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There arose in Germany during the third and fourth centuries after Christ the great tribal confederations of the Alamanni; Bavarians, Thuringians, Franks, Frisians, and Saxons, which took the place of the numerous petty tribes with their popular tribal form of government. With the exceptions of the Saxons all these confederations were ruled by kings; the Saxons were divided into a number of independent bodies under different chiefs, and in time of war they elected a duke. The Saxons (Lat., Saxones) were originally a small tribe living on the North Sea between the Elbe and Eider Rivers in the present Holstein. Their name, derived from their weapon called Sax, a stone knife, is first mentioned by the Roman author Claudius Ptolemæus (about 130 A.D.). In the third and fourth centuries the Saxons fought their way victoriously towards the west, and their name was given to the great tribal confederation that stretched towards the west exactly to the former boundary of the Roman Empire, consequently almost to the Rhine. Only a small strip of land on the right bank of the Rhine remained to the Frankish tribe. Towards the south the Saxons pushed as far as the Harz Mountains and the Eichsfeld, and in the succeeding centuries absorbed the greater part of Thuringia. In the east their power extended at first as far as the Elbe and Saale Rivers; in the later centuries it certainly extended much farther. All the coast of the German Ocean belonged to the Saxons excepting that west of the Weser, which the Frisians retained. The history of the powerful Saxon tribe is also the history of the conversion to Christianity of that part of Germany which lies between the Rhine and the Oder, that is of almost the whole of the present Northern Germany. From the eighth century the Saxons were divided into the four sub-divisions: Westphalians, between the Rhine and Weser; the Engern or Angrians, on both sides of the Weser; the Eastphalians, between the Weser and Elbe; the Transalbingians, in the present Holstein. The only one of these names that has been preserved is Westphalians, given to the inhabitants of the Prussian Province of Westphalia.
In company with the German tribe of Angles a part of the Saxons settled on the Island of Britain from which the Romans had withdrawn, where as Anglo-Saxons, after having accepted Christianity about 600, they laid the foundation of Anglo-Saxon civilization and the present Great Britain. In attempting to reach Gaul by land the Saxons came into violent conflict with the Franks living on the Rhine. The Frankish king Clovis (481-511) united the various Frankish tribes, conquered Roman Gaul, and with his people accepted Christianity. The new Frankish kingdom was able to bring all German tribes except the Saxons under its authority and to make them Christian. For more than a hundred years there was almost uninterrupted warfare between Frank and Saxon. Many Anglo-Saxon Christian missionaries sought to convert the Saxons, some were killed, some driven away; the names of only a few of these men have been preserved, as St. Suitbert, St. Egnert, the saint called Brother Ewald, St. Lebuin, etc. St. Boniface also preached without success among the Saxons. The Saxons were finally brought under Frankish supremacy by the great Frankish ruler, Charlemagne, after a bloody struggle that lasted thirty years (772-804). Charlemagne was also able to win them to Christianity, the Saxons being the last German tribe that still held persistently to belief in the Germanic gods. At different times the Saxon wars of Charlemagne have been called "religious wars" and the assertion, which cannot be proved, has been made that Pope Adrian had called upon Charlemagne to convert the Saxons by force. Charlemagne's campaigns were intended mainly to punish the Saxons for their annual marauding expeditions to the Rhine, in which they burned churches and monasteries, killed the priests, and sacrificed their prisoners of war to the gods. The earliest date at which it can be proved that Charlemagne had the conquest of the Saxon districts in view is 776. It is evident that if peace was to be permanent the overthrow of the Saxons must be accompanied by their conversion to Christianity. The necessity for this was based also on the nature of the Frankish kingdom in which politics and religion were never separated. At the same time it is true that various measures taken by Charlemagne, as the execution of 4500 Saxons at Verdun in 782 and the hard laws issued to the subjugated, were shortsighted and cruel. The Church, however, cannot be made responsible in any case for this policy of Charlemagne's which it never approved. Although the opposition in Saxon territories to Christian teaching had been obstinate only a few decades before, the Saxons grew accustomed to the new life. The Christian conception of life sank deep into the hearts of the people, and in little more than a hundred years the Saxons were the messengers and defenders of a Christian, German civilization among the Slavonic tribes. The work of converting Saxony was given to St. Sturmi, who was on terms of friendship with Charlemagne, and the monks of the monastery of Fulda founded by Sturmi. Among the successful missionaries of the Faith were also St. Willihad, the first Bishop of Bremen, and his Anglo-Saxon companions. After St. Sturmi's death (779) the country of the Saxons was divided into missionary districts, and each of these placed under a Frankish bishop. Parishes were established within the old judicial districts. With the generous aid of Charlemagne and his nobles large numbers of churches and monasteries were founded, and as soon as peace and quiet had been re-established in the different districts, permanent dioceses were founded.
