Bishopric of Ratzeburg

Bishopric of Ratzeburg
Prince-Bishopric of Ratzeburg
Hochstift Ratzeburg
also: Fürstbistum Ratzeburg
State of the Holy Roman Empire
Duchy of Saxony

Coat of arms

The Prince-Bishopric of Ratzeburg (left,     pale yellow),
shown within Mecklenburg ca. 1250
Capital Ratzeburg
Language(s) Low Saxon, German
Religion Roman Catholic, Lutheran after 1554
Government Elective monarchy, ruled by the bishop or administrator holding the episcopal see, elected by the chapter or, exceptionally, appointed by the Pope
Historical era Middle Ages
 - Diocese founded ca. 1050
 - Pagan Wends
    destroyed bishopric
  -Diocese refounded
July 15, 1066
1154 1236
 - Saxo-Bavarian Duke
    Henry the Lion defeated
    ensued by break-up of
    the Duchy of Saxony

 - Acquired territory 1236
 - Lutheran Reformation 1554
 - Secularised to
 - Became exclave of

The Bishopric of Ratzeburg (German: Bistum Ratzeburg), centered on Ratzeburg in Northern Germany, was originally a suffragan to the Archdiocese of Hamburg, which transformed into the Archdiocese of Bremen in 1072.



Ratzeburg was one of the dioceses formed ca. 1050 by Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg, who appointed St. Aristo, who had just returned from Jerusalem, to the new see. Aristo seems to have been but a wandering missionary bishop. In 1066, the pagan Wends rose against their German masters, and on 15 July 1066, St. Ansverus, Abbot of St. George's, Ratzeburg (not the later monastery bearing that name), and several of his monks are said to have been stoned to death. It was not until 1154, however, that Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, and Hartwich I, Archbishop of Hamburg, refounded the episcopal see of Ratzeburg, and Evermodus became its first bishop. A disciple of St Norbert and provost of the Monastery of Our Lady at Magdeburg, Evermodus was, like many of his successors, a Premonstratensian canon. In 1157, a chapter was attached to Ratzeburg cathedral by Pope Adrian IV.

Cathedral of Ratzeburg

In 1236 Bishop Peter was invested by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, with temporal jurisdiction over the land of Butin and a number of villages outside it (the Principality of Ratzeburg), making the see a prince-bishopric. The succeeding prince-bishops retained this jurisdiction in spite of the frequent attempts which the dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg made to deprive them of it.

The cathedral of Ratzeburg dates from the beginning of the 12th century. It was restored, and additions were made to it in the 15th century. The cathedral and pertaining premises such as the chapter and further episcopal manors formed the cathedral district immunity, an extraterritorial enclave of the Prince-Bishopric of Ratzeburg within the city of Ratzeburg, else belonging to Saxe-Lauenburg. The diocese also contained a number of other beautiful churches at Mölln, Wismar, Büchen and elsewhere.

Besides the cathedral chapter of Ratzeburg with its provost or dean and twelve canons, there were in the diocese the Benedictine Abbeys of St. George, Ratzeburg (refounded in 1093), and of Wismar, where Benedictines expelled from Lübeck founded a monastery in 1239; also convents of the same order at Eldena founded in 1229, by Bishop Gottschalk of Ratzeburg, and burnt in 1290, at Rehna founded in 1237 by Prince-Bishop Ludolfus, and at Zarrentin founded in 1243. There were also Franciscans (1251) and Dominicans (1293) at Wismar.

Ratzeburg Cathedral interior

In 1504, during the episcopate of Prince-Bishop Johann V von Parkentin, the Premonstratensian regular canons of Ratzeburg cathedral were, with papal consent, made secular canons.

Prince-Bishop Georg von Blumenthal (1524–50), who feuded with Thomas Aderpul, was the last Roman Catholic bishop. In 1552, the cathedral was plundered by Count Volrad von Mansfeld. In 1554, the dean and chapter converted to Lutheranism. The cathedral is a proto-cathedral since and is owned by a Lutheran congregation within the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Also most other churches in the former diocesan territory house Lutheran congregations today belonging to the North Elbian or the Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Mecklenburg.

After 1554 the now Lutheran chapter elected Lutheran princes, lacking any canonical qualification, as administrators of the prince-bishopric. The capitulars deliberately ignored the ducal Saxe-Lauenburgian candidates, sons of the duke, fearing the prince-bishopric would then be incorporated into Saxe-Lauenburg. The prince-bishopric was then secularized by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, becoming the Principality of Ratzeburg under the control of the Dukes of Mecklenburg. In 1701 the principality became an exclave of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the diocesan historical territory in the German Empire corresponded to the district of Duchy of Lauenburg (in Schleswig-Holstein), the bishop's own Principality of Ratzeburg in the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and the western part of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, including Wismar but not Schwerin. The whole of it was later included in the Diocese of Osnabrück and forms since January 7, 1995 part of the new Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hamburg, with most of today's Catholic churches in the region built since the 19th c.


  • Aristo ca. 1051
  • Evermode 1154–1178
  • vacancy 1178–1180
  • Isfried 1180–1204
  • Philipp 1204–1215
  • Heinrich I. 1215–1228
  • Lambert von Barmstede 1228
  • Gottschalk 1229–1235
  • Petrus 1236
  • Ludolph I of Ratzeburg 1236–1250
  • Friedrich 1250–1257
  • Ulrich von Blücher 1257–1284
  • Konrad 1284–1291
  • Hermann von Blücher 1291–1309
  • Marquard von Jossow 1309–1335
  • Volrad von dem Dorne 1335–1355
  • Otto von Gronow 1355–1356
  • Wipert von Blücher 1356–1367
  • Heinrich II. von Wittorf 1367–1388
  • Gerhard Holtorp 1388–1395
  • Detlef von Berkentin 1395–1419
  • Johannes I. von Trempe 1419–1431
  • Pardam von dem Knesebeck 1431–1440
  • Johannes II. Prohl 1440–1454
  • Johann III. von Preen 1454–1461
  • Ludolf II. of Ratzeburg 1461–1466
  • Johannes IV. Stalkoper 1466–1479
  • Johannes V. von Berkentin 1479–1511
  • Heinrich III. Bergmeier 1511–1524
  • Georg von Blumenthal 1524–1550
  • Christoph I. von der Schulenburg 1550–1554

1554 Protestant Reformation

Administrators (1554–1648)

  • Christoph II. von Mecklenburg 1554–1592
  • Karl von Mecklenburg 1592–1610
  • Augustus of Brunswick and Lunenburg, Celle 1610–1636
  • Gustavus Adolphus of Mecklenburg-Güstrow 1636–1648


External links

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