Bishopric of Trent
Bistum Trent
unknown - present

Council of Princes
Established unknown
Prince of the Empire 1027
Secularised to Austria 1802
Made Archdiocese 1920

The Bishopric of Trent is a diocese based in Trent in Trentino-Alto Adige in northern Italy. From 1027 until 1802, the Bishops of Trent were Prince-Bishops of the Holy Roman Empire, after which it was secularised to Austria. Trent is most famous for the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563) which started the Counter-Reformation.

The ancient and early mediæval BishopricEdit

It is unknown when the diocese was founded, but as early as 381 there appeared the Bishop Abundantius at the Council of Aquileia. While barbarian ivasions and Arianism were threatening the church elsewhere, in Trent St Vigilius (reigned 387 - 400) managed to protect it. During the Three Chapters controversy of the 6th Century, Trent followed Aquileia in the schism even after Pope Vigilius and Pope Pelagius I recognised the Council of Constantinople.

The creation of the Prince-BishopricEdit

In 1027, the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II gave the Bishops of Trent and Brixen the rank of Prince in the Empire and secular lordship over the surrounding lands, in an effort to secure the vital mountain routes through the Tyrol. The Bishop of Trent was a true prince of the empire, having a seat in the Imperial Diet. The Bishops were fiercely loyal to the Emperors, even when the latter were excommunicated by the Pope, as they needed protection from their vassals, such as the Counts of the Tyrol. In one attempt to secure the bishopric, Bishop St Albert II was murdered by the Lords of Castelbarco at Arco. The Emperors Frederick I Barbarossa and Henry VI however re-established the supremacy of the bishops.

The Bishop Frederick of Wangen was an ardent reformer who did much to restore the bishopric. Allied with the Bishop of Brixen and the Teutonic Order, he managed to thwart the strength of the nobles and regained many of the lands lost in past years. He collected and organised documents detailing his authority definitively in the Book of St Vigilius. He also encouraged trade over the Alps and supported the middle class. Trent was fortified with new walls and towers. During his reign the bishopric became the most renown place in Italy for the production of wine. His death in the Holy Land during the Crusades stopped his reforms. The Emperor Frederick II Stupor Mundi deposed the bishop in 1236, annexing it the Lordship of Treviso, ruled by his good friend Ezzelino III da Romano. The Counts of the Tyrol took advantage of the confused situation of the 13th Century and expanded their power at the expense of the Bishops of Chur, Brixen, Salzburg, and Trent. Count Meinhard II completely subjected the bishop to his power.

Decline of the bishopricEdit

The Bishopric suffered greatly during the 14th Century. In the wars between the rival Emperors Charles IV and Louis IV, the prince-bishopric was repeatedly devastated, and was even annexed temporarily to the latter's Bavarian territories. The Bishops gave the Tyrol to Archduke Rudolph IV of Austria in 1363. Bishop George I of Liechtenstein managed to escape the subjugation to Tyrol by submitting directly to the emperor, but this did not prevent the decline of the power of the bishops during the 15th Century. An attempt to establish Trent as a Republic was bloodily crushed in 1407, but in 1425 Trent was declared a commune. Ten years later another revolt broke out and Austrian and Tyrolese soldiers invaded to restore order. The following year the bishop failed to thwart the power of the Habsburgs, and the bishopric was effectively reduced to Austrian supremacy.

In June 1511 both Trent and Brixen were declared eternal conferedate states of Austria, but the peace with Venice in 1516 reduced Trent to a string of isolated territories. In 1509 the diocese was ravaged by Landsknechts returning from a failed war against Vicenza. There were two plagues in 1510 and 1512, three famines in 1512, 1519, and 1522, and an earthquake in 1521. These disasters strengthened opposition to Habsburg rule, leading to a revolt in 1525. The rebels lacked any organisation and were easily defeated in 1526, with some thousand rebels being settled in Moravia as farmers.

The Golden Age of TrentEdit

Bishop Bernard III of Gloss did much to restore the bishopric. He was a close advisor to the Emperor Maximilian I, and did much to secure the elections of Charles V and Ferdinand I. His charisma did much to revert the subortinate status of the diocese, and he rebuilt and modernised much of the city of Trent. After his sudden death in 1539 he was succeeded by Christopher di Madruzzo, who continued the reforms. During Christopher's reign the economy greatly improved and the Renaissance was introduced. The introduction of the Counter-Reformation following the Council of Trent led to the dominance of the Italian language over German.

The Bishopric until the end of the EmpireEdit

The Golden Age came to an end in 1567 when the Emperor declared the Confederation Treaty over. The dispute was eventually settled in 1578 when the Imperial Diet decided in the bishops favour. The Bishopric suffered greatly during after the Thirty Years' War by the ravages of war and decadent Venetian traders. The Madruzzo family gained control of both Trent and indirectly Brixen until 1658, which induced Count Sigismund Francis of the Tyrol to be elected Bishop in 1659. After Sigismund Francis' death in 1665, the Bishopric was again included amongst the Habsburg direct dominions.

The situation worsened during the 18th Century. Trent and the Tyrol were invaded by the French and Bavarians, and Trent itself was bombed in 1703. But the greatest threat came when the Emperor Charles VI announced his intentions to reunite the entire Habsburg lands. The bishops continued in their struggle against the Austrians until the invasion of the French in 1796. When the Patriarchate of Aquileia was abolished in 1751, Trent became exempt of any metropolitan authority. The Bishopric was secularised in 1802, and fully integrated into the Tyrol in 1803.

The modern BishopricEdit

In 1920 the diocese of Trent was raised to an Archbishopric.

See alsoEdit

Austrian Circle
on the Adige | Austria (bailiwick) | Breisgau | Brixen | Carinthia | Carniola | Chur | Friuli
Further Austria | Gorizia | Lower Austria | Styria | Tarasp | Trent | Tyrol | Upper Austria

Earlier Members:
Austria (archduchy) | Gradisca | Gurk | Hardegg | Lavant | Losenstein | Rogendorf
Schaunberg | Seckau | Wolkenstein-Rodenegg