When the Frankish kingdom was divided by the Treaty of Verdun (843) the territory east of the Rhine became the East Frankish Kingdom, from which the present Germany has developed. A strong central authority was lacking during the reigns of the weak East Frankish kings of the Carlovingian dynasty. Each German tribe was forced to rely upon itself for defence against the incursions of the Normans from the north and of the Slavs from the east, consequently the tribes once more chose dukes as rulers. The first Saxon duke was Otto the Illustrious (880-912) of the Liudolfinger line (descendants of Liudolf); Otto was able to extend his power over Thuringia. Otto's son Henry was elected King of Germany (919-936); Henry is justly called the real founder of the German Empire. His son Otto I (936-973) was the first German king to receive from the pope the imperial Roman crown (962). Otto I was followed as king and emperor by his son Otto II (973-983), who was succeeded by his son Otto III (983-1002); both the kings last mentioned vainly endeavoured to establish German authority in Italy. The line of Saxon emperors expired with Henry II (1002-1024), who was canonized in 1146. Henry I had been both King of Germany and Duke of Saxony at the same time. Mainly for the sake of his ducal possessions he had carried on a long and difficult struggle with the Slavs on the eastern boundary of his country. The Emperor Otto I was also for the greater part of his reign Duke of Saxony. Otto I brought the Slavonic territory on the right bank of the Elbe and Saale under German supremacy and Christian civilization. He divided the region he had acquired into several margravates, the most important being: the North Mark, out of which in the course of time the present Kingdom of Prussia developed, and the Mark of Meissen, from which has sprung the present Kingdom of Saxony. Each mark was divided into districts, not only for military and political purposes but also for ecclesiastical: the central point of each district was a fortified castle. The first churches built near these castles were plain buildings of wood or rubble-stone.
Otto I laid the basis of the organization of the Church in this territory, that had been won for the German race and Christianity, by making the chief fortified places which he established in the different marks the sees of dioceses. The Ottoman emperors also aided much in bringing to Christianity the great Slavonic people, the Poles, who lived on the right bank of the Oder, as for a time the Polish country was under German suzerainty. Unfortunately the promising beginnings of Christian civilization among the Slavs were largely destroyed by the violence of the Slavonic rebellions in the years 980 and 1060. In 960 Otto I had transferred the ducal authority over Saxony to a Count Hermann, who had distinguished himself in the struggle with the Slavs, and the ducal title became hereditary in Count Hermann's family. This old Duchy of Saxony, as it is called in distinction from the Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg, became the centre of the opposition of the German princes to the imperial power during the era of the Franconian or Salian emperors. With the death of Duke Magnus in 1106 the Saxon ducal family, frequently called the Billung line, became extinct. The Emperor Henry V (1106-25) gave the Duchy of Saxony in fief to Count Lothair of Supplinburg, who in 1125 became King of Germany, and at his death (1137) transferred the Duchy of Saxony to his son-in-law, Duke Henry the Proud, of the princely family of the Guelphs. The hundred years of war waged by the family of Guelph with the Hohenstaufen emperors is famous in history. The son of Henry the Proud (d. 1139) was Henry the Lion (d. 1195), who extended German authority and Christianity into the present Mecklenburg and Pomerania, and re-established Christianity in the territories devastated by the Slavonic revolts. Henry the Lion refused to aid the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in his campaign against the cities of Lombardy in 1176, consequently in 1180 the bann of the empire was proclaimed against Henry at Würzburg, and 1181 the old Duchy of Saxony was cut up at the Diet of Gelnhausen into many small portions. The greater share of its western portion was given, as the Duchy of Westphalia, to the Archbishop of Cologne. The Saxon bishops who had before this possessed sovereign authority in their territories, though under the suzerainty of the Duke of Saxony, were now subject only to the imperial government; the case was the same with a large number of secular countships and cities.
The Diet of Gelnhausen is of much importance in the history of Germany. The Emperor Frederick executed here a great legal act. Yet the splitting up of the extensive country of the Saxons into a large number of principalities subject only to the imperial government was one of the causes of the system of petty states which proved so disadvantageous to Germany in its later history. The territory of the old duchy never again bore the name of Saxony; the large western part acquired the name of Westphalia. However, as regards customs and peculiarities of speech, the designation Lower Saxony is still in existence for the districts on the lower Elbe, that is, the northern part of the present Province of Saxony, Hanover, Hamburg, etc., in distinction from Upper Saxony, that is, the present Kingdom of Saxony, and Thuringia. From the era of the conversion of the Saxons up to the revolt of the sixteenth century, a rich religious life was developed in the territory included in the medieval Duchy of Saxony. Art, learning, poetry, and the writing of history reached a high degree of perfection in the many monasteries. Among the most noted places of learning were the cathedral and monastery schools of Corbie, Hildesheim, Paderborn, and Münster. This era produced architecturally fine churches of the Romanesque style that are still in existence, as the cathedrals of Goslar, Soest, and Brunswick, the chapel of St. Bartholomew at Paderborn, the collegiate churches at Quedlinburg, Königslutter, Gernrode, etc. Hildesheim, which contains much Romanesque work, has especially fine churches of this style. The cathedrals at Naumberg, Paderborn, Münster, and Osnabrück are striking examples of the Transition period. Only a few of these buildings still belong to the Catholic Church.
After the dissolution of the medieval Duchy of Saxony the name Saxony was first applied to a small part of the ancient duchy situated on the Elbe around the city of Wittenberg. This was given to Bernard of Ascania, the second son of Albert the Bear, who was the founder of the Mark of Brandenburg, from which has come the present Kingdom of Prussia. Bernard's son, Albert I, added to this territory the lordship of Lauenburg, and Albert's sons divided the possessions into Saxe-Wittenberg and Saxe-Lauenburg. When in 1356 the Emperor Charles IV issued the Golden Bull, the fundamental law of the empire which settled the method of electing the German emperor, the Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg was made one of the seven electorates. The duke as elector thereby received the right to elect, in company with the other six electors, the German emperor. In this way the country, though small in area, obtained an influential position. The electoral dignity had connected with it the obligation of primogeniture, that is, only the eldest son could succeed as ruler; this excluded the division of the territory among several heirs and consequently the disintegration of the country. The importance of this stipulation is shown by the history of most of the German principalities which were not electorates. The Ascanian line of Saxe-Wittenberg became extinct in 1422. The Emperor Sigismund bestowed the country and electoral dignity upon Margrave Frederick the Valiant of Meissen, a member of the Wettin line. As was mentioned above, the Margravate of Meissen had been founded by the Emperor Otto I. In 1089 it came into the possession of the Wettin family, who from 1247 also owned the eastern part of the Margravate of Thuringia. In 1422 Saxe-Wittenberg, and the Margravates of Meissen and Thuringia were united into one country, which gradually received the name of Saxony. Elector Frederick the Valiant died in 1464, and his two sons made a division of his territories at Leipzig on 26 August, 1485, which led to the still existing separation of the Wettin dynasty into the Ernestine and Albertine lines. Duke Ernest, the founder of the Ernestine line, received by the Partition of Leipzig the Duchy of Saxony and the electoral dignity united with it, besides the Landgravate of Thuringia; Albert, the founder of the Albertine line, received the Margravate of Meissen. Thus the Ernestine line seemed to have the greater authority. However, in the sixteenth century the electoral dignity fell to the Albertine line, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century it received the royal title as well.
