I. HISTORY.—After the introduction of Christianity under Charlemagne and Louis the German, the present Diocese of Leitmeritz formed part of the Diocese of Ratisbon. Before the end of the tenth century the Christian religion was so widespread that Emperor Otto I founded the first Bohemian diocese (Prague) in 973, which included all Bohemia. The first church in Leitmeritz, dedicated to St. Wenceslaus, was built in 925, while in 1057 Duke Spitihnew built St. Stephen’s church and founded a collegiate chapter. In time numerous monasteries were built; in 1384 the city, with its suburbs, possessed thirteen churches and chapels, and, besides numerous religious, twenty secular priests engaged in the cure of souls. The Hussite Wars put an end to this flourishing ecclesiastical organization. In 1421 Ziska appeared before Leitmeritz, which was spared only on condition of accepting the Hussite religion. The collegiate church alone, despoiled of its possessions, held firm to the old rite of Communion under one kind. Hussitism was the forerunner of Protestantism, which found the ground already prepared on account of the long religious wars, the decline of learning among ecclesiastics, the lack of priests, and the insubordination of the nobles, who had become rich and powerful through the wealth and possessions of the Church. At first the nobility accepted the teaching of Luther, and in many cities the transition from Utraquism to Lutheranism soon followed. Through the priest Gallus Cahera, a disciple of Luther, Leitmeritz was also won over to Protestantism. The Thirty Years War brought a reaction. By the victorious campaign of the emperor in Bohemia the revolutionary nobles were overthrown, the cities lost their privileges, and the people emigrated or again became Catholics. For the better administration of the large Archdiocese of Prague, the bishop of that time, Count Ernst Adalbert von Harrach, a nephew of Wallenstein, divided its territory, and created the dioceses of Koniggratz (q.v.) and Leitmeritz as its suffragans.
In 1655 the then provost of the collegiate chapter of Leitmeritz, Baron Max Rudolf von Schleinitz, was named first Bishop of Leitmeritz (1655-75). He built the cathedral to replace the small collegiate church, organized the diocese, and expended his whole fortune on the improvement of his see. His successor, Count Jaroslaus Franz Ignaz von Sternberg (1676-1709), finished the cathedral and erected the episcopal curia (1694-1701). The fourth bishop, Johann Adam, Count Wratislaus von Mitrowitz (1721-33), appears to have administered also the Archdiocese of Prague. In the Seven Years War, during the administration of Duke Moritz Adolf of Sachsen-Zeitz (1733-59), who built the seminary, the diocese had much to suffer from the Prussians. His successor, Count Emanuel Ernst von Waldstein (1760-89), made little opposition to the efforts of the Government to spread through the diocese the ideas of Febronius; the convents of the Jesuits, Augustinians, Servites, etc. were confiscated, many churches closed as superfluous, and all brotherhoods disbanded. In 1784 the territory of the diocese was increased by two districts. The next bishop, Ferdinand Kindermann, Ritter von Schulstein (1790-1801), had before his appointment to the bishopric won deserved fame as a reformer and organizer of the whole educational system of Bohemia; as bishop he continued to direct education in his diocese, built the cathedral parochial school, and erected an institute for the education of girls at Leitmeritz. The eighth bishop, Wenzel Leopold Chlumoansky, Ritter von Prestawlk and Chlumcan (1802-15), a true father of the poor, built the ecclesiastical seminary in 1805. Joseph Franz Hurdalek (1815-1823) was obliged to resign. Vincenz Eduard Milde (1823-32) became Archbishop of Vienna. Augustin Bartholomaus Hine (1832-65) opened in 1851 the school for boys and a normal college. He was succeeded by Augustin Paul Wahala (1866-77), in whose time originated in Warnsdorf the sect of the Old Catholics; Anton Ludwig Frind (1879-81), the learned author of the “Ecclesiastical History of Bohemia“; and Emanuel Johann Schobel (1882-1909), to whom the diocese is indebted for many churches and for the introduction of popular missions: and Joseph Gross (consecrated May 23, 1910).
