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Diocese of Brixen

Prince-Bishopric of Austria, suffragan of Salzburg

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Brixen, Diocese of, a Prince-Bishopric of Austria, suffragan of Salzburg, embracing the greater part of Northern Tyrol (with the exception of the part east of the Zillerbach, which belongs to Salzburg), as well as all Vorarlberg, and containing c. 6,705 square miles, and over 440,000 inhabitants.

I. HISTORY.—The Diocese of Brixen is the continuation of that of Saben (Sabiona), which, according to legend, was founded by St. Cassian. As early as the third century Christianity penetrated Sabiona, at that time a Roman custom station of considerable commercial importance. The first Bishop of Saben vouched for by history is Ingenuin, mentioned about 580, who appears as suffragan of the Patriarch of Aquileia. The tribes who pushed into the territory of the present Diocese of Brixen, during the great migratory movements, especially the Bajuvari and Langobardi, accepted Christianity at an early date; only the Slays of the Puster valley (Pustertal) persisted in paganism until the eighth century. In the second half of the tenth century Bishop Rihpert (appointed 967) or Bishop Albuin I (967-1005) had the seat of the diocese, which since 798 has been under the Metropolitan of Salzburg, transferred to Brixen. Bishop Hartwig (1020-39) raised Brixen to the rank of a city, and surrounded it with fortifications. The diocese received many grants from the German emperors: thus from Conrad II in 1027 the Norital, from Henry IV in 1091 the Pustertal. In 1179 Frederick I conferred on the bishop the title and dignity of a prince of the German Empire. This accounts for the fact that during the difficulties between the papacy and the empire, the Bishops of Brixen generally took the part of the emperors; particularly notorious is the case of Altwin, during whose episcopate (1049-91) the ill-famed pseudo-synod of 1080 was held in Brixen, at which thirty bishops, partisans of the emperor, declared Pope Gregory VII deposed, and set up as antipope the Bishop of Ravenna.

The temporal power of the diocese soon suffered a marked diminution through the action of the bishops themselves who bestowed large sections of their territory in fief on temporal lords, as for example, in the eleventh century countships in the Inntal and the Eisacktal granted to the Counts of Tyrol, and in 1165 territory in the Inntal and the Pustertal to the Counts of Andechs-Meran. The Counts of Tyrol, in particular, who had fallen heir in large part to the territories of the Count of Meran, constantly grew in power; Bishop Bruno (1249-88) had difficulty in asserting his authority over a section of his territory against the claims of Count Meinhard of Tyrol. Likewise Duke Frederick IV, who was called the Penniless, compelled the Bishops of Brixen to acknowledge his authority. The dissensions between Cardinal Nicholas of Cuss (1450-64), appointed by Pope Nicholas V Bishop of Brixen, and Archduke Sigmund were also unfortunate; the cardinal was made a prisoner, and although the pope placed the diocese under an interdict, Sigmund came out victor in the struggle.

The Reformation was proclaimed in the Diocese of Brixen during the episcopate of Christoph I von Schrofenstein (1509-21) by German emissaries, like Strauss, Urban Regius, and others. In 1525, under Bishop Georg III of Austria (1525-39), a peasants’ uprising broke out in the vicinity of Brixen, and several monasteries and strongholds were destroyed. The promise of King Ferdinand I, civil ruler of Tyrol to redress the grievances of the peasants restored tranquility, and at a diet held at Innsbruck, the most important demands of the peasants were acceded to. Although in 1532 these promises were withdrawn, peace remained undisturbed. Ferdinand I and his son Archduke Ferdinand II, in particular, as civil rulers took active measures against the adherents of the new teachings, chiefly the Anabaptists, who had been secretly propagating their sect; thus they preserved religious unity in the district of Tyrol and the Diocese of Brixen. At this time important services were rendered in safeguarding the Catholic Faith by the Jesuits, Capuchins, Franciscans, and Servites. Chief among the bishops of the period were: Cardinal Andreas of Austria (1591-1600), and Christoph IV von Spaur (1601-13), who in 1607 founded a seminary for theological students, enlarged the cathedral school, and distinguished himself as a great benefactor of the poor and sick. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw a great reawakening of religious life in the Diocese of Brixen; many monasteries were founded, new missions for the cure of souls established, and the religious instruction of the people greatly promoted; in 1677 the University of Innsbruck was founded. The most prominent bishops of this period were: Kaspar Ignaz, Count von Kunigl (1702-47), who founded many benefices for the care of souls, made diocesan visitations, kept a strict watch over the discipline and moral purity of his clergy, introduced missions under Jesuit Fathers, etc.: Leopold, Count von Spaur (1747-78), who rebuilt the seminary, completed and consecrated the cathedral, and enjoyed the high esteem of Empress Maria Theresa; Joseph Philipp, Count von Spaur (1780-91), a friend of learning, who, however, in his ecclesiastical policy, leaned towards Josephinism. The Government of Emperor Joseph dealt roughly with church interests; about twenty monas-teries of the diocese were suppressed, a general semi-nary was opened at Innsbruck, and pilgrimages and processions were forbidden.

