Ermland, or ERMELAND (VARMIENSIS, WARMIA), a district of East Prussia and an exempt bishopric. St. Adalbert of Prague (d. 997) and St. Bruno of Querfurt (d. 1009) converted the early inhabitants of this region, the heathen Prussians, to Christianity and two centuries later Teutonic Knights and members of the Cistercian Order introduced civilization also into the land. Among these latter was the saintly Bishop Christian of Oliva (d. 1245). In 1243 the territorial possessions of the Teutonic Knights were divided into the Dioceses of Culm, Pomesanien, Ermland, and Samland. Albert Suerber, who came from Cologne, and who had been Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, was appointed Archbishop of Prussia. In 1251 he took Riga for his see, a choice which was confirmed by Alexander IV, who in 1255 made Riga the metropolitan of the four dioceses just mentioned. A priest of the Order of Teutontic Knights, Heinrich of Strateich, was selected as the first Bishop of Ermland, but he was not able to enter upon his office. It was not until August 28, 1251, that the first actual Bishop of Ermland, Anselm of Meissen, who was also a priest belonging to the Order of Teutonic Knights, was consecrated at Valenciennes by the papal legate Pietro of Albano. The diocese included the whole of the old Prussian districts of Warmien, Natangen, Barten, and Galindien, the northern half of Pomesanien and the southern halves of Nadrauen and Sudauen. The bishop was given one-third of this territory as personal property for his support, and in this district he was the secular ruler and a prince of the Holy Roman Empire; these rights of the bishop were confirmed in the Golden Bull of the Emperor Charles IV. In 1260 Bishop Anselm founded a chapter of sixteen canons attached to the cathedral of St. Andreas at Braunsberg and transferred to the chapter the right of electing the bishop. But Braunsberg was ravaged by the heathen Prussians in 1262, and the second bishop, Heinrich I (1278-1300), was obliged in 1280 to transfer the chapter to Frauenburg where it has remained ever since.
From the thirteenth century to the fifteenth the history of Ermland was one of constant wars. Repeated rebellions of the native Prussians, incursions of the Lithuanians, and frequent wars with Poland, in which the bishop was always the faithful ally of the Teutonic Order, checked the development of Christianity and the cultivation of the soil. To these disorders were added the constant encroachments and violence of the Teutonic Knights who sought to bring Ermland, like the other Prussian dioceses, under the dominion of the order. Ermland, however, defended its rights with great determination against such efforts, and would not allow the order to influence in any way the election of the bishops and the chapter. Yet in everything else the bishops held faithfully to the order, even when its star began to decline, and the whole territory ruled by the knights revolted in the so-called War of the Cities (1454-66). It was in this period that the celebrated Cardinal Enea Silvio de’ Piccolomini (Aeneas Silvius) was elected (1457) Bishop of Ermland; in the following year, however, he ascended the papal throne as Pius II. The Peace of Thorn (1466) removed the diocese from the protectorate of the Teutonic Knights and placed it under the sovereignty of the King of Poland. This transfer caused the discord to break out afresh, for the King of Poland claimed for himself in Ermland the same right he exercised in the rest of his kingdom, that of naming the bishop. Bishop Nikolaus of Tungen (1467-89) and especially the determined Lukas Watzelrode (1489-1512) energetically opposed these unjust claims and guarded the right of a free election of the bishop. In 1512 the latter bishop obtained from Pope Julius II the release of his diocese from its suffragan connection, always a loose one, with the metropolitan See of Riga. When this relationship was dissolved Ermland was declared an exempt bishopric and has remained such ever since. Bishop Watzelrode was equally successful in regulating the internal affairs of his diocese. On February 20, 1497, he held a diocesan synod at Heilsberg, where the bishops resided until 1800; in 1503 he made new laws for his domain, reorganized the cathedral school at Frauenburg, selecting for it excellent teachers, among whom was his celebrated nephew Copernicus, published the Breviary (Nuremberg, 1494) and the Missal (Strasburg, 1497), etc. His weak successor Fabian of Lozainen (1512-23), however, in the Treaty of Piotrkow (December 7, 1512), conceded to the King of Poland a limited influence in the election of bishops. Existing conditions were, however, entirely changed by the defection to Protestantism of Albrecht of Brandenburg, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, and the two bishops of the order who ruled Samland and Pomesanien, and the secularization of the dominion of the order by the Peace of Cracow (1525). Two-thirds of the former 220 parishes of Ermland went to the two apostate bishops. In these troubled times excellent episcopal rulers saved the diocese from complete defection; among these bishops was the energetic Moriz Ferber (1523-37), who by the ordinances issued in 1526 restored order to his desolated territory; another such bishop was Joannes Dantiscus (1537-48), a noted poet and diplomat, who conscientiously fulfilled his duties as bishop and raised the intellectual life of his clergy (concerning Dantiscus cf. Czaplicki, De vitae et carminibus J. de Curiis Dantisci, Breslau, 1855; Geistliche Gedichte des Dantiscus übersetzt and herausgegeben von Franz Hipler, Münster, 1857).