II. STATISTICS.—In 1909 the diocese numbered 28 vicariates, 2 provostships, 3 archdeaneries, 37 deaneries, 392 parishes, 7 Exposituren (substantially independent filial churches), 343 stations, chaplaincies, and curacies, 26 other benefices, 628 churches, 397 public chapels, 756 secular priests engaged in the cure of souls, 87 other secular priests, 140 religious priests 1,598,900 Catholics, 33,560 Protestants, 10,400 Old Catholics, and 18,300 Jews. The Church in this diocese has much to contend with. For centuries two different races (German and Czech), and two different beliefs (Catholic and Protestant), have existed side by side, and national and religious disputes are of frequent occurrence. The Los-von-Rom movement, having its origin in Germany sought in the Diocese of Leitmer-ritz, situated on the borders, a vantage ground for the propagation of its ideas, and as a result thousands of Catholics drifted away from the Church. Another difficulty is the lack of priests, over a hundred vacancies existing in the parishes. The language spoken in twenty of the vicariates is German, in six Czech, and in two is mixed. More than a third of the priests are Czech. There are 309 German parishes, 95 Czech, and the rest mixed. The cathedral chapter possesses a provost, a dean, five capitulary, and six honorary canons. The clergy are trained in the episcopal seminary and in the theological training school at Leitmeritz. The Catholic intermediate schools of the diocese are the private gymnasium of the Jesuits at Mariaschein, which is at the same time the diocesan school for boys, and five seminaries, of which two are in Reichenberg and one each at Leitmeritz, Teplitz-Schonau, and Jungbunzlau. In the public primary and secondary schools the Church has very little opportunity to impart religious instruction. For girls, however, there are several institutions for instruction and training conducted by sisters: 8 boarding schools, 10 primary schools, 2 secondary schools, and 20 advanced and industrial schools.
The following orders have foundations in the diocese (1909): Cistercians at Ossegg, 1 abbey (founded in 1293), with an extensive library and gallery of paintings; the fathers teach in the Gymnasium of Komotau; Jesuits, 1 college in Mariaschein; Piarists; Redemptorists; Dominicans; Augustinians; Reformed Franciscans; Minorites; Capuchins; Order of Malta; Crosier Fathers; Premonstratensians; the Congregation of the Sacred Heart. In 1909 the female orders and congregations in the diocese had 68 foundations, with 654 sisters, 93 novices, and 15 postulants: Congregation of St. Elizabeth, 1; Ursulines, 1; Borromeans, 23; Sisters of the Cross, 22; Poor School Sisters of Our Lady, 5; Daughters of Divine Charity, 2; Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, 4; Franciscan Sisters, 3; Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, 5; and Sisters of Christian Charity, 1 foundation. Among the charitable institutions of the diocese under religious management are 20 orphan asylums, 7 asylums for children, 14 kindergartens, 1 reformatory, and 20 infant asylums; the diocese conducts also its own institute for the deaf and dumb at Leitmeritz. Of the many associations, the following are worthy of mention: Cacilienverein (Association of St. Cecilia), the Apostleship of Prayer, the Marian Confraternities, the Catholic Teachers’ Association, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Gesellenvereine, the Catholic People’s Unions (60), and others. There are 55 shrines and places of pilgrimage in the diocese, the most popular being Mariaschein, Bohmisch-Kamenitz, Ossegg, Philippsdorf, and Krieschitz. The principal church of the diocese is the cathedral, built in 1671 in Renaissance style. The most ancient is St. Clement’s in Levy-Hradec. Among others, the beautiful churches of Melnik, Nimburg, Aussig and Saaz, the chief churches of their respective deaneries, and the town church of Brux date from Gothic times, and the cathedral, the collegiate church of Ossegg, and the pilgrimage church of Mariaschein from the Renaissance period. The churches of Eichwald, Philippsdorf, St. Vincent in Reichenberg, the church of St. Elizabeth in Teplitz-Schonau, and others, were built in the nineteenth century.