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Saxe Weimar-Eisenach

Grand duchy in Thuringia, also known in recent times as the Grand duchy of Saxony

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Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach,, a grand duchy in Thuringia, also known in recent times as the Grand duchy of Saxony. It has an area of 1397 sq. miles, and consists of three non-contiguous parts: Weimar (678 sq. miles); Eisenach (465); and Neustadt (254). In 1910 the grand duchy had 417,166 inhabitants; in 1905 it had a population of 388,095, including 18,049 Catholics (5 per cent), 367,789 Protestants, and 1412 Jews. Like the other Saxon-Thuringian minor states, the grand duchy originated in the partitions among the heirs of the House of Wettin, which ruled in Saxony. The House of Saxe-Wettin divided in 1485 into the Ernestine and Albertine lines. John Frederick the Magnanimous, of the former line, lost in the Wittenberg Capitulation of 1547 (see Saxony), in addition to his electoral dignity, his estates with the exception of Thuringia. Even under the sons of John Frederick Thuringia began to be divided up into separate principalities. Since the division of 1672 the Ernestine line is represented by two main branches—the Weimar (now the grand ducal) line which rules in Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and the Gotha line, from which three ducal lines have issued, ruling today in Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, and Saxe-Altenburg respectively. The Weimar line also divided into three branches—the lines of Weimar, Jena, and Eisenach; the last two lines however became extinct, so that the three duchies were reunited in 1741. The best-known ruler of the grand-duchy is Charles Augustus (1758-1828), who made his capital, Weimar, the intellectual center of Germany by attracting to his court the most famous Germans of his day; the poets Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, and Herder shed lustre on his reign. In the war between Prussia and France (1806) Charles Augustus first espoused the cause of Prussia, but to save his domains he was compelled to join the Rheinbund formed by Napoleon after the defeat of Prussia at Jena (October 14, 1806). In consequence of the Congress of Vienna (1815) Prussia surrendered to Saxe-Weimar a territory of 6600 sq. miles with 78,000 inhabitants—including Neustadt, which had previously belonged to the Kingdom of Saxony, and the Catholic Eisenach Highlands. On April 31, 1815, Duke Charles Augustus received the title of grand duke. In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 Saxe-Weimar supported Prussia; it was a member of the North German Confederation, and in 1871 became a federal state of the German Empire. William Ernest (b. 1876) has been the reigning grand duke since 1901.

Before the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the territories constituting the present grand duchy were, ecclesiastically speaking, under the Archdiocese of Mainz, the coadjutor bishop residing at Erfurt exercising jurisdiction in the name of the archbishop. The Reformation removed every vestige of Catholic life. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries some Catholics immigrated sporadically into the territories of Weimar, Jena, and Eisenach. Spiritual ministration was supplied, as far as possible, by the Benedictines and secular priests of the city of Erfurt, which remained a secular possession of the Archbishop of Mainz until 1802, when it fell to Prussia. Duke Ernest Augustus II (1748-58) of Weimar erected a chapel for his Catholic soldiers, so that they could not desert under pretense of attending service at Erfurt. Catholic Divine Service was inaugurated in 1795 for the Catholic students of the University of Jena. The spiritual care of the students was entrusted to the French priest Gabriel Henry, who had been compelled to leave France on the outbreak of the Revolution, because he refused to take the oath of the civil constitution of the clergy demanded by the French National Assembly. After the battle of Jena, Napoleon, at the request of Father Henry, proclaimed the political and religious equality of Catholics and Protestants; it was also due to Father Henry that the declaration of the various German states on joining the Rheinbund contained the article concerning the equality of Catholics and Protestants. Through Father Henry’s exertions the first Catholic parish in Jena was established in 1808; it was endowed by Napoleon, and all the Catholics of the territory were assigned to it. In 1819 the seat of the parish was transferred to Weimar. In 1815 Prussia ceded the Eisenach Highlands to the grand duchy. Until 1802 this territory, entirely Catholic, had belonged to the immediate ecclesiastical domain of Fulda; it contained nine parishes, united in the deanery of Geisa.