But the bishops who deserve the greatest praise for holding the diocese to the Catholic Faith when threatened by the surrounding Protestantism were Stanislaus Hosius (1551-79), later a cardinal, who was distinguished for learning and virtue, and Martin Kromer (1579-89), a noted historian. Among the means successfully used for the maintenance of the Faith were the assembling of various diocesan synods, of which the most important was the one held by Hosius in 1565 for the purpose of carrying out the decisions of the Council of Trent; yearly visitations, and above all the founding of the Jesuit College at Braunsberg in 1565 [cf. Duhr, Geschichte der Jesuiten in den Ländern deutscher Zunge (Freiburg im Br., 1907), I, 179 sqq., 307 sqq.]. In addition to these the Congregation of St. Catherine (Katharinerinnen), founded at Braunsberg in 1571 by Regina Prothmann, did effective work in the instruction and training of girls; since the annulment of the right of teaching at the time of the Kulturkampf the congregation has devoted itself almost entirely to the nursing of the sick. In the seventeenth century (1626-30, 1655-56), and at the beginning of the eighteenth century (1703-09), the diocese was repeatedly ravaged by the Swedes, who forcibly suppressed the Catholic Church services and carried away its literary and artistic treasures. At the time of the First Partition of Poland (1772) the whole of Ermland fell to the share of the Kingdom of Prussia. In the Treaty of Warsaw (September 18, 1773), King Friedrich II, it is true, guaranteed the status quo and the free exercise of religion for the Catholics of the annexed provinces, nevertheless all schools and institutions for education and training under religious control were gradually suppressed, and the landed property of the Church secularized.
The Bull “De salute animarum”, of July 16, 1820, readjusted ecclesiastical relations for Ermland as well as for the whole of Prussia. The Diocese of Ermland now received not only the territory which had been forcibly taken from it at the time of the Reformation, but there were incorporated in it as well the whole of the former Diocese of Samland, five deaneries of the former Diocese of Pomesanien, and, in 1854, the country surrounding Marienwerder. Among the more important Bishops of Ermland during the nineteenth century were: Philippus Krementz (1867-85), later cardinal and Archbishop of Cologne, and the successor of Bishop Krementz, Andreas Thiel (1885-1908); after the death of the latter (July 17, 1908), Professor August Bludau of Münster, a native of Ermland, was elected bishop of the diocese (November 26, 1908).
STATISTICS.—The Diocese of Ermland includes the whole province of East Prussia, which is composed of the government districts of Allenstein, Königsberg, and Gumbinnen, but those parts are excepted of the circles (subdivisions of a district) of Neidenburg and Osterode that belong to the Diocese of Culm; in the province of West Prussia Ermland includes the urban and rural circles of Elbing and the circle of Marienburg, all of which are in the government district of Danzig; also the whole circle of Stuhm and a part of the circle of Marienwerder in the government district of Marienwerder belong to the diocese. It is also divided into the following sixteen deaneries, each of which is under the direction of an archpriest: Allenstein, Braunsberg, Elbing, Guttstadt, Heilsberg, Littauen, Marienburg, Masuren, Mehlsack, Neuteich, Rössel, Samland, Seeburg, Stuhm, Wartenburg, Wormditt. In 1908 there were 141 parishes; 37 curacies and vicariates; 67 chaplaincies; 335 diocesan priests viz.: 171 parish priests and curates, 98 assistants, chaplains, and holders of benefices, 66 priests in other positions. Religious—Sisters of St. Catherine, 4 motherhouses (Braunsberg, Heilsberg, Rössel, Wormditt), 82 branch houses, and 364 religious; Grey Sisters (Sisters of St. Elizabeth), 4 houses and 69 religious; Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, 2 houses, 17 religious. The Catholic higher schools of learning are, the Royal Lyceum Hosianum with philosophical and theological faculties, opened in 1818; at the close of 1908 the lyceum had 9 regular professors, 1 adjunct professor, 1 Privatdozent (instructor), 39 students; the seminary for priests at Braunsberg, reorganized in 1832; the gymnasium at Braunsberg, reopened in 1811; the progymnasium (studies not carried so far as in a gymnasium) at Rossel, founded in 1833, and the episcopal seminaries for boys at Braunsberg and Rossel, which are carried on in connection with the last two institutions. The cathedral chapter is established at Frauenburg in the circle (subdistrict) of Braunsberg; since 1800 this city has also been the see of the bishop. The chapter consists of 8 canons, including the two dignitaries, a cathedral provost and a cathedral dean, 4 honorary canons, 5 cathedral vicars. Pope Benedict XIV granted the pallium and the crux gestatoria to the bishops. In 1901 Dr. Eduard Herrmann, a canon of the cathedral, was appointed auxiliary bishop and titular of the See of Cybistra. The Catholics number 327,567 in a total population of about 2,000,000. The most important building of the diocese is the Cathedral of the Assumption at Frauenburg. It is a splendid Gothic structure built of brick and begun by Bishop Heinrich II (1329-34); the choir was consecrated in 1342 and the nave, commenced in 1355, was completed in 1388 when the fine vestibule was finished. The best-known and most visited place of pilgrimage in the diocese is Heiligelinde.