The Protestant revolt of the sixteenth century was effected under the protection of the electors of Saxe-Wittenberg. The Elector Frederick the Wise established a university at Wittenberg in 1502, at which the Augustinian monk Martin Luther was made professor of philosophy in 1508; at the same time he became one of the preachers at the castle church of Wittenberg. On 31 October, 1517, he posted up on this church the ninety-five theses against indulgences with which he began what is called the Reformation. The elector did not become at once an adherent of the new opinions, but granted his protection to Luther; consequently, owing to the intervention of the elector, the pope did not summon Luther to Rome (1518); also through the elector's mediation Luther received the imperial safe-conduct to the Diet of Worms (1521). When Luther was declared at Worms to be under the ban of the entire empire the elector had him brought to the Castle of the Wartburg in Thuringia. The new doctrine spread first in Saxe-Wittenberg. The successor Frederick the Wise (d. 1525) was his brother John the Constant (d. 1532). John was already a zealous Lutheran; he exercised full authority over the Church, introduced the Lutheran Confession, ordered the deposition of all priests who continued in the Catholic Faith, and directed the use of a new liturgy drawn up by Luther. In 1531 he formed with a number of other ruling princes the Smalkaldic League, for the maintenance of the Protestant doctrine and for common defence against the German Emperor Charles V, because Charles was an opponent of the new doctrine. The son and successor of John the Constant was John Frederick the Magnanimous (d. 1554). He was also one of the heads of the Smalkaldic League, which was inimical to the emperor and Catholicism. In 1542 he seized the Diocese of Naumburg-Zeitz, and attacked and plundered the secular possessions of the Dioceses of Meissen and Hildesheim. The Catholic Faith was forcibly suppressed in all directions and the churches and monasteries were robbed. John Frederick was defeated and captured by Charles V at the Battle of Mühlberg on the Elbe, 24 April, 1547. In the Capitulation of Wittenberg, 19 May, 1547, the elector was obliged to yield Saxe-Wittenberg and the electoral dignity to Duke Maurice of Saxe-Meissen. After this the only possession of the Ernestine line of the Wettin family was Thuringia, which, however, on account of repeated divisions among the heirs was soon cut up into a number of duchies. Those still in existence are: the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, the Duchies of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, and Saxe-Altenburg.
Duke Albert (d. 1500) was succeeded in the Duchy of Saxe-Meissen by his son George the Bearded (d. 1539). George was a strong opponent of the Lutheran doctrine and had repeatedly sought to influence his cousins the Electors of Saxe-Wittenberg in favour of the Catholic Church, but George's brother and successor, Henry the Pious (d. 1541), was won over to Protestantism by the influence of his wife Catharine of Mecklenburg, and thus Saxe-Meissen was also lost to the Church. Henry's son and successor Maurice was one of the most conspicuous persons of the Reformation period. Although a zealous Protestant, ambition and desire to increase his possessions led him to join the emperor against the members of the Smalkaldic League. The Capitulation of Wittenberg gave him, as already mentioned, the electoral dignity and Saxe-Wittenberg, so that the Electorate of Saxony now consisted of Saxe-Wittenberg and Saxe-Meissen together, under the authority of the Albertine line of the Wettin family. Partly from resentment at not receiving also what was left of the Ernestine possessions, but moved still more by his desire to have a Protestant head to the empire, Maurice fell away from the German Emperor. He made a treaty with France (1551) in which he gave the Dioceses of Metz, Toul, and Verdun in Lorraine to France, and secretly shared in all the princely conspiracies against the emperor who only escaped capture by flight; and during the same year the emperor was obliged by the Treaty of Passau to grant freedom of religion to the Protestant Estates. Maurice died in 1553 at the age of thirty-two. His brother and successor Elector Augustus took the Dioceses of Merseburg, Naumburg, and Meissen for himself. The last Bishop of Merseburg, Michael Helding, called Sidonius, died at Vienna in 1561. The emperor demanded the election of a new bishop, but the Elector Augustus forced the election of his son Alexander, who was eight years old, as administrator; when Alexander died in 1565 he administered the diocese himself. In the same manner after the death of Bishop Pflug (d. 1564), the last Catholic bishop of Naumburg, the elector confiscated the Diocese of Naumburg and forbade the exercise of the Catholic religion. Those cathedral canons who were still Catholic were only permitted to exercise their religion for ten years more.