Today (1911) the grand duchy contains altogether 14 parishes and a number of curacies and chaplaincies, 21 priests, and about 30 churches, all of which are subject to the deanery of Geisa. The Sisters of Mercy from Fulda have establishments in four places; the Sisters of St. Elizabeth (Grey Sisters) from Breslau have a house at Eisenach. Male religious orders are forbidden to open houses in the grand duchy. With the agreement of the grand ducal government, the grand duchy was placed under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Diocese of Paderborn by the Bull “De salute animarum” of July 16, 1821; the Bull “Provida solersque” of August 16, 1821, placed the nine parishes of the deanery of Geisa under the Diocese of Fulda; but it was only in 1829 that the grand ducal government recognized the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Fulda over these parishes. In answer to the petition of the Bishop of Fulda (December 17, 1856), the whole grand duchy was placed under his jurisdiction by brief of Cardinal Secretary of State Antonelli (February 17, 1857). The ecclesiastical jurisdiction of each new Bishop of Fulda in the grand duchy is recognized by the Government only after the receipt of an announcement of his entry into office and of a written guarantee (a bond), in which the bishop promises to observe all the grand ducal rights and powers, and promises, in the name of his Catholic subjects, fidelity, homage, and obedience. The State has regulated the conditions of the Catholic Church in a narrow spirit by the law of October 1, 1823; these conditions have not been substantially changed by the laws of May 6, 1857, and April 10, 1895. “For the preservation and exercise of the rights of the State, which, as regards the Catholic Church, its goods, and servants, are derived from the secular supreme direction and the power to maintain order”, there exists an “Immediatkommission fur das katholische Kirchen- and Schulwesen” (Commission for the Catholic Church and Schools) immediately responsible to the Government; to this must be referred all matters in which the cognizance, agreement, confirmation, etc. of the Government have been expressly required. Purely dogmatic decrees and decrees relating to the domestic discipline of the Church and not affecting the State are excepted.

In the course of time custom has given rise to the state regulations that all episcopal ordinances, papal briefs etc., in so far as they affect the grand duchy, must be laid before the Government for inspection before promulgation or delivery, and that spiritual precepts may not be published without the ruler’s placet, except they be of purely moral or dogmatic import. Until 1857 processions outside the church and church-yards and to places of pilgrimage were forbidden. Parochial positions and prebends are assigned by the bishop with the approval of the grand duke, in so far as the right of patronage does not pertain to the latter alone. In every parish and succursal church there is a church directorate, which consists of the pastor and two Catholic parishioners, and is entrusted with the administration of the church property, the maintenance of buildings, etc For a long period the territorial dean (Landdechant), the pastor of Geisa, had to visit each pastor and church once annually, and forward a report of his visitation to the Immediatkommission. Should the bishop wish to make a visitation in person, he must first inform the territorial ruler of his purpose, whereupon it is decided whether or not a secular counsel shall be coordinated with the visitation. As regards the children of mixed marriages and change of religion the law of April 10, 1895, decrees that the children must follow the religion of the father, even when he changes his religion. However, the change of religion in the case of the father does not affect the denomination of the children who are more than twelve years old. The father can also agree to the training of the children in the religion of the mother, although not before the birth of the first child and only by means of a declaration before the courts. Persons who have completed their eighteenth year may choose their own denomination. Whoever wishes, after the completion of his eighteenth year, to leave the Catholic or Evangelical Church, must first declare his intention to the proper clergyman, who will instruct him as to the importance of the step, and draw up an attestation of the conversion. The declaration of secession must be made before the courts. The school system is regulated by the law of June 24, 1874, in the form published on December 5, 1903. The public primary schools are maintained by the political community or a special school community. They are denominational—either Catholic or Evangelical according as either creed is in the majority. Only in one place (Dermbach) is there both a Catholic (170 pupils in 1910) and an Evangelical division of the public primary school. In Geisa there are Catholic and Jewish divisions in the public primary schools, thanks to the tolerance of the Catholics—an example not imitated in the Evangelical towns, In six places, where the Catholics are in a minority (Weimar, Eisenach, Apolda, Jena, Neustadt on the Orla, and Weida), there are Catholic private primary schools, to which the State grants no subsidy. Negotiations between the Catholic primary schools and the Supreme School Board are effected through the medium of the Immediatkommission for the Catholic Church and Catholic Schools.


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