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Diocese of Culm

A bishopric in the north-eastern part of Prussia, founded in 1234, suffragan to Gnesen

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Culm, Diocese of, a bishopric in the northeastern part of Prussia, founded in 1234, suffragan to Gnesen. The territory on the Vistula and Baltic, which the Teutonic Order had obtained partly by gift and partly by conquest, was divided in this year by the papal legate, William Bishop of Modena, into the four dioceses of Culm, Ermland, Pomesanien, and Samland; in 1255 the Archbishop of Riga became the metropolitan of these dioceses. The Bishopric of Culm embraced the province of Culm, that is, the land between the Vistula, Drewenz, and Ossa rivers, and in addition, the city of Lobau and its surrounding district. Pope Innocent IV consecrated as first bishop the Dominican, Heidenreich (1245; d. 1263). Originally the seat of the diocese was Culmsee, where Heidenreich began in 1254 the construction of a cathedral. The bishop possessed the highest authority, both spiritual and secular, in his diocese; he was the ruler of the land, but was in some measure dependent on the Teutonic Order. During the episcopate of the first bishop, the cathedral chapter, founded in 1251, followed the Rule of St. Augustine, but the second bishop, Friedrich of Hansen (1264-74), allowed the chapter to enter the Teutonic Order, taking its endowment with it. Not only was Friedrich a member of the Teutonic Order but most of his successors in the episcopal office until 1466 also belonged to it. Under the powerful protection of the Knights rapid progress was made in cultivating the soil and in Christianizing the inhabitants. Many flourishing communities and numerous schools and churches were founded, an excellent system of courts was provided, and the Dominican, Franciscan, and Cistercian orders were introduced. As early as the reign of the seventh bishop, Otto (1324-49), who was a secular priest, there were 113 parishes and 538 priests. The most celebrated schools of the diocese were the “Johannes” school at Thorn and the cathedral school at Culm; the latter was changed in 1473 into a studium particulare and had celebrated professors, among whom were Johannes Dantiscus, Eobanus Hessus, etc.

On account of its close connection with the Teutonic Knights, the diocese was involved in the disputes of the order with Poland. By the second Treaty of Thorn, 1466, the order was obliged to cede the province of Culm, with other territories, to Poland. The bishopric was now reconstructed as a secular diocese, the bishops were named by the kings of Poland, and nobles only were appointed as members of the cathedral chapter. The heresies of Hus and Wyclif found many adherents in the Diocese of Culm in the fifteenth century, and thus the ground was prepared for the religious revolution of the sixteenth. In the larger towns especially, such at Danzig, Elbing, and Thorn, the doctrines of Luther won numerous supporters, against whom the bishop, Johannes IV Konopacki (1508-30), showed himself lacking in moral force. It was only through the exertions of the Dominicans, who had remained loyal, that King Sigismund I took more severe measures against the innovations. The zealous and spiritual-minded Johann V von Hof:- generally called Dantiscus (1530-38), labored to maintain the Catholic Faith, as did also Tiedemann Giese (1538-49), the friend of Copernicus, and Stanislaus Hosius (1549-51), who, after an episcopate of two years, was transferred to the See of Ermland. Nevertheless Protestantism took firm root in Thorn, Graudenz, Marienburg, and other towns. Peter I Kostka (1574-95) was the reformer of the diocese; through his efforts a provincial council was held at Gnesen at which the Diocese of Culm was placed under the metropolitan control of Gnesen, the Archbishopric of Riga having been suppressed in 1566. Kostka also held a diocesan synod at Culm in 1583, promulgated the decrees of the Council of Trent, reformed the monasteries of the diocese, and introduced the Jesuits in 1593. The preservation of Catholicism in the diocese, as well as the reconquest of many souls that had gone astray, was due to the effective labors of the Jesuits and of the orders which were success fully reestablished.

