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Basle-Lugano is the largest Catholic diocese of Switzerland. It is composed of the two Dioceses of Basle and Lugano which are united only by having a bishop in common.

The Diocese of Basle

This has taken the place of the old Diocese of Augst (Augusta Rauracorum), the origin of which is obscure; a Bishop of Augst was a member of a council held at Cologne in 346. When Augusta Rauracorum sank into decay during the disorders of the migrations the seat of the diocese was transferred to the present Basle (Basilea), founded in 374 by the Emperor Valentinian I. No definite information has been preserved concerning the first bishops. The most important bishop in the early period of the history of the diocese is Hatto, a Benedictine from the monastery of Reichenau, who was a friend of Charlemagne; he was Bishop of Basle from the year 805. He issued a capitulary of great importance for his diocese, resigned his position in 822, and retired to Reichenau where he died in 836. During the episcopate of Adalbert (999-1025