In 1581 John of Haugwitz, the last Bishop of Meissen, resigned his office, and in 1587 became a Protestant. The episcopal domains fell likewise to Saxony, and the cathedral chapter ceased to exist. During the reigns of the Elector Augustus (d. 1586), and Christian (d. 1591), a freer form of Protestantism, called Crypto-Calvinism prevailed in the duchy. During the reign of Christian II (d. 1611) the chancellor, Crell, who had spread the doctrine, was overthrown and beheaded (1601) and a rigid Lutheranism was reintroduced and with it a religious oath. The great religious war called the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) occurred during the reign of Elector John George (1611-56). In this struggle the elector was at first neutral, and for a long time he would not listen to the overtures of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden. It was until the imperial general Tilly advanced into Saxony that the elector joined Sweden. However, after the Battle of Nördlingen (1634) the elector concluded the Peace of Prague (1635) with the emperor. By this treaty Saxony received the Margravates of Upper and Lower Lusatia as a Bohemian fief, and the condition of the Church lands that had been secularized was not altered. The Swedes, however, revenged themselves by ten years of plundering. The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 took from Saxony forever the possibility of extending its territory along the lower course of the Elbe, and confirmed the preponderance of Prussia. In 1653 the direction of the Corpus Evangelicorum fell to Saxony, because the elector became the head of the union of the Protestant Imperial Estates. Under the following electors religious questions were not so prominent; a rigid Lutheranism remained the prevailing faith, and the practice of any other was strictly prohibited. About the middle of the seventeenth century Italian merchants, the first Catholics to reappear in the country, settled at Dresden, the capital and at Leipzig, the most important commercial city; the exercise of the Catholic religion, however, was not permitted to them.
A change followed when on 1 June, 1697, the Elector Frederick Augustus I (1694-1733) returned to the Catholic Faith and in consequence of this was soon afterwards elected King of Poland. The formation of a Catholic parish and the private practice of the Catholic Faith was permitted at least in Dresden. As the return of the elector to the Church aroused the fear among Lutherans that the Catholic religion would now be re-established in Saxony, the elector transferred to a government board, the Privy Council, the authority over the Lutheran churches and schools which, until then, had been exercised by the sovereign; the Privy Council was formed exclusively of Protestants. Even after his conversion the elector remained the head of the Corpus Evangelicorum, as did his Catholic successors until 1806, when the Corpus was dissolved at the same time as the Holy Roman Empire. His son, Elector Frederick Augustus II (1733-63), was received into the Catholic Church on 28 November, 1712, at Bologna, Italy, while heir-apparent. With this conversion, which on account of the excited state of feeling of the Lutheran population had to be kept secret for five years, the ruling family of Saxony once more became Catholic. Before this, individual members of the Albertine line had returned to the Church, but they had died without issue, as did the last ruler of Saxe-Weissenfels (d. 1746). Another collateral line founded in 1657 was that of Saxe-Naumburg-Zeitz, which became extinct in 1759. Those who became Catholics of this line were Christian Augustus, cardinal and Archbishop of Gran in Hungary (d. 1725), and Maurice Adolphus, Bishop of Leitmeritz in Bohemia (d. 1759). The most zealous promoter of the Catholic Faith in Saxony was the Austrian Archduchess Maria Josepha, daughter of the Emperor Joseph I, who in 1719 married Frederick Augustus, later the second elector of that name. The Court church of Dresden was built 1739-51 by the Italian architect, Chiaveri, in the Roman Baroque style; this is still the finest and most imposing church edifice in Saxony and is one of the most beautiful churches in Germany. Notwithstanding the faith of its rulers, however, Saxony remained entirely a Protestant country; the few Catholics who settled there remained without any political or civil rights. When in 1806 Napoleon began a war with Prussia, Saxony at first allied itself to Prussia, but afterwards joined Napoleon and entered the Confederation of the Rhine. Elector Frederick Augustus III (1763-1827) received the title of King of Saxony as Frederick Augustus I.
The new kingdom was an ally of France in all the Napoleonic wars of the years 1807-13. At the beginning of the great War of Liberation (1813) the king sided neither with Napoleon nor with his allied opponents, but united his troops with those of France when Napoleon threatened to treat Saxony as a hostile country. At the Battle of Leipzig (16-18 October, 1813), when Napoleon was completely defeated, the greater part of the Saxon troops deserted to the allied forces. The King of Saxony was taken as a Prussian prisoner to the Castle of Friedrichsfeld near Berlin. The Congress of Vienna (1814-15) took from Saxony the greater part of its land and gave it to Prussia, namely 7800 square miles with about 850,000 inhabitants; this ceded territory included the former Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg, the former possessions of the Dioceses of Merseburg and Naumburg, a large part of Lusatia, etc. What Prussia had obtained, with the addition of some old Prussian districts, was formed into the Province of Saxony.
The Kingdom of Saxony had left only an area of 5789 square miles with a population at that era of 1,500,000 inhabitants; under these conditions it became a member of the German Confederation that was founded in 1815. King John (1854-73) sided with Austria in the struggle between Prussia and Austria as to the supremacy in Germany. Consequently in the War of 1866, when Prussia was successful, the independence of Saxony was once more in danger; only the intervention of the Austrian Emperor saved Saxony from being entirely absorbed by Prussia. The kingdom, however, was obliged to join the North German Confederation of which Prussia was the head. In 1871 Saxony became one of the states of the newly-founded German Empire. King John was followed by his son King Albert (1873-1902); Albert was succeeded by his brother George (1902-04); the son of George is King Frederick Augustus III (b. 1865). Prince Maximilian (b. 1870), a brother of the present king, became a priest in 1896, was engaged in parish work in London and Nuremberg, and since 1900 has been a professor of canon law and liturgy in the University of Freiburg in Switzerland. The Kingdom of Saxony is the fifth state of the German Empire in area and third in population; in 1905 the average population per square mile was 778.8. Saxony is the most densely peopled state of the empire, and indeed of all Europe; the reason is the very large immigration on account of the development of manufactures. In 1910 the population amounted to 5,302,485; of whom 218,033 were Catholics; 4,250,398 Evangelican Lutherans; 14,697 Jews; and a small proportion of other denominations. The Catholic population of Saxony owes its present numbers largely to immigration during the nineteenth century. Catholicism that can be traced back to the period before the Reformation is found only in one section, the governmental department of Bautzen. Even here there is no continuous Catholic district, but there are a number of villages where the population is almost entirely Catholic, and two cities (Ostritz and Schirgiswalde) where Catholics are in the majority. It should also be mentioned that about 1.5 of the inhabitants of Saxony consists of the remains of a Slavonic tribe called by the Germans Wends, and in their own language "Serbjo". These Wends, who number about 120,000 persons and live in Saxon and Prussian Lusatia, are entirely surrounded by a German population; consequently owing to German influence the Wendic language, manners, and customs are gradually disappearing. About 50,000 Wends live in the Kingdom of Saxony; of these about 12,000 belong to the Catholic Church; some fifty Wendic villages are entirely Catholic. There is also a large Wendic population in the city of Bautzen, where among 30,000 inhabitants 7,000 are Wends.
