Archbishopric of Trier
Erzbistum Trier
c. 50 - present

Electoral Rhenish
Council of Electors
Established as Diocese c. 50
Made Archdiocese 792
Prince of the Empire 898
Confirmed Elector 1356
Secularised to Nassau-Weilburg 1803

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Trier, (French Treves), is a diocese of the Latin Rite of the Catholic church in Germany.[1][2] When it was the archbishopric and Electorate of Trier, it was one of the most important states of the Holy Roman Empire, both as an ecclesiastical principality and as a diocese of the church. Unlike the other Rhenish dioceses — Mainz and Cologne, Trier was the former Roman provincial capital of Augusta Treverorum. Given its status, Trier has always been the seat of a bishop since Roman times, one of the oldest dioceses in all of Germany. The diocese was elevated to an Archdiocese in the time of Charlemagne and was the metropolitan for the dioceses of Metz, Toul, and Verdun. After the victory of Napoleon Bonaparte of France, the archdiocese was lowered to a diocese and is now a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Cologne.

Bishopric of TrierEdit

The origins of the diocese are obscure. Trier, as the Roman city of Augusta Treverorum, was the largest Roman city north of the Alps and after the reforms of the Emperor Diocletian was the capital of Belgica Prima. A Christian population existed as early as the second century, and the bishopric was probably established in the third century. The first documented bishop was Agricus, who attended the Council of Arles in 314. Nevertheless, there is a traditional list of Bishops dating back until 50, preceding the historical development of a Christian community. For that reason, and the absence of Agricus from the list, renders the list mythological.

Agricus' immediate successors were St Maximinus II, who sheltered the exiled St Anathasius, and St Paulinus who was exiled to Phrygia for his opposition to Arianism. With the decline of Roman authority during the later years of the Roman Empire the bishops took over the administration of the city of Trier until its conquest by the Franks, however little is known of the bishops until the time of Charlemagne. However the bishops St Nicetius (527 - 566) and Mangerich (573 - 596) were high placed advisors to King Childebert II. Bishop Wermad (758 - 791) accompanied Charlemagne on his conquest of Italy and in 772 was granted complete immunity from the gaue count of the Triergau in ecclesiastical affairs. His successor Richbod (791 - 804) was raised to an Archbishop in 792 with the Bishoprics of Metz, Toul and Verdun as suffragans.

Archbishopric (792 - 1511)Edit

Bishop Amalhar Fortunatus (809 - 814) was the ambassador of Charlemagne to the court of the Byzantine Empire. King Louis the Pious confirmed the immunity granted by Charlemagne in 816. At the Treaty of Verdun in 843 Trier passed to the realm of the Middle Franks, and after the death of the Emperor Lothar I in 855 passed to the Kingdom of Lotharingia. After Lothar II's death in 870, Trier came to the Eastern Frankish kingdom (later Germany). In 898 the Archbishops were granted complete immunity from taxes, the right to mint coinage, and the city and country around Trier. After the death of Louis III the Child in 911 the Dukes of Lotharingia switched alliegance to the Western Frankish kingdom (later France). Lorraine was reconquered by King Henry I the Fowler in 925. King Otto I conferred all rights of the Archbishops.

Archbishop Poppo of Babenberg (1016 - 1047) did much to enlarge the secular territory of the Archbishopric. During the Investiture Controversy and the struggles between Pope and Emperor the Archbishops, as amongst the highest ranking ecclesiarchs in Germany, became heavily involved. Archbishops Engelbert of Rothenburg (1079 - 1101) and Bruno of Lauffen (1101 - 1124) were firm supporters of the Emperors, and gained the dignity "Arch-Chancellor of Gaul" in c. 1100. Archbishop Adalberon of Munsterol (1131 - 1152) was a strong opponent of lay investiture, and during his administration the cathedral school at Trier reached its greatest fame and importance. Archbishop Hillin of Fallemanien (1152 - 1169) was a supporter of the Emperor, Arnold I of Valencourt (1169 - 1183) attempted to reconcile the Emperor and Pope in 1177.

Pope Innocent III excommunicated Archbishop John I (1189 - 1212) for his support of King Philip of Swabia, but nevertheless greatly expanded the secular territories of the archbishopric through the annexations of counties and castles. Theodoric II of Wied (1212 - 1242) was a supporter of the Emperor, though Arnold II of Isenburg-Braunsberg (1242 - 1259) was an opponent. Henry II of Finstingen (1260 - 1286) was the first archbishop to take part in the election of the Emperor in 1263, and gained the right of the seven electors to vote first (the first elector, the Archbishop of Mainz, voted last). This was confirmed by the Golden Bull on 1356.

