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Free imperial state in the German Empire

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Lubeck, a free imperial state and one of the Hanse towns, is in area the second smallest and in population the twentieth state in the German Empire. The state, which includes the city of Lubeck and its neighborhood, has an area of about 115 sq. m. and a population (1905) of 105,857 inhabitants, of whom 101,724 were Lutherans, 2457 Catholics, and 638 Jews. Of the three Hanse towns which still remain—Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck—Lubeck was the last founded. It was first established in the eleventh century, below the site of the present town, and in the midst of the Slavic tribes dwelling on the coast of the Baltic, and a church was erected there under the protection of Henry the Proud. This settlement, however, proved too weak to withstand the attack of the pagan Slays, and was destroyed early in the twelfth century. In 1143 Count Adolf II of Holstein founded a new colony above the site of the former, at the junction of the Trave and the Wakenitz, and introduced settlers from Flanders, Holland, Westphalia, and Friesland. The rapid development of the town awakened at first the envy of Duke Henry the Lion, and he only began to favor it after its submission to him in 1157. He gave the town a municipal constitution, established a mint there, and made Bishop Gerold transfer to ubeck the seat of the Bishopric of Oldenburg, founded by Otto I for Wagria. In 1173 Henry himself laid the foundation-stone of the Romanesque cathedral, which was completed in 1210. To the east of the town the Johanneskloster was founded in 1177, and occupied by Benedictines from Brunswick.

On the downfall of Henry, the bishopric became immediately subject to the Holy See, while the town itself voluntarily submitted to Frederick Barbarossa, who, in 1188, confirmed its liberties and its territorial boundaries. The commerce of the town developed rapidly, and its ships traversed the whole Baltic Sea. This prosperity by no means diminished with the advent of the Danes, who, under Cnut VI, brought Holstein and Lubeck into subjection in 1201. The victory of the Holsteiners over the Danes at Yornhood, in 1227, restored to Lubeck its complete independence. In 1226 it had been already raised by Frederick II to the rank of a free city of the empire, altnough the emperor had not availed himself of his authority to appoint a protector for its territories. Even the bishop, who resided at first in the area capituli (the Thum or Dom-hof)—but after the middle of the thirteenth century in Eutin, while his chapter remained in the cathedral area—had no secular jurisdiction over the town, whose privileges were ratified by Popes Innocent IV and Alexander IV. What great prestige Lubeck ac-_ quired throughout Northern Germany by its vigorous preservation of its independence, may be inferred from the fact that numerous North German towns adopted the municipal law of Lubeck as the model for their own. The prominent position which Lubeck held in Baltic commerce from the thirteenth century resulted naturally in her taking the leading part in the Hansa, or great confederacy of Low German cities, formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. As head of the Hansa, the importance of Lubeck increased enormously in Northern Europe, until finally it stood at the head of over 100 towns and cities which had adopted its statutes. At times, however, it had to bear the burden of defending the Hansa unassisted, especially against its hereditary foe, Denmark.

In the war of 1362-70, Lubeck captured Copenhagen (1368), and, by the Peace of Stralsund, was appointed arbitrator of the dispute concerning the Danish Crown. The following decades constitute the era of Liibeck’s greatest prosperity. In 1372 its burgomaster was appointed by the emperor. Domestic strife between the patricians and the wilds broke out in Lubeck as elsewhere, but resulted in its case in the maintenance of the rule of the merchant patricians, from whose families were chosen through-out the Middle Ages the four burgomasters and the twenty councillors. The power of Lubeck in the fifteenth century is shown by the emperor’s request, in 1464, that it should arrange peace between the Teutonic Order and the Poles, although the mission of the burgomaster, Castorp, was none too successful. He met with greater success in preventing his city from being drawn into the disputes of the neighboring Scandinavian lands. In the war between Christian I of Denmark and Sweden (1499—), however, Lubeck could not remain neutral; it afforded protection and shelter to the exiled Gustavus Vasa, formed the confederacy of the Wendish towns and Danzig against Christian, in 1521, asserted once more the might of the Hansa in the Baltic, and dispatched with Gustavus Vasa a fleet to blockade Stockholm in 1522. In 1523 Stockholm had to surrender to the Lubeck admirals, and from their hands the newly elected King Vasa of Sweden received the keys of his capital.