As regards the Catholic Church the Kingdom of Saxony is divided into two administrative districts: the Vicariate Apostolic of Saxony, and the Prefecture Apostolic of Saxon Upper Lusatia. The vicariate Apostolic includes the hereditary lands, that is, those portions of Saxony which before 1635 belonged to the Electorate of Saxony and which the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 did not take from the country; the vicariate also includes the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg, and the two principalities of Reuss. The Prefecture Apostolic of Lusatia includes the former Margravate of Lusatia, which in 1635 was separated from Bohemia and given to Saxony; since the Treaty of Vienna of 1815, however, this ecclesiastical district comprises only that part of Upper Lusatia that has remained Saxon, the present fifth Saxon administrative Department of Bautzen. Since the adjustment of the parishes in 1904 the Vicariate Apostolic of Saxony comprises (including the small principalities of Reuss and Saxe-Altenburg), 26 parishes and 7 expositorships, with, in 1909, 55 priests; Upper Lusatia comprises 16 parishes, of which 7 are Wendic, and 2 expositorships, with altogether 30 priests. The clergy are educated at the Wendic seminary at Prague, the capital of Bohemia; this seminary, which was founded in 1740 by two Wends, was originally intended only for Lusatia but now is used for the whole of Saxony. Its pupils first attend the gymnasium of Prague and then the university there.
The Vicariate Apostolic of Saxony was established in 1763 by Pope Clement XIII; before this the confessors of the electors, who like all the priest in Saxony at that era were Jesuits, conducted the affairs of the Church under the title of superior. The most celebrated of these was Father Carlo Maurizio Voltor, an Italian, the confessor of the elector and King Frederick Augustus I. Father Voltor was also a noted diplomatist who had much influence at the court of Vienna, for example, he had some share in obtaining the title of King of Prussia (1701) for the Protestant Elector of Brandenburg. The first vicar Apostolic was Father Augustin Eggs, S.J.; for some unknown reason he left Saxony after the death of the Elector Frederick Christian (1764). He was followed by Father Franz Herz, S.J., who continued to administer his office after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773; after his death (1800) Dr. Johann Alois Schneider (d. 1818) was appointed vicar Apostolic. In 1816 Dr. Schneider was consecrated titular Bishop of Argia, being the first Saxon vicar to be made a bishop. In the troubled times of 1813-14 he was the true friend and trusted adviser of the royal family; he also accompanied the king when the latter was imprisoned by Prussia. His successor, Ignatz Bernhard Mauermann (d. 1845), had the title of titular Bishop of Pellia. In 1831 the canons of the cathedral of Bautzen elected Bishop Mauermann as cathedral dean of Bautzen. After Bishop Mauermann's death this union of the two highest ecclesiastical offices in Saxony was dissolved, but since the death of the cathedral dean of Bautzen, Johann Kutschank (1844), the bishop has held both offices with the exception of the years 1900-04. Bishop Mauermann was succeeded by his older brother Franz Lorenz Mauermann (d. 1845) with the title of Bishop of Rama. The next bishop was Johann Dittrich (d. 1853), titular Bishop of Korykus, who in 1844 had been elected cathedral dean of Bautzen; he was followed by Ludwig Forwerk (d. 1875), titular Bishop of Leontopolis.
After the Vatican Council (1869-70) Bishop Forwerk's skill enabled him to prevent the spread of Old Catholicism in Saxony at the time when the proclamation of the Dogma of Infallibility led to its development in Germany. He was followed by Franz Bernert (d. 1890), titular Bishop of Azotus, who was succeeded by Dr. Ludwig Wahl (d. 1904), titular Bishop of Cocusus (Cocrun). From 1900 this bishop was not able to exercise his office on account of severe illness; during this period the Apostolic See appointed the prothonotary, Monsignor Karl Maas, administrator for the vicariate Apostolic, and the canon of the cathedral of Bautzen, Monsignor Georg Wuschanski, as administrator for Upper Lusatia. In 1904 Wuschanski was made Vicar Apostolic of Saxony and titular Bishop of Samos. Bishop Wuschanski died, however, by the end of 1905. In 1906 his placed was filled by Dr. Alois Schäfer. Dr. Schäfer was born at Dingelstädt in the Eichfelde (Prussian Province of Saxony) on 2 May, 1853, and in 1863 his parents settled at Chemnitz in the Kingdom of Saxony. In 1878 Dr. Schäfer was ordained priest, and was at first active in parish work; in 1881 he was made professor of exegesis at the lyceum at Dillingen in Bavaria; in 1885 he became professor of New Testament exegesis at the University of Münster in Westphalia; in 1894 he was a professor of the same at the University of Breslau, and in 1903 at the University of Strasburg. His title is: Titular Bishop of Abila, Vicar Apostolic in the Kingdom of Saxony, Administrator Ecclesiasticus in Saxon Upper Lusatia. The vicar Apostolic is appointed by the pope upon the nomination of the King of Saxony. According to the Constitution of Saxony the dean of the cathedral at Bautzen is a permanent member of the Upper House of the Saxon diet, but not the vicar Apostolic as such; he is a member only because the two offices are generally united. The two ecclesiastical offices are combined on account of the revenues, and the union is effected thus: the chapter of Bautzen elects as dean the vicar Apostolic who has already been appointed for the hereditary possessions of Saxony. It should be said, however, that the union is only a personal one and that the two administrative districts of the Church exist the same after as before the union.