As in the other prince-bishoprics, the rising cities of Trier and Coblenz attempted to throw off the power of the archbishops, first mainifesting during the reign of Theodoric III of Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein (1300 - 1307). Baldwin of Luxembourg (1308 - 1354), the most famous and important of all the archbishops of Trier, restored the power of the archbishopric through secular and spiritual reforms and an aggressive expansionistic policy. He regained control of Trier and Coblenz. Werner of Falkenstein (1388 - 1418) acquired Limburg on the Lahn and during the Great Western Schism remained loyal to Pope Gregory XII.

After the death of Otto of Ziegenhain (1418 - 1430), a zealous reformer, a double election occurred which induced Pope Martin V to appoint a third person, Raban of Helmstatt, archbishop. The diocese however suffered greatly in the warfare and crisis between the candidates. Jacob I of Sierk (1439 - 1456) sought to restore order and reorganise the finances of the archdiocese, but he was deposed by Pope Eugenius IV as a supporter of the Council of Basel and Anti-Pope Felix V who was elected there. However the deposition had little effect as the electors of the Empire refused to acknowledge it. John II of Baden (1456 - 1503) promoted the reform of the church but left the diocese in a great amount of debt. His successor and relative, Jacob II of Baden (1503 - 1511) only increased the burden.

Archbishopric (1511 - 1803)Edit

The Reformation limited the spiritual jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Trier. Despite the energetic efforts of Richard of Greiffenklau zu Vollrads (1511 - 1531), he could not prevent the establishment of the Reformation of the right bank of the Rhine, although he resisted the attacks of Francis of Sickingen and the efforts of the city of Trier to gain independence. He first exhibited the Holy Coat in 1512 and used the donations from the pilgrims on renovations to the cathedral. John III of Metzenhausen (1531 - 1540) attempted reform but died early. John IV Louis of Hagen (1540 - 1547) sent a representative to the Council of Trent and continued reforms. John V of Isenburg-Grenzau (1547 - 1556) attended the council personally but had to return to the archbishopric to repulse the destructive invasion by Burgrave Albert II Alcibiades of Brandenburg-Bayreuth.

John VI of the Leyen (1556 - 1567) managed to secure the archbishopric but could not prevent the French from annexing its suffragans of Toul, Metz, and Verdun. Jacob III of Eltz (1567 - 1581) and John VII of Schönenberg (1581 - 1599) carried out the reforms of Trent, secured the Abbey of Prüm, and enlarged the archbishopric to its final extent. Lothar of Metternich (1599 - 1623) joined the Catholic League to stabilise it, and in this manner became involved in the Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648). His successor Philip Christopher of Sötern (1623 - 1652) withdrew from the league, allied with the French and allowed their garrison of Ehrenbreitstein. After he made overtures to the Protestant Swedes in 1635, he was captured by the Spanish and imprisoned for heresy in Vienna until 1645. The diocese was devastated in the warfare between French and Imperial forces.

Charles Casper of the Leyen (1652 - 1676) restored the archdiocese to its former glory when the devastating wars of King Louis XIV began. John Hugh of Orsbeck (1676 - 1711) refused to acknowledge the annexation of certain territories by the French nor to take an oath of fealty, which led to French occupation of the archdiocese from 1684 until 1697. The archbishopric had excellent rulers during the peace of the 18th Century: Francis Louis of Palatinate-Neuburg (1711 - 1729), Francis George of Schönborn-Buchheim (1729 - 1756), John Philip of Walderdorff (1756 - 1768), and Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony (1768 - 1803). The administration of justice, the monasteries, and education were greatly improved. Clemens Wenceslaus was a supporter of the Enlightenment and became involved in municipal disputes. In 1794 the French besieged Trier and Coblenz, and they annexed them in 1797. In 1801 the territories west of the Rhine were formally ceded to France. After the secularisation on 1803, the remaining few territories were annexed by Nassau. Clemens Wenceslaus renounced his rights for 100,000 guldens pension and retired to the Bishopric of Augsburg.

Modern Archbishopric (1824 - present)Edit

Electoral Rhenish Circle
Arenberg | Beilstein | Coblenz | Cologne | Lower Isenburg | Mainz | Palatinate
Rheineck | Thurn and Taxis | Trier

Earlier Members
Gelnhausen | Neuenahr | Reifferscheid | Selz | St Maximin

See alsoEdit


  1. "Diocese of Trier" David M. Cheney. Retrieved February 29, 2016
  2. "Diocese of Trier" Gabriel Chow. Retrieved February 29, 2016