It was Bishop Franz Karl, Count von Lodron (1791-1828), who was to see the collapse of the temporal power of the diocese. In 1803 the principality was secularized, and annexed to Austria, and the cathedral chapter dissolved. During the brief rule of Bavaria the greatest despotism was exercised towards the Church; the restoration of Austrian supremacy (1814) improved conditions for the diocese. By the papal Bull “Ex imposito” (May 2, 1818) a new circumscription was given to the diocese which in this way received a considerable increase in territory; Vorarlberg, in particular, which had previously been divided among the three dioceses of Chur, Constance, and Augsburg, was added to the Diocese of Brixen. Vorarlberg was, as a matter of fact, to form a separate diocese, with Feldkirch as see, but this plan has never been put into execution; Vorarlberg is now administered by a vicar-general residing at Feldkirch, who, as a rule, is the auxiliary bishop of Brixen. In 1825 the cathedral chapter was reestablished. All during the nineteenth century the episcopal see was occupied by distinguished men who safeguarded the unity of the Faith in the diocese, as is instanced in the enforced removal in 1830 of the Protestant families of the Zillertal, who actively championed the rights and privileges of the Church, and by missions and diocesan visitations, and by the introduction of religious orders endeavored, with success, to raise the religious life of their diocese to a higher level. Karl Franz was succeeded by Bernhard Galura (1828-56), Vincenz Gasser (1856-79), Johann IX von Leiss, Laimburg (1879-84), Simon Aichner (1884-1904), who resigned March 5, 1904, and Joseph Altenweisel (1904).

II. STATRSTRES.—According to the figures for 1907 the Diocese of Brixen includes at the present time 438,448 Catholics in 501 spiritual charges. There are 28 deaneries, 6 in Vorarlberg, 380 parishes, 75 stations (Exposituren), 215 benefices and chaplaincies, and 725 primary schools with 1,333 classes. The cure of souls is exercised by 879 secular priests, and 580 regulars, 14 members of religious orders being at present outside the diocese. The cathedral chapter consists of 3 dignities (I mitred provost, 1 dean, and 1 scholasticus), 4 capitular and 6 honorary canons. The prince-bishop as well as the members of the chapter, with the exception of the provost, are appointed by the emperor. In addition to the cathedral chapter there is a collegiate chapter of six canons at Innichen, a provost at Ehrenburg, and one at St. Gerold. Of the spiritual charges, 180 are subject to the free collation of the bishop, in 97 the municipality has the right of patronage, in 47 the right of patronage belongs to private individuals, in 87 to the Government or exchequer, in 15 to the religious fund, in 76 to religious corporations and monasteries. For the training of theologians there is a theological faculty at the University of Innsbruck with 17 professors, members of the Society of Jesus, and 352 theological students (many of them from the United States). There is a diocesan theological school in Brixen, with 8 professors; a seminary at Brixen, with 113 candidates for Holy orders (30 of them from other dioceses); the Seminarium Vincentinum (a diocesan preparatory seminary and gymnasium) with 21 professors; and the Cassianeum, with 3 professors and 51 students. Moreover, there are religious professors in the civil Higher Gymnasium at Brixen, and six other intermediate schools for boys conducted by the State.