At the time of the Reformation Lusatia belonged politically, as has already been said, to Bohemia, i.e., to Austria. Before his resignation the last Bishop of Meissen transferred in 1581, with the approval of the Holy See, the ecclesiastical administration of Lusatia to Johann Leisentritt of Juliusberg, dean of the cathedral chapter of Bautzen, as administrator episcopatus. When the Reformation entered the country Dean Leisentritt was able to keep at least a part of the population faithful to the Catholic Church. Most important of those bodies that remained Catholic were: the cathedral chapter of St. Peter's at Bautzen; the two celebrated Cistercian abbeys for women, Marienthal near Ostritz on the Neisse and Marienstern between the cities of Kamenz and Bautzen; a part of the parishes that had been under the control of the monasteries, and some other independent towns. The only members of the chapter of St. Peter's at Bautzen that remained Catholic were the dean, the senior, the cantor, and the scholasticus; the provost, who according to the rules of the foundation was elected from the chapter at Meissen, became a Lutheran. Ever since that time the provostship has been granted by the Saxon government to a Protestant, generally to one of the higher state officials. This secular provost has, however, no connexion whatever with the cathedral chapter; he receives from the government ministry the revenues yielded by the lands belonging to the provostship. The cathedral chapter consists of four resident canons and eight honorary ones; when the position of dean is vacant the power of administration belongs to the cathedral canons; the dean is elected by the regular and honorary canons in the presence of a royal commissioner and is confirmed by the Apostolic See. The Cathedral of St. Peter's at Bautzen is the oldest church in Lusatia, and was built 1215-21; at the end of the fifteenth century it was much altered. Since the Reformation the choir has belonged to the Catholics, and the rest of the cathedral, which is divided from the choir by a grating, belongs to the Protestants. Another church in Bautzen retained by the Catholics is the Church of Our Lady, built in the thirteenth century, in which the services of the Catholic Wends are held. The cathedral chapter has the right of patronage for six Catholic parishes, the right of appointment for the Catholic seminary for teachers at Bautzen, the same for the cathedral school, and also the right of patronage for five Protestant parishes. The convent of Marienstern, in the Wendic district of Lusatia, that was founded in the middle of the thirteenth century, and the convent of Marienthal in the German section, that was founded before 1234, have done much to preserve Catholic life in Lusatia. For hundreds of years the pastoral care of the two convents has been exercised by priests of the Cistercian monastery of Osseg in Bohemia. A pilgrimage church much visited, especially by the Wends, is at Rosenthal in the Wendic parish of Ralbitz. In the treaty between Saxony and Austria of 13 May, 1635, by which Lusatia was transferred to Saxony, the Saxon elector was obliged to grant his special sovereign protection to the Catholic communities of Lusatia and the two convents, the emperor, as suzerain, retaining the supreme right of protection. The Catholics of Lusatia had the right to the free exercise of religion, but in agreement with the earlier legal rights of the State Church, only so far as they belonged to one of the old parishes. Catholics who lived within the boundaries of Protestant parishes were obliged to call upon the Protestant pastor of the community for all baptisms, marriages, and burials, or at least must pay for these the customary fees. This compulsion exercised upon the Catholics living in Protestant parishes was not annulled for Lusatia until 1863.
By a treaty of peace between Saxony and France that was signed at Posen 11 December, 1806, Saxony was made a kingdom and entered the Confederation of the Rhine. This treaty granted the Catholics of Saxony nominally, although not in reality, civil and political equality with the Lutherans. The fifth article of the treaty declared that the Roman Catholic Church services were placed on an absolute parity with the services of the Augsburg and allied confessions, and subjects belonging to both religions were to enjoy civil rights. Now for the first time the bells of the Court Church at Dresden, which had hung silent in the tower for fifty years, could be rung. The concessions to Saxon Catholics made in the convention of 1806 were confirmed by the royal edict of 16 February, 1807, and by the Constitution of the German confederation of 1815 (art. XVI). The relations between Church and State were still further defined by the Edict of 19 February, 1827, which is still in force. This edict abrogated for the hereditary territories the compulsory dependence of Catholics on Protestant pastors and created the Catholic Consistory for the administration and jurisdiction of the Church including matters pertaining to marriage. This consistory is made up of three ecclesiastical and two secular councillors. The vicar Apostolic has the right of nomination for the appointments. A vicarial court was created as, with the exception of Rome, the highest court of appeal; it consists of the vicar Apostolic, two ecclesiastical councillors, one secular Catholic councillor, a legal assistant, and in addition for matters pertaining to marriage two Protestant councillors. At the same time the vicariate Apostolic was declared to be simply a special department for Church and school matters under the supervision of the Protestant state ministry. In Upper Lusatia the ecclesiastical administration and jurisdiction was placed in the hands of the "consistory of the chapter at Bautzen", which consists of the dean, three ecclesiastical councillors and a secular justiciary. The vicarial court was made the court of appeal.