The Reformation found a later entrance into Lubeck than into other North-German towns. The initiative in introducing the new doctrine was taken by the middle classes, while the municipal authorities, on account of their friendship for the emperor and the bishop, strongly opposed the innovation. After 1529, however, in consequence of the pecuniary demands of the council, a citizens’ committee of forty-eight members was formed to enquire into the finances of the town. This committee procured a petition of the citizens for the introduction of Lutheran preachers. On June 5, 1530, pursuant to a decree of the citizens which the council could not oppose, Lutheran services were introduced into all the churches of Lubeck except the cathedral, which was under the territorial jurisdiction of the chapter, and all clergymen were forbidden to celebrate Mass until further notice. In consequence of the supineness of the chapter, Lutheran services were held even in the cathedral in July, and it was only in the choir, and at certain hours that Catholic worship was tolerated. The reigning bishop, Heinrich III Bockholt (1523-35), could offer no effective resistance to the Reformation in the town, but he exerted himself to the utmost. After his death, the cathedral chapter, desiring the friendship of the neighboring Protestant princes lest their property should be confiscated, elected bishops of Lutheran views—Detlef von Reventlow (1535) and Balthasar von Rantzow (1536-47). These were succeeded by four Catholic bishops: Jodokus Hodfilter (1547-53), who, however, lived away from his diocese; Theodorich von Reden, who resigned in 1555; Andreas von Barby (1557-79), who did not obtain papal confirmation; and the determined Catholic, Johann Tiedemann (d. 1561). Eberhard von Holle (1564-86) openly espoused Protestantism in 1565, introduced the Reformation almost completely into the cathedral chapter, and, in 1571, surrendered even the choir of the cathedral to the preachers.

With the eleven-year-old Johann Adolf, who was the first bishop to marry (1596), began the succession of bishops from the House of Holstein-Gottorp, in whose possession this bishopric—the only Lutheran bishopric of Germany—remained, even after the Peace of Westphalia, until the secularization of 1803. Most of the canonries also fell into the hands of the Protestants: on January 1, 1624, the Catholics still occupied 6 canonries, 13 vicarships, and 4 prebends in the cathedral; at the end of the seventeenth century they held only four canonries. It was owing to the continued existence of a remnant of Catholic property within the city that Catholicism did not utterly perish in Lubeck. The care of the few Catholics there (in 1709, fourteen families with sixty members within the city and about forty outside) was entrusted to a missionary paid by the canons. This missionary was, as a rule, one of the Jesuits who, from 1651, were permanently established within the cathedral domain, or area. The Catholics of Lubeck repeatedly received imperial letters of protection in favor of the free practice of their religion. In 1683 the Catholic clergy were granted the right of holding service within the cathedral area and administering the sacraments, and the right of the Catholics of the city to attend these services and receive the sacraments was never afterwards disputed. Concerning the right to administer the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony, disputes afterwards arose, and, for the periods 1705-14 and 1775-1805, the Catholic priests did not dare to baptize or marry in public. The Jesuits resided with the canons until 1702, when they founded a separate establishment in which they held Catholic worship until 1773. On the suppression of their order, the fathers at first continued their pastoral duties as secular priests, but other secular priests succeeded them in course of time. It was the French domination, in 1811, which first brought an extension of religious freedom for Catholics.

In the sixteenth century the political importance of Lubeck declined. The rash efforts of Burgomaster Jurgen Wullenweber (1533-35) to oust Dutch trade from the Baltic, to revive Lubeck’s hegemony there, and, in union with Count Christopher of Oldenburg, to restore the exiled Christian II of Denmark to his throne, ended, after some initial successes, unfortunately, and led to the decay of Lubeck. Once more did it appear as an important political factor, when war broke out between Denmark and Sweden in 1563, and Lubeck sustained, in union with the former, a vigorous and successful naval conflict against Sweden. The Peace of Stettin, in 1570, guaranteed the town many of its claims, but the heavy cost of the war had imposed such a burden on it that it was henceforth with-out the resources for carrying on war. With the diminution, through various causes, of the power and influence of the whole Hansa, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that of Lubeck also declined, especially as Hamburg and Bremen were now gradually outstripping it in commerce. The town finally sank into the position of a port of call between the transatlantic and northern commerce. The Thirty Years’ War imposed grievous burdens on the defense-less citizens in consequence of the repeated quartering of soldiers in the town. When, after its last diets in 1630 and 1669, the Hansa was finally dissolved and there was formed a defensive alliance—Lubeck, Hamburg, and Bremen, the Council of Lubeck still retained the directorship as the sole remnant of its former position of eminence.

