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A city and former diocese on the Rhine in the present Grand Duchy of Hesse; the origin of the city is obscure

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Worms (WORMATIENSIS), a city and former diocese on the Rhine in the present Grand Duchy of Hesse; the origin of the city is obscure. In the Roman era the district of the Vangiones was included in Upper Germany. Julius Caesar settled this small tribe in and around the Celtic Vicus Borbetomagus. From this vicus and the Roman castrum, or military camp, sprang the Civitas Vangionum, later called Worms. It is uncertain at what time Christianity gained an entrance into the settlement; the inscriptions are of too late a date, and the Acts of the Council of Cologne held in 346, in which a Bishop Victor of Worms is mentioned, are a forgery. Yet it is evident from Orosius, “Historia”, VII, c. xxxii (P.L., XXXI, 1144), that at the beginning of the fifth century the left bank of the Rhine was predominantly Christian, and had also ecclesiastical organization. It may, therefore, be assumed that as early as the second half of the fourth century there was a bishop at Worms. In the fifth century Worms was the capital of the Burgundians. The first bishop of whom there is documentary proof is Berhtulf, who took part in the Synod of Paris of 614 (Mon. Germ. Hist.: Concilia, I, 192). It is said that towards the end of the seventh century, Rupert, later Bishop of Salzburg, was Bishop of Worms. From Erembert, who died in 793, the succession of bishops is unbroken. Whether the diocese had a permanent existence in the era from the fourth to the eighth century, or whether its existence was interrupted once or several times cannot be positively determined, owing to the condition of the authorities, but its continuance is probable. About 750 the Diocese of Worms, which lay on both sides of the Rhine, was made a suffragan of Mainz. Among the bishops of the succeeding centuries the most important are: Burchard (1000-25), noted for his collection of ecclesiastical canons, called “Collectarium” or “Decretum”, and during whose administration the cathedral school flourished greatly; Adalbert (1069-1107), a “pillar and ornament of the Church of Germany“, who opposed Henry IV in the struggle over Investitures, while the city supported the emperor; Emerich of Schoneck (1308-18), who had rigid laws passed at the diocesan synod of 1316, both for the secular and regular clergy. In 1122 the Concordat that put an end to the strife concerning Investitures was signed at Worms. The diocese never recovered from the quarrels of the period 1329-43. The cathedral chapter had elected Gerlach of Erbach (1329-32) as bishop, while John XXII had appointed Salmann, Provost of Mainz. After Gerlach’s death Salmann was not recognized by the diocese and did not obtain possession of it until 1343; his episcopate lasted until 1359. Matters were even worse during the rule of Eckart of Ders (1371-1405). The citizens of Worms threw off the authority of the bishop completely, and imprisoned the priests. The churches were empty, the services ceased. Bishops Frederick II (1426-45) and Reinhard of Sickingen (1445-82) exerted themselves to introduce reforms, as did also John III of Dalberg (1482-1503), who was a highly educated patron of humanism and lover of art; he also held a visitation.

The Lutheran doctrine was quickly accepted in Worms on account of the hostility of the citizens to the clergy, and especially as Luther in 1521 came there to the Dict. The emperor had invited him to come, giving him a safe-conduct. Luther persisted in his doctrine and was declared under the ban of the empire. The Edict of Worms (1521) forbade all innovations. About the middle of the sixteenth century almost the entire city of Worms was lost to the Catholic Church. Notwithstanding the opposition of the bishop, Dietrich of Bettendorf (1552-80), the monasteries were robbed and suppressed. In 1689 the city was laid in ashes by the French, with the exception of the cathedral. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the diocese was generally united by personal ties with neighboring sees, especially with those of Mainz and Trier. One of the auxiliary bishops of Worms was the well-known church historian and collector of ancient charters, Stephen Alexander Wurdtwein (d. 1796). The last bishop was Frederick Charles Joseph von Erthal (1774-1802), who was also Archbishop of Mainz. In 1801 that part of the diocese on the left bank of the Rhine passed with the city to France, while the part on the right bank went in 1803 to Hesse-Darmstadt. In 1805 the left bank also fell to Hesse. In 1802 it had been assigned ecclesiastically to the new Diocese of Mainz, which was a suffragan of Mechlin; for the portion on the right bank of the Rhine the Vicariate Apostolic of Lampertheim was erected in 1806. When the ecclesiastical province of the Upper Rhine was established in 1821, the city of Worms remained in the Diocese of Mainz, and the greater number of the parishes of the former bishopric were given also to Mainz, others in districts that now belonged to Bavaria, Baden, and Wurtemberg were assigned to the Dioceses of Speyer, Freiburg, and Rottenburg. In 1824 the city had 2379 Catholic and 5555 Protestant inhabitants; at the present time (1912) there are 14,000 Catholics and 28,800 Protestants. The former diocese had many monasteries. Thus there were Hermits of St. Augustine at Kirschgarten near Worms; Augustinians at Frankenthal, Sinsheim, and Honingen; Minorites at Worms, Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Oppenheim, and Sinsheim; Cistercians at Schonau near Heidelberg; Dominicans at Worms, Weinheim, Heidelberg, and Wimpfen; Carmelites at Worms, Weinheim, Heidelberg, and Hirschhorn; Capuchins at Worms, Griinstadt, Frankenthal, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Ladenburg, etc. A remarkable monument of former episcopal rank is the ancient cathedral of Worms, which was the smallest and latest of the Romanesque cathedrals of the upper Rhine; it is a late Romanesque reconstruction at the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries of an early Romanesque building. It makes a strong impression by the imposing force and richness of its exterior and its unity of appearance as a whole. Especially striking are the two domes and the four corner towers. At the present time the cathedral is a Catholic church under a provost. In addition to the parish of the provost the city has two other Catholic parishes; those of St. Martin and of Our Lady.


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