The Constitution of 4 September, 1831, confirmed the ordinances and arrangements that were then valid. It was forbidden to establish new monasteries in addition to the two convents of Marienthal and Marienstern already in existence in Lusatia, or to admit into Saxony the Jesuits or other religious orders. It was not until a few years ago that a few Grey Sisters and nuns of St. Charles Borromeo were allowed to settle in Saxony, in all in thirteen places within eight cities. The authority of the State over the Church, the supreme supervision and the right of protection were assigned by the Constitution to the king as jus circa sacra. By the Law of 7 November, 1837, this authority was given to the department of the minister of education and worship, who by the Constitution must always be a Protestant. The administration and use made of the property of the Church is also under the supervision of the State. Money for the needs of the Church beyond what is provided by the property of the parish or endowments is obtained from a Church tax laid by the State (law of 2 August, 1878). The tax is raised as a supplementary income tax; the yearly amount of the tax is fixed by the Protestant minister of worship and education, while the Protestants can fix the amount of their Church tax themselves. In the years succeeding 1870 there was a bitter struggle in most of the German states between Church and State called the Kulturkampf; during this period a law was issued in Saxony concerning the exercise of State supervision. This law contains the greater part of the ordinances which had been up to then in effect, and in its measures for putting the law into action follows the Austrian and Prussian laws of the decade of 1870-1880, that were inimical to the Church. Public church service can only be held in the 57 parishes, dependent parishes, and chapels; mission services and religious instruction can further be held at certain periods of time in about sixty places. In addition there are 8 churches and chapels that are private property. Very few church processions are permitted. The approval of the State is necessary for the general decrees of the Church authorities when these in any way encroach upon State or municipal affairs; the State authorities are to decide whether infringement has taken place. The approval of the ministry is necessary for the founding of new churches and institutions for priests, for settling or changing the boundaries of parishes, for establishing church service at new stations, in general for new acts of ecclesiastical administration of any kind, which in any way whatever come into contact with national affairs or the ordinary ones of civil life.
A Catholic ecclesiastical office, whether in public or private service, permanent or subject to recall, can only be given to a German who has finished the course at a gymnasium, studied three years at a university, and has passed a theological examination for his office. Whoever has been trained at a seminary conducted by the Jesuits or a similar order is excluded. Further, the national Government can reject anyone who has been chosen for an ecclesiastical office, if it believes that he will use his influence against the State laws or ordinances. The State Government is to be notified at once of every vacancy and of every appointment of a spiritual office. As a rule change of religion is not permitted before the twenty-first year; before change of faith the convert must notify the pastor of the parish of his intention and may have a four weeks' period of reflection assigned to him; after the expiration of this term the convert can demand a certificate of dismissal. The religion of the father is determinative for children of mixed marriages, unless the parents have made a legal agreement otherwise before the child is six years old. All the State schools are denominational; they are not established and maintained by the political communes but by special school communes. In localities where the population is of different faiths the religious minority, if able to do so, can form a new school commune; special religious instruction for the benefit of the religious minority is not given at the expense of the school commune of the majority where that alone exists. Up to the twelfth year Protestant religious instruction is legally permissible for Catholic children. At present a new school law is being prepared, as the School law of 1873 contains many ordinances that are now out of date; however, the confessional character of the schools and the religious supervision of the schools by the pastor of the respective place is to be retained; but efforts have been and are still made to set aside at least the religious supervision of the schools. As regards Catholic schools there is a preparatory gymnasium in Dresden, a seminary at Bautzen, for training Catholic teachers for the primary schools, that is supported by the cathedral chapter of Bautzen, and 51 Catholic public primary schools. There are about 300 Catholic male teachers and about 20 Catholic female teachers. Special Catholic religious instruction is given at more than one hundred and thirty places where there are only Protestant schools. Only about 15,000 of the 24,000 Catholic school children attend Catholic schools; of the remaining 9000 children about 3500 have no Catholic religious instruction. The pressing necessity of new schools cannot be met on account of the lack of money, as most of the Catholics who have come into the country are poor factory hands. On account both of this lack of schools and of the equally great lack of churches, far more than 10,000 Catholics became Protestant during the years 1900 and 1910.
The province has an area of 9,746 square miles, and in 1905 had 2,979,221 inhabitants. Of its population 230,860 (7.8 per cent) are Catholic, 2,730,098 (91 per cent) are Protestant; 9981 hold other forms of Christian faith, and 8050 are Jews. During the summer months about 15,000 to 20,000 Catholic labourers, called Sachsengänger, come into the country; they are Slavs from the Prussian Province of Posen, from Russian Poland, or Galicia. The province is divided into the three government departments of Magdeburg, Merseburg, and Erfurt. The Prussian Province of Saxony was formed in 1815 from the territories, about 8,100 square miles in extent, ceded by the Kingdom of Saxony, with the addition of some districts already belonging to Prussia, the most important of which are the Altmark, from which the State of Prussia sprang; the former immediate principalities of the Archbishop of Magdeburg and of the Bishop of Halberstadt, which Prussia had received by the Peace of Westphalia (1648) at the close of the Thirty Years' War; and the Eichsfeld, with the city of Erfurt and its surroundings. Up to 1802 the Eichsfeld and Erfurt had belonged to the principality of the Archbishop of Mainz; a large of the population had, therefore, retained the Catholic Faith during the Reformation. As regards ecclesiastical affairs the Province of Saxony had been assigned to the Diocese of Paderborn by the papal Bull "De salute animarum" of 16 July, 1821. The province contains three ecclesiastical administrative divisions: the episcopal commissariat of Magdeburg that embraces the entire governmental department of Magdeburg and consists of four deaneries and 25 parishes; the "ecclesiastical Court" of Erfurt, which includes the governmental Department of Merseburg and the eastern half of the governmental Department of Erfurt; and consists of 2 deaneries (Halle and Erfurt) and 28 parishes; the episcopal commissariat of Heiligenstadt, which embraces the western half of the governmental department of Erfurt, that is called the Upper Eichsfeld, and consists of 16 deaneries and 129 parishes.