During the long period of peace, following the confusion of the Northern War which crippled Baltictrade for the first two decades of the eighteenth century, the prosperity of Lubeck gradually increased, although the town was far removed from the great trade routes of the world. The Imperial Delegates’ Enactment of 1803 (see Germany) brought it a small increase of territory by assigning to it the portion of that diocese (the area capituli) which lay within its boundaries; the remainder fell to the Duchy of Olden-burg, to which the episcopal line of the House of Gottorp had succeeded in 1773, and forms today the Oldenburg principality of Lubeck. As the imperial delegates had also guaranteed Lubeck perpetual neutrality, and the citizens had begun to level the fortifications, they were unable to offer any resistance to the French, who, after the Battle of Jena, in 1806, pursued Blucher northwards. Occupied by the French on November 5, the town was pillaged for three days, and remained in their possession until 1813. For the Catholics, who then numbered between 500 and 600, the foreign occupation brought, in some measure, an equality of rights with the Protestants, and the liberty—never since contested—of baptizing and marrying their co-religionists according to Catholic rites, with-out outside interference. The Congress of Vienna recognized Lubeck as a free member of the German League. Subsequently the town devoted itself with great energy to removing all the obstacles impeding the development of its commerce and navigation. These were due principally to the opposition of Den-mark, which still occupied Holstein.

The Liberal Constitution of 1848, which guaranteed to the middle classes a great measure of influence in the government of the city side by side with the Senate, contributed very greatly to foster the public spirit of the citizens and initiated a new period of prosperity for the old Hanse town. Its inclusion in the German Customs Union (Zollverein) opened to Labeck, in 1868, a great field of commercial activity. In 1866 Lubeck had unhesitatingly taken the side of Prussia. In the new German Empire its position as a free city is unimpaired: under the protection of the Empire, and during the long epoch of peace since 1871, it has developed, not precipitately, but steadily and surely, and its population has more than doubled (1871: in the city, 39,743, and within the state boundaries, 52,158; 1905: in the city, 91,541, and in the state, 105,857).

The Catholics of Lubeck, whom immigration has increased almost threefold since 1871, are subject to the Vicar Apostolic of the Northern Missions. The priests of the parish of Lubeck (I pastor and 3 assistants) minister to all the Catholics of the free state, the Catholics of the Principality of Lubeck, who live nearer to Lubeck than to Eutin, and a portion of the Catholics of Ratzeburg, Lauenberg, Holstein, and Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The Catholic soldiers are spiritually subject to the army provost at Berlin, who entrusts them to the care of the pastor at Lubeck.

By the Regulation of March 18, 1904, which determines its relations towards the Catholic Church, the state has reserved to itself the jus circa sacra. The names of the clergy appointed by the Bishop of Osnabruck must be submitted to the Senate with copies of all their certificates of studies. Religious orders and congregations may at any time be excluded by the Senate. Catholic citizens, who are taxed on an income of more than 1000 marks, must pay a church tax; otherwise, the ecclesiastical revenue is derived from the general church and school funds, and—since this is insufficient to meet the expenditure—from the voluntary contributions of the Catholics, who are mostly poor, and from the Bonifatiusverein. To the assistance of this association is also due the erec-tion of the parish church of the Sacred Heart in the town (1888-91) and of the chapel-of-ease in the industrial district of Kiicknitz (1909-10). Since 1850 there has been a Catholic school, which is conducted by a religious director, and has received since 1905 a grant from the state. In 1874 an establishment of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, from the mother-house at Breslau, was founded to teach and to care for the sick. The Catholic associations of Lubeck include those of the Christian Family, the Holy Childhood, Guardian Angels, St. Elizabeth, St. Charles Borromeo, and one for the adornment of poor churches, an association for Catholic business men and officials, a men’s association; an association for journey.. men, one for youths, and a Sodality of Mary for unmarried women. The Catholic press is represented by the “Nordische Volkszeitung”.


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