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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > H > Konstantin von Höfler

Konstantin von Höfler

An historian; born at Memmingen, Bavaria, 26 March, 1811; died at Prague, 29 December, 1898. After finishing his studies in the gymnasia at Munich and Landshut, he studied first jurisprudence and then history at the University of Munich under Görres, Döllinger, and especially Schelling, and received his degree in 1831 on presenting the dissertation "Ueber die Anfänge der griechischen Geschichte". Aided by a pension from the government, he studied two more years at Göttingen, where he published a "Geschichte der englischen Civilliste". He then went to Italy, residing chiefly at Florence and Rome, and worked there industriously in the examination of original sources. Returning to Munich he accepted the editorship of the official "Münchener Zeitung" in order to earn a subsistence, but while thus engaged he had by 1838 qualified himself as Privatdozent in history at the university. The following year he became extraordinary, in 1841 ordinary, professor of history; in 1842 he became a member of the Academy of Sciences. In 1839 he published "Die deutschen Päpste" in two volumes. After this he devoted himself to his duties as professor until 1846, when he fell into disfavour with King Ludwig I on account of the position he took, along with several other professors, in the popular agitation against the relations of the king with the dancer Lola Montez. He expressed his views on the subject in "Concordat und Constitutionseid der Katholiken in Bayern", and for this was removed from his university position, 26 March 1847. Although the king after some months took Höfler again into the government service, he was, nevertheless, transferred to Bamberg (Upper Franconia), as keeper of the district archives. With his accustomed zeal he began the study of Franconian history and published in 1849-52 as the fruit of his investigations: "Quellensammlung für fränkische Geschichte", in four volumes, and in 1852-53 "Fränkische Studien", parts I-V. During the same period he issued "Bayern, sein Recht und seine Geschichte" (1850), also in the last mentioned year "Ueber die politische Reformbewegung in Deutschland im Mittelalter und den Anteil Bayerns an derselben (1850). Further, in the midst of these labours, he began the preparation of his "Lehrbuch der Geschichte" which appeared in 1856.

In 1851 when the Austrian school-system was reorganized, Count Thun called Höfler as professor of history to Prague, where he taught with great success until he retired on a pension in 1882. In 1865 he became a member of the Bohemian Diet, in 1872 a life member of the Austrian House of Lords. In this latter year he was raised to the hereditary nobility and received the order of the Iron Crown. In politics he was one of the leaders of the German-Bohemian party, a branch of the constitutional party of that period, and was one of the chief opponents of the Czechs. From 1872, however, he almost practically retired from politics, partly from the increasing opposition which grew up in the German parties in Austria against "Catholicism", partly because the clerical party was drawing closer to the Slavs. Conflicts were unavoidable; on the one hand he was a thorough German, absolutely convinced of the great mission of the Germans in Austria, on the other he was one of the most faithful sons of the Catholic Church. Consequently he gradually withdrew from party politics, without losing, however, his strong interest in the struggles of the mostly anticlerical German-Bohemiaus against the Czechs, and devoted himself entirely to the cultivation of German sentiment and intellectual life. By his activity, both as teacher and author, he became the founder of the modern school of German-Bohemian historical research, which received enthusiastic support from the Society founded by him, in 1862, for the study of the history of the German element in Bohemia, and in consequence ranks as one of the most deservedly respected historians of Austria.

Höfler gave special attention to the history of the Hussite movement and reached the conclusion that it was directed less against the papacy than against the German power in Bohemia and against the cities. He characterized the movement as "an unsympathetic historical phenomenon, a movement foredoomed to failure, which soon became a burden to itself". He saw in Hus only an antagonist of Germanism, the destroyer of the University of Prague and of the sciences. His works on Hussitism are: "Geschichtsschreiber der husitischen Bewegung" (1856-66), in three volumes; "Magister Johannes Hus und der Abzug der deutschen Professoren und Studenten aus Prag 1409" (1864); "Concilia Pragensia, 1353-1413" (1862). These historical investigations involved Höfler in a violent literary feud with František Palacký, the official historiographer of Bohemia, an enthusiastic representative of Czech interests, and the indefatigable champion of Slavic supremacy in Bohemia. But as the scientific proofs produced by Höfler were indisputable he was victorious in this controversy and broke down Palacký's hitherto unquestioned authority as a historian. These exhaustive studies in Bohemian history led Höfler to deeper research into the history of the Slavic races. In his "Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiete der slawischen Geschichte" (1879-82), five volumes, he showed how the Slavic element had always warred against the German element; in the same work he emphasized strongly the importance of the German element in the development of Bohemia.

In other works Höfler treated the ecclesiastical reform movements among the Romanic peoples. The most important of this class of his writings is: "Die romanische Welt und ihr Verhältnis zu den Reformideen des Mittelalters" (1878). Others are: "Der Aufstand der kastillianischen Städte gegen Karl V" (1876); "Zur Kritik und Quellenkunde der ersten Regierungsjahre Kaiser Karls V" (1876-83), in three parts; "Der deutsche Kaiser und der letzte deutsche Papst, Karl V und Adrian VI" (1876); "Papst Adrian VI" (1880) in which he proves that this pope was the author of Catholic reform in the sixteenth century. We are also indebted to him for the two volumes of "Monumenta Hispanica" (1881-82). Höfler's contributions to the history of the Hohenzollern family are to be found in: "Denkwürdigkeiten des Ritters Ludwig von Eyb" (1849), and in the monograph "Barbara, Markgräfin von Brandenburg" (1867). Other works worthy of notice are: two volumes of "Abhandlungen zur Geschichte Oesterreichs" (1871-72); "Kritische Untersuchungen über die Quellen der Geschichte König Phiipps des Schönen" (1883); "Bonifatius, der Apostel der Deutschen und die Slawenapostel Konstantinos (Cyrillus) und Methodius" (1887). He also published many papers in the "Denkschriften der k.k. Akademie der Wissenschaften", in the "Fontes rerum Austriacarum", and in the "Zeitschrift des Vereins für die Gesch. der Deutschen in Böhmen".

Höfler also wrote a number of historical dramas in verse, as well as elegant and thoughtful epigrams; his poetical works, however, met with but moderate success. Höfler was an eminent man. Endowed with a keen mind, and profound observation, as well as with many physical advantages, strong health and manly beauty, he succeeded, by hard work and "indefatigable self-discipline" says his successor Bachmann, "in surmounting many initial difficulties and later obstacles and in reaching the high position of a generally respected savant and teacher: he attained the broad views and experience of a statesman, and the sure and harmonious bearing of a sage. Himself the embodiment of kindliness and goodness, to such a degree that he strove to lend assistance where assistance was neither possible nor timely, he anxiously sought to respect the individuality of others and to be a model of courtesy and fairness, not merely to appear such".

Sources

Mitteilungen des Vereins für die Geschichte der Deutschen in Böhmen, XXXVI (1898), 381-411; Biographisches Jahrbuch, II, 209-11; Allgemeine deutsche Biographie (1905), L, 428-33.

About this page

APA citation. Schlager, P. (1910). Konstantin von Höfler. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07382a.htm

MLA citation. Schlager, Patricius. "Konstantin von Höfler." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07382a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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