In those parts of the governmental Department of Magdeburg which belonged originally to the former Archdiocese of Magdeburg and the Diocese of Halberstadt all Catholic life was not entirely destroyed during the Reformation. Besides fourteen monasteries that continued in existence, there were in Halberstadt a number of benefices in connexion with the cathedral and the collegiate Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. As the entire native population had become Protestant these monasteries were only maintained by the immigration of Catholics who, from the time of the Treaty of Westphalia, though in small numbers, steadily came into the country; thus there arose around the monasteries small Catholic communities. The monasteries were all suppressed during the great secularization of the beginning of the nineteenth century, and thirteen parishes were formed, for which the State provided a fund from a part of the property of the monasteries. The other parishes in the governmental Department of Magdeburg were created after the middle of the nineteenth century, when, in consequence of the development of the manufacture of sugar, increasing numbers of Catholics came into the country; the St. Boniface Association gave the money to found these parishes.
In 1905 the governmental Department of Magdeburg contained 76,288 Catholics, that is, 6.25 per cent of the population. The Reformation of the sixteenth century had its origin in the present governmental Department of Merseburg, which includes parts of the old dioceses of Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Merseburg, Naumburg-Zeitz, and Brandenburg; in this region all Catholic life was destroyed. It was not until after the Peace of Westphalia that small Catholic communities arose, from the entrance into the district of miners, merchants, pedlars, etc.; these communities grew especially in the nineteenth century on account of the development of manufactures. The first Catholic church service to be held again in this district was established in 1710 at Halle on the Saale by Franciscans of the Monastery of St. Andreas at Halberstadt; the first parish was also erected at Halle in 1810; the other parishes were founded by the St. Boniface Association. In 1905 the governmental Department of Merseburg contained 47,382 Catholics, that is, 4 per cent of the population. The governmental department of Erfurt is an almost entirely Protestant district in which, during the nineteenth century, scattered Catholics settled near districts which had preserved their faith amid the storms of the Reformation era; these districts are the Eichsfeld and a part of the population of Erfurt and its vicinity. Erfurt was founded in 742 by St. Boniface as the See of Thuringia. The first and only bishop, St. Adelar, suffered martyrdom in 755 with St. Boniface, and the territory of the diocese was united with the Archdiocese of Mainz. From the beginning, however, the archbishops of Mainz had episcopal assistants at Erfurt, who, from early in the fourteenth century, were in reality coadjutor bishops and gradually retained almost the same position as a diocesan bishop. After the suppression of the Archdiocese of Mainz (1802), the Diocese of Erfurt was assigned to the Diocese of Ratisbon, then in 1807 to Corbie, and in 1821 to Paderborn. Up to the present day there is still in existence at Erfurt an ecclesiastical board with certain episcopal powers which is called the "Ecclesiastical Court". Celebrated Catholic churches of Erfurt are: the cathedral that was begun about the middle of the twelfth century upon the spot where had stood a church built by St. Boniface; and the Church of St. Severus, erected in the fourteenth century. In 1905 the governmental Department of Erfurt contained 107,190 Catholics that is, 21.53 per cent of the population; the number of Catholics steadily declines, in 1817 it amounted to 29 per cent. Outside of Erfurt and its immediate vicinity, where the Catholics form 12 per cent of the population, the Catholics in the main live together in communities in the Upper Eichsfeld in the three counties of Heiligenstadt (91 per cent Catholic), Worbis (77 per cent Catholic), and Mülhausen-Land (43 per cent Catholic). The soil of the Upper Eichsfeld is not productive; it does not offer, therefore, any of the conditions for industrial development, and many of its inhabitants are forced to emigrate. In the Department of Erfurt the collegiate foundation of Nordhausen has also remained Catholic from the early times; in 1811 it was made into a parish. As regards schools, the religious orders, and the other questions concerning the relations between Church and State, the laws of the Kingdom of Prussia are in force.
WEISSE, Gesch. der kursächischen Staaten (7 vols., Leipzig, 1802-12); GRETSCHEL-BÜLAU, Gesch. des sächischen Volkes (3 vols., 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1863-64); BÖTTIGER-FLATHE, Gesch. des Kurstaates und Königreichs Sachsen (3 vols., 2nd ed., Gotha, 1867-73); STURNHÖFEL, Gesch. der sächischen Lande u. ihrer Herrscher (2 vols., Chemnitz, 1898-1909); JACOBS, Gesch. der in der Provinz Sachsen vereinigten Gebiete (Gotha, 1884); THEINER, Gesch. der Rückkehr der regierenden Häuser von Braunschweig u. Sachsen in den Schloss der kath. Kirche im 18. Jahrh. (Einsiedeln, 1843); FORWERK, Gesch. der kath. Hofkirche zu Dresden nebst einer kurzen Gesch. der kath. Kirche in Sachsen (Dresden, 1851); MACHATSCHEK, Gesch. des Königreichs Sachsen (Leipzig, 1861); IDEM, Gesch. der Bischöfe des Hochstiftes Meissen (Dresden, 1884).
APA citation. (1912). Saxony. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13497b.htm
MLA citation. "Saxony." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13497b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald Rossi.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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