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Archdiocese of Olmutz

In Moravia

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Olmiitz, Archdiocese of (OLOMUCENSIS), in Moravia. It is probable that Christianity penetrated into Moravia as early as the fourth century, but the invasions of the Huns and Avars destroyed these beginnings. Towards the end of the eighth century the Northern Slays immigrated into this region. Their leader, Rastislav, asked for Christian missionaries, not from the Franks, but from the Greek emperor, Michael III, who sent the brothers Cyril and Methodius, born in Thessalonica but speaking the Slavic tongue and educated in Constantinople. Cyril, known as “the Philosopher”, had been a missionary among the Chazars, and had discovered near the Inkermann the body of Clement I, whose transfer to Rome through Bulgaria and Pannonia is marked to this day by three Moravian and eighteen Bohemian churches dedicated to St. Clement. The preaching of the missionary brothers was successful. Cyril invented the Glagolitic alphabet and translated the Bible into Slavic. What is today called “Cyrillic” (Glagolitic) script owes its origin to his pupil Clement, Bishop of Welica. German ecclesiastics became jealous of the success of the two Slavic apostles and accused them at Rome, but Adrian II gave them permission to use the Slavic language for religious services. Cyril died in a Roman monastery, while Methodius became Archbishop of Pannonia and Moravia. Despite his high ecclesiastical dignity he was insulted at a Synod of Salzburg and kept a prisoner for two and a half years. He labored faithfully and successfully in Moravia under the reign of Swatopluk, justified himself repeatedly when accused before John VIII, and died April 6, 885, at Velehrad on the March.

The Moravian kingdom soon (906) fell before the onslaught of the Hungarians, and the name Moravia for a long time disappears from history. In the report sent by Pilgrim of Passau to Benedict VIII, it is mentioned as part of the Diocese of Passau. When in 973 the See of Prague was established, it included Mora-via, Silesia (with Cracow), and the Lausitz. In 1048 Duke Bretislav Achilles founded the first Moravian monastery, Raigern. The medieval concept of a kingdom called for several episcopal sees under a metropolitan. Therefore, when Bretislav’s successor, Vratislav II, coveted the royal crown, he created the necessary conditions, and in 1063 Olmutz became a bishopric. The emperor gained a new vassal, and the Archbishop of Mainz another suffragan. The Bishop of Prague, as an indemnity for the loss of tithes in Moravia, received twelve fiefs in Bohemia, and annually the sum of one hundred marks silver from the ducal treasury. The first Moravian bishop was John I (1063-85), a monk of Brevnow. At the same time the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul received a chapter with a dean at its head. John had to suffer a great deal from Bishop Jaromir (Gebhard) of Prague, the unpriestly brother of Duke Vratislay. Jaromir personally attacked and maltreated Bishop John in the latter’s COMM pal-ace. Alexander II thereupon sent a legate Rudolphus, who convoked a synod at Prague which Jaromir ignored. For this insubordination he was deposed. Gregory VII summoned both bishops to Rome. At the Easter Synod of 1074 Jaromir expressed his regretfor maltreating John, but declined to give up the fief of Bodovin, whereupon the pope asked Vratislav to expel Jaromir, by force if necessary.

Among the bishops of Olmutz, during the later Middle Ages the following are prominent: Heinrich (called Zdik after his birthplace) transferred his see to the church of St. Wenceslaus, which had been twenty-four years in construction, and at Easter, 1138, took the Premonstratensian habit in the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Bishop Kaiim, in 1193, while ordaining priests and deacons at Prague, forgot the imposition of hands. His successor, Engelbert, corrected this omission two years later; but the Cardinal-Deacon Petrus declared the ordination null and void, and caused it to be repeated in its entirety in 1197. When the legate attempted to enforce a strict observance of the laws relating to celibacy, he was expelled from the country; the laws of the Church, however, were henceforth more strictly observed. During the time that Moravia was joined to Bohemia, the Duke of Bohemia appointed the Bishop of Olmutz. In 1182 Moravia became independent, and thereafter the margraves of Moravia exercised the right of appointment. Premysl Ottokar I, in 1207, granted to the Church of Olmutz freedom from taxes and to the chapter the right of electing the bishop. Innocent III confirmed this grant. After the death of Ottokar II, Rudolph of Hapsburg appointed Bishop Bruno regent in Moravia. Charles IV, in 1343, made Prague the metropolitan see for Leitomischl and Olmutz. The bishopric, as a vassal principality of the Bohemian crown, was the peer of the margravate of Moravia, and from 1365 its prince-bishop was Count of the Bohemian Chapel, i.e. first court chaplain who was to accompany the monarch on his frequent travels. In 1380 the cathedral and the residence of the prince-bishop were both destroyed by fire. During this period the following orders were established: the Premon-stratensians (Hradisch, Klosterbriuck); Cistercians (Velehrad); the Franciscans and the Dominicans during the lives of their founders; the Teutonic Knights. On the other hand there arose the sects of the Albigenses, Flagellants, Waldensians (Apostolic Brethren, Brethren of the Holy Ghost), Hussites (Bohemian Brethren, Grubenheimer, Picardians). Thus it happened that Protestantism found a well-prepared field. Lutheranism was preached by Speratus at Iglau; Hubmaier and Huter were Baptists. Exiled from Switzerland and Germany, the Anabaptists came in droves into Moravia; Lcelius Socinus, on his homeward journey from Poland to Turin, successfully sowed the seed of Socinianism. Bishop Dubraysky (Dubravius), famous as an author and historian, encouraged the disheartened Catholics (1553). The thirty-three volumes of his hjstory of Bohemia, his five books on fish-raising (piscatology), and the work entitled “Veber das heilige Messopfer” justify his reputation.

