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Archbishop of Trier and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire (1285-1354)

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Baldwin, Archbishop of Trier and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, b. 1285; d. 1354; he belonged to the noble family of the Counts of Luxemburg, or Lutzelburg, and was a brother of the Emperor Henry VII. When he was only three years of age, his father, Count Henry III, was killed in battle. The charge of Baldwin’s education, therefore, devolved on his mother, Beatrix of Avesnes, and his brother, the future emperor. Being exceptionally talented, he was sent at the early age of thirteen to the University of Paris, where, under the direction of two private tutors, he received a thorough education. In 1305, when the Archbishop of Mainz died, Henry wished to procure this archiepiscopal see and electorate for his brother, and sent his former physician, Peter Aichspalter, then Bishop of Basle, to Pope Clement V, at Avignon, with instructions to use his influence in behalf of Baldwin. The pope, however, refused to entrust the most important archiepiscopal see of Germany to a youth who was then only nineteen years old. When Aichspalter, shortly after, cured the pope of a severe sickness, he was himself made Archbishop of Mainz, with the understanding, it seems, that Baldwin was to succeed the aged Archbishop Diether of Trier. Accordingly, when Diether died in 1307, Baldwin became Archbishop and Elector of Trier. He was consecrated, March 11, 1308, at Poitiers by the pope himself and took possession of his archbishopric on the 2d of June, in the same year.

Though only twenty-two years old, Baldwin had many qualities which fitted him for the triple office of bishop, prince, and elector. Without levying special taxes he paid off within a short time the many debts incurred by his predecessor, and he fearlessly asserted his rights of sovereignty over the refractory municipal authorities of Trier. Shortly after the new archbishop’s consecration the Emperor Albert was murdered (May, 1308), and Baldwin, acting with Archbishop Aichspalter of Mainz, prevailed upon the other electors to award the imperial crown to Henry of Luxemburg. During the short reign of Henry VII (1309-13) Baldwin was his brother’s most influential adviser and accompanied him in his expeditions through the empire and to Rome. After Henry’s death he desired as emperor his nephew, King John of Bohemia, then only eighteen years old. However, seeing the futility of his efforts to win the other electors for King John, and fearing the election of Frederick of Austria, who was hostile to the house of Luxemburg, Baldwin urged the election of Louis of Bavaria. But all his attempts to gain over the opposing electors were unsuccessful, and a double election resulted. During the civil war of eight years which ensued he fought on the side of Louis the Bavarian, and contributed largely to his final success. In the conflict between Louis and Pope John XXII, which was equally disastrous to Church and Empire, Baldwin also sided with Louis, and for this reason did not receive the papal approbation when the Cathedral Chapter of Mainz postulated him as successor to Aichspalter (who d. June 5, 1320). Upon the death, in 1328, of Matthias, whom the pope had appointed Archbishop of Mainz, to succeed Aichspalter, Baldwin was again postulated as archbishop by the Cathedral Chapter of Mainz, took possession of the archdiocese, and administered it nearly nine years (1328-37) despite the protests of the pope, who had appointed Henry Virneburg to the position. On the 16th of July, 1338, he took an important part in the meeting of the imperial electors at Rense, near Coblenz, where they protested against all papal interference in the election of the emperors and decided that the emperor elected by them could exercise his imperial authority without the approbation of the pope. When Clement VI renewed the ex-communication of Louis the Bavarian, and there was hope that Charles IV, a grandnephew of Baldwin, would receive the imperial crown, Baldwin finally abandoned the Bavarian and at a meeting at Rense (July 11, 1346) prevailed upon the other electors to declare Louis deposed and elect Charles IV emperor. Baldwin crowned the new emperor at Aachen, July 26, 1349.

Within his own diocese Baldwin successfully fought against the many robber-barons who at that time infested Europe. He destroyed their strongholds and forced the barons to submit to the laws or leave his domain. He promoted commerce by erecting the bridge which still spans the River Moselle at Coblenz. Numerous churches in various parts of the diocese were built by him, and many wholesome decrees were passed at the synods which he convoked. But Baldwin, the bishop, dwindles beside Baldwin, the soldier and statesman. During the forty-six years of his reign (1308-54) the destinies of the German Empire were largely guided by the powerful hands of this prelate-prince. He was a shrewd diplomat and a brave soldier, but above all he was a member of the house of Luxemburg, and its aggrandizement was the mainspring of his political activities. The Avignonese popes, John XXII and Clement VI, may have set up unjust claims in regard to the imperial office, but there is no justification for Baldwin’s siding with Louis the Bavarian even after that emperor was deservedly excommunicated. There may have been palliating circumstances as to his administration of the Archdiocese of Mainz in opposition to the pope’s command, but, as a subject of the pope, he should have submitted. He was the author of the so-called “Balduineum”, a collection of documents relating to the possessions and privileges of Trier, together with a series of pictures bearing on Henry’s expedition to Rome, which was republished at Berlin in 1881. His remains lie in the Cathedral of Trier.


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