Religious congregations o/ men possess 44 houses,. and in 1907 numbered about 1,213 members, including 594 priests, 185 clerics, 348 lay brothers, 86 novices. There are two houses of Augustinian canons (at Neustift and Wilton), with 97 Fathers, 8 clerics, 3 lay brothers, and 4 novices; 2 Cistercian foundations (at Stams and Mehreran), with 84 Fathers, 9 clerics, 25 lay brothers, and 16 novices; 3 Benedictine foundations (at Fiecht, Marienberg, and Bregenz), with 48 Fathers, 5 clerics, 25 lay brothers, and 5 novices; 1 Benedictine priory (at Innsbruck), with 3 branch houses, 8 Fathers, 7 clerics, 61 lay brothers, and 19 novices; 3 Jesuit colleges (at Innsbruck, Feldkirch, and Tisis), with 100 priests, 59 clerics, 66 lay brothers, and 17 novices; 2 Redemptorist colleges, with 19 Fathers, 13 brothers, and 1 novice; 3 Servite monasteries, with 18 Fathers, 16 cierics, 10 brothers, and 4 novices; 8 Franciscan monasteries, with 100 Fathers, 23 clerics, 69 brothers, and 3 novices; 13 Capuchin monasteries with 100 Fathers and 59 brothers; 1 foundation of the Society of the Divine Word (Salvatorians), with 9 priests and 8 brothers; 1 mission house of St. Joseph at Brixen (with a branch at Mill Hill), with 6 priests and 11 clerics; 1 house of the Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Heart of Jesus, with 5 Fathers, 13 clerics, 9 lay brothers, and 17 novices; 1 foundation of the School Brothers, with 11 clerics. Besides the houses of theological studies for the members of the different orders, among the orders already mentioned, the Benedictines conduct in Fiecht a Konvikt (house of studies) for boys, and a school, the Cistercians in Mehreran a Konvikt for boys, the Jesuits a boarding school and gymnasium at Feldkirch (the celebrated institution known as the Stella Matutina), the School Brothers a seminary for teachers and a trade school, the Salvatorians a college, the Sons of the Most Holy Heart of Jesus an Apostolic school, and the Franciscans a Higher Gymnasium at Halle.

Religious congregations of women have established 234 religious houses with branches, about 2,644 sisters being within the limits of the diocese; these include 490 choir sisters, 1,884 lay sisters, and 270 novices. The various houses are divided as follows: the Poor Clares, 2 with 65 sisters; the Dominicans, 4 with 173 sisters; the Dominicans of the Third Order, 2 with .38 sisters; the Redemptorist sisters, 1 with 18 members; the Ursulines, 2 with 136 sisters; the Carmelites, 1 with 18 sisters; the Salesian Sisters, 1 with 54 members; the Cistercians, 1 with 39 members; the Sisters• of Divine Adoration, 1 with 51 members; the English Ladies, 1 institute with 79 members; the Tertiary Sisters, 6 houses and 13 branches, with 158 sisters; the Ladies of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1 with 99 sisters; the Poor-School Sisters of Notre Dame, 2 with 27 members; the Benedictines, 1 monastery with .5 sisters; the Sisters of the High German Order, 1 house with 3 sisters. The Sisters of Mercy have a mother-house in Innsbruck with 92 branch houses and 931 sisters, and one at Zams with 72 branches and 608 sisters. The Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross have 1 provincial house at Innsbruck with 26 branches and 131 sisters. The orders and congregations of women are engaged almost exclusively in the training of girls, and the care of the sick, children, and the aged, etc. The above-named congregations have charge of 8 educational institutions, 1 lyceum for girls, 12 industrial schools, 82 schools for girls, 41 schools for boys and girls, 46 creches, 3 hospitals, 7 orphan asylums, 23 asylums, 3 sanatoria, 56 homes for the poor, 2 public insane asylums, 2 houses for lepers, 1 institution for the deaf and dumb, 4 homes for servants, 1 asylum for priests in ill health, and about 25 other charitable institutions.

The cathedral of the Diocese of Brixen dates, in its present form, from the eighteenth century, having been built between 1745 and 1758. The only remains of the earlier Gothic building is the cloister, which contains frescoes and monuments dating from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. Other prominent ecclesiastical buildings of the diocese are: the Court or Franciscan church at Innsbruck, in which is the celebrated monument to Emperor Maximilian I; the Jesuit church at Innsbruck, built between 1620 and 1640 in barocco style; the Gothic cathedral at Feldkirch, built in 1478; the Cistercian church at Mehreran; the fifteenth-century parish church of Schwaz, built in Gothic style, and others. Among the places of pilgrimage are: Absam, St. Georgenberg near Feubach, Maria Waldrast near Deutsch-Matrei, the pilgrimage church on the Frauenberg near Rankweil, that on the Gebhardsberg near Bregenz, and others.


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