The fall of the Kingdom of Poland brought the diocese into new relations. In 1772, in consequence of the first Partition of Poland, it came under the control of Prussia, to which, with a short interruption (1807-15), it has ever since belonged. Under Prussian auspices Protestantism again increased largely in the diocese; in 1772 the possessions of the bishop, the cathedral chapter, and many monasteries were confiscated, and Protestant colonists were settled through-out the province. In this way, and also on account of the confusion of the Napoleonic era, the diocese fell into decay. For lack of a proper residence, the forty-ninth bishop, Franz Xaver Count Wrbna-Rydzynski, was only once in his diocese. After his death the see was vacant for ten years, and the diocese was administered by the coadjutor bishop, Nalecz Wilkxycki. The Bull “De salute animarum”, 1821, which provided for the reorganization of the Prussian dioceses, gave Culm new boundaries; to the old diocese were added parts of the Dioceses of Leslau, Gnesen, Plock, and of the former Diocese of Pomesanien. In 1824 the seat of the bishop and the chap-ter was fixed at Pelplin, where it still remains. The new diocese suffered above all from the lack of priests, the suppression of the monasteries, and the poverty of the Catholic population. Bishop Ignatius Matthy (1824-32) bent all his energies to the founding of a seminary for priests. Anastasius Sedlag (1834-56) made it his aim to give the diocese a uniform administration, to safeguard the property still remaining to the Church after its great losses, to promote the development of a capable clergy, and to increase the number of priests. In the same way Johannes Nepomuk von der Marwitz (1857-86) devoted his entire attention to the founding of new cures and the reorganization of the old parishes. Unfortunately the diocese suffered greatly during the ecclesiastical struggle (Kulturkampf) with the Prussian Government. After peace had been restored the bishopric prospered again under Leo Redner (1886-98) and Augustinus Rosentreter (consecrated July 9, 1899). In this period the diocese iii some measure recovered from its losses; the suppressed monasteries have been partly refilled with religious, and new institutions of learning under the supervision of the Church have been founded. However, it still suffers from the effects of its earlier losses, and from the lack of laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.

STATISTICS.—The present Diocese of Culm includes the Prussian province of West Prussia with the exception of five Government districts; it also includes two districts of East Prussia, two of Pomerania, and that of Bromberg belonging to Posen. The see embraces altogether 409 square miles. In 1900 it had a Catholic population of 769,166 souls; in 1907, 780,000. The cathedral chapter is composed of two dignitaries, the cathedral provost and the cathedral dean, and eight prebends. In 1907 there were 4 episcopal commissariats, 27 deaneries, 275 parishes, 476 priests, 275 parish churches, 77 dependent churches, 9 other churches, and 37 chapels. Institutions of learning under religious control are: the episcopal seminary for priests at Pelplin with 5 professors; the episcopal seminary for boys at Pelplin with 12 ecclesiastical teachers; the episcopal houses of studies at Culm, Konitz, and Neustadt. In the three towns just mentioned the gymnasia are Catholic in character. The diocese also possesses 4 Catholic seminaries for teachers, and 2 higher schools for girls. Orders for men have not existed in the diocese since the religious struggle (Kulturkampf) with the Government. The orders and congregations for women devote their attention almost exclusively to the care of the sick, the poor, and the children; but they are not permitted to give elementary instruction. In 1906 the orders and congregations of female religious were: Sisters of Mercy of St. Vin-cent de Paul, 6 houses with 102 religious; Sisters of Mercy of St. Charles Borromeo, 2 houses with 39 religious; Sisters of St. Elizabeth, 12 houses with 103 religious; Sisters of St. Francis, 2 houses with 22 religious. These religious have under their care 11 hospitals and asylums, 8 day-nurseries, 1 housekeeping school, 1 needle-work school, 1 institution for sick and old religious, 1 home for servants, 1 reform institution for girls, 4 orphanages, and 12 stations for visiting nurses.

The cathedral, formerly a Cistercian abbey church, is the most important church building of the diocese; it is a brick Gothic structure with three naves, was erected in the fourteenth century, and completely restored, 1894-99. Other churches of note are: the parish church of Culmsee, built 1254-94 and used as the cathedral until 1824; the parish church of Culm, built in 1223; the churches of St. John, St. James, and St. Mary, all three erected in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. The most frequented places of pilgrimage are Maria-Lonk near Neumark (the miraculous picture of the Mother of God is now in the parish church of Neumark), and Mount Calvary near Neustadt with twenty-four chapels.


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