, Archduke Carl of Austria, founded at Neisse a Jesuit college to which he gave a large endowment. The bishop intended to unite with this college a university having departments of jurisprudence and medicine, but his death soon after the founding of the school prevented the carrying out of these plans.
A school founded by the Jesuits at Breslau in 1659 was more fortunate in its development. The Society conducted in the imperial citadel a gymnasium, the higher classes of which corresponded to those in the philosophical department of a university. Theological studies were introduced in 1666. These two courses were carried on as in a university, but the school had no power to confer degrees. In order to obtain the charter necessary for the conferring of degrees and for the development of the institution, the Jesuit Father Wolf sought, from 1694 on, to obtain the consent of Emperor Leopold I to the erection of the school into a university. Father Wolf was also active in the negotiations between the courts of Berlin and Vienna concerning the concession of the title of King to the Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg. The plans Father Wolf sought to carry out were far-reaching. He held it a misfortune that Silesians were obliged to go to universities outside of Silesia, where Catholics often had no opportunity for the exercise of their religion. His scheme was a national Silesian university, endowed with all the academic privileges, which should be open to students irrespective of their religious beliefs. This project encountered the opposition of Protestant prejudice against the Jesuits, and the town council of Breslau prevented the imperial confirmation of the plan for eight years. However, Leopold I signed at Vienna, 21 October, 1702, the charter raising the school to the rank of a university and obtained the papal confirmation for the decree.
The new university, called after the emperor, Leopoldina, was opened 15 November, 1702, but the change in status did not alter the internal organization. The buildings of the old citadel had long been too cramped for the needs of the institution, and it was resolved to erect a large new edifice, the cornerstone of which was laid 6 April, 1728. On account of the war with Frederick the Great of Prussia, and his conquest of Silesia, the plans for the new structure could not be carried out in their entirety. Although efforts were made to open departments of law and medicine, nothing more was attained than unofficial lectures by instructors in these branches. The number of scholars during the first decade of the life of the university continually increased. In 1740, 1,300 students attended the university and gymnasium; the number declined during the first Silesian war then rose again, until the Seven Years War once more reduced the attendance at lectures. During this latter conflict the building was used as a hospital and prison, and professors and students were obliged to go elsewhere. Only after the Peace of 1763 was the building restored to its original use. The attendance increased rapidly during the next ten years, but fell off greatly after the suppression of the Society of Jesus. In 1803, when the Leopoldina was made a secular institution, the number of students was about 500.
After the suppression of the Jesuits the king established a Catholic-Schools Institute which included the Jesuits living in Silesia, and in which the candidates for the secular priesthood were to receive their training. The former independence disappeared and the institute and university were made dependent on the Silesian minister. The new institution maintained with difficulty what was already in existence; it was ruled by a spirit of narrow conservatism, and made no attempt to develop its courses or to enter new fields. Besides this, the teaching force was not well kept up even in the usual branches of learning. During the last decade of its existence the Leopoldina was carried on under the royal ordinance issued 26 July, 1800, in regard to the University of Breslau and the gymnasia connected with it. The Catholic school system, especially the gymnasia, underwent a reform at this epoch which led to the separation of the gymnasium from the university and the reorganization of the philosophical faculty. These two changes were carried out in 1811.
The founding of the University of Berlin in 1810 made uncertain the future existence of the Protestant university at Frankfort on the Oder, not far from Berlin. There was also a strong desire in Silesia for a university embracing all faculties, and King Frederick William III gave his consent, 3 August, 1811, to a "plan for uniting the University of Frankfort with the University of Breslau". The two universities were to be made one institution in regard to constitution, teaching staff, endowments, property, and income; the philosophical faculties were to form one body. "To satisfy the wishes of Catholic subjects" two professors of philosophy proper were appointed, one Protestant and one Catholic. The promise of the erection of a Catholic professorship of history was not carried out until 1855, in the reign of Frederick William IV. Outside of these positions religious belief was not to be taken into consideration in appointments to the faculties of philosophy, law, and medicine. Instruction from both Catholic and Protestant professors of theology in the same university was until then unheard of. The plan of union ordained by the king decreed "that the theological department of the combined university should be divided into two faculties, a Protestant theological faculty and a Catholic theological one. These two faculties, of equal rank in other respects, were to alternate in precedence from year to year in the matter of lecture-announcements, on academic occasions, and in affixing signatures. The public opening of the new university took place 19 October, 1811, the lectures began 21 October. In the second year of the new school patriotism led the great majority of the students to take part in the war against Napoleon called "the War of Liberation", and many of them died for their country. After peace was concluded the usual life of the university was resumed. In August, 1861, the semi-centennial of the university was celebrated with much pomp. The schools of learning shared in the great development of Germany after the wars of 1866 and 1870, 1871, and the University of Breslau received, through the increase of prosperity, many improvements in equipment. The departments of medicine and natural science deserve special mention.
The increase in the number of students has kept pace with the increase in the number of instructors. When the university was opened, in 1811, there were 35 regular professors, 4 assistant professors, 4 docents, and 8 lecturers and technical teachers; in 1861, at the time of the semi-centennial celebration, there were 41 regular professors, 11 assistant professors, 33 docents, and 12 lecturers and technical teachers; in 1906 there were 73 regular professors, 31 assistant professors, 66 docents, and 15 lecturers and technical teachers. In the first year of the institution there were 298 students; in the fiftieth, 775; and in 1906 the number reached 1,961. Of this last number, 241 attended the lectures of the Protestant theological faculty; 565 attended the law course; 271, the medical course; 807, the philosophical course. The German students numbered 1,884; foreign students, 77. Besides matriculated students, permission to attend the lectures was granted to 285 other persons of whom 179 were women.
STENZEL, Urkunden zur Geschichte des Bistums Breslau im Mittelalter (Breslau, 1845); KASTNER, Archiv für die Geschichte des Bistums Breslau (3 vols., Neisee, 1858); JUNGNITZ, Veröffentlichungen aus dem fürstbischöflichen Diöcezesenarchive zu Breslau (3vols., Breslau, 1903); HEYNE, Dokumentierte Geschichte des Bistums Breslau (3 vols. Breslau, 1860); SOFFNER, Geschichte der Reformation in Schlesien (Breslau, 1887); Scriptores rerum Silesiacarum (17 vols., Breslau, 1835); Codex diplomaticus Silesi (23 vols., Breslau, 1857); Acta publica (8 vols., Breslau, 1865); Zeitschrift für Geschichte Schlesiens (40 vols., Breslau, 1855); GRüNHAGEN, Geschichte Schlesiens (2 vols., Gotha, 1884); IDEM, Schlesien unter Friedrich dem Grossen (2 vols., Breslau, 1890). NüRNBERGER, Zum zweihundertjährigen Bestehen der katholischen Theologen-Fakulät an der Universität Breslau (Breslau, 1903); ROPELL, Die Geschichte der Stiftung der königlichen Universität Breslau (Breslau, 1861); REINKENS, Die Universität zu Breslau vor der Vereingung der Frankfurter Viadrina mit der Leopoldina (Breslau, 1861).
APA citation. (1907). Breslau. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02761a.htm
MLA citation. "Breslau." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02761a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Bruce C. Berger.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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