The Reform movement was finally arrested by the Jesuits. Three of them reached Olmiitz in 1566 and rapidly acquired influence and power. Bishop Prusinovsky granted them a convent and turned over to them the schools as well as the projected university. At a synod strict orders and regulations were adopted. His fourth successor, Pavlovsky, accomplished wonders in carrying out the decrees of the Council of Trent. Rudolph II conferred upon him the title of duke and prince and made him a member of the royal chapel. The canons whom he gathered at Olmfltz were distinguished for learning and virtue. The most important bishop of this see during the Reformation period was Cardinal Franz Dietrichstein (d. 1636), son of Adam, major-domo of the imperial household. He governed the see for thirty-seven years, and accomplished extraordinary things both as statesman and ecclesiastic. His work, of course, met with considerable opposition. He was imprisoned at Briinn, and the See of Olmiitz was abolished. Johannes Sarkander, parish priest of Holleschau, became a martyr for the secrecy of the confessional at Olmiitz, March 17, 1620, and in 1860 he was canonized. Better days soon appeared. The title of prince was conferred on both the cardinal and his brother, whose descendants were to inherit the title. Amos Comenius (Komenzky), the last “senior” of the Bohemian Brethren, fled to Poland. Pre-eminent as a pedagogue his influence was felt later on in the intellectual life of his country. Dietrichstein was succeeded by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, son of Ferdinand II, and by Charles Joseph, son of Ferdinand III. In 1663 Charles Joseph was elected Bishop of Breslau and Olmiitz, with a dispensation from Alexander VII, as he was scarcely fourteen years of age; but died the following year. In 1693 Charles, son of Duke Charles of Lorraine, at the age of twenty-three, became sub-deacon and exercised the administrative power in temporal affairs; four years later he obtained the spiritual administration. The dissolution of the Society of Jesus in 1773 affected three hundred and sixty-eight professors in nine colleges of Moravia. In the same year Clement XIV withdrew from the chapter the right of electing its bishop; it was restored, however, by Pius VI.

Maria Theresa, in 1777, raised Olmutz to the dignity of an archbishopric, and subordinated to it the newly-founded See of Briinn. The archdiocese was divided into eight archpresbyterates and fifty-two deaneries. When the toleration edict of Joseph II appeared in 1781, whole districts forsook the Church. The inhabitants since the Counter-Reformation had been Protestants in secret. The emperor therefore ordered those desirous of renouncing the Catholic belief to make known in person their intention to the Commission on Religion. When Emperor Joseph began the dissolution of the monasteries, there were in Moravia and Silesia two thousand monks in eighty-three houses. From the sale of this ecclesiastical property, the so-called “Religion Fund”, many parishes were established, three in Olmutz alone. In the rural parts the parishes were not to be more than four miles apart. The parish priests received a stipend of four hundred florins, a local chaplain three hundred florins, and an assistant two hundred florins. The third Archbishop of Olmutz was Archduke Rudolph, brother of Emperor Francis. Cardinal Maximilian Joseph, Freiherr von Somerau-Beckh, had, in 1848, as adviser and assistant, the brilliant chancellor Kutschker. On December 2 of the same year, in the throne room of the prince-archbishop’s residence, Francis Joseph assumed the imperial scepter. While the Austrian Parliament sat at Kremsier, Olmutz was the political capital of Austria. Eighty years old, Somerau-Beckh attended the great assembly of bishops in Vienna in 1849. Here he proposed by legal enactment to abolish the rule requiring every member of the Olmiitz chapter to be of noble birth, because this rule was contrary to the spirit of Christianity and the laws of the Church, and an injustice to the untitled clergy of the diocese. The Olmiitz chapter for a long time opposed this proposition both at Rome and at the imperial court, but without success. The two last prince-bishops have also been commoners. Cardinal Fürstenberg rebuilt in splendid Gothic style the cathedral with its three towers, carefully preserving the individuality of the old church. The Concordat of Vienna (1448) provided that if any high dignitary of the Church resigned or died while in Rome, the pope should have the right to fill the vacancy thus caused. This he did, when Archbishop Theodor Kohn resigned his office in Rome on account of his great age, and the Bishop of Briinn, Francis Sal. Bauer was appointed archbishop.

At the present (1910) Moravia has two and one half million inhabitants of whom over ninety-five per-cent are Catholics, less than three percent Protestants, and nearly two per cent Hebrews. In the Archdiocese of Olmiitz there are 1,785,000 Catholics; 1,507 priests; 220 male and 1,547 female inmates of religious houses. The episcopal city has a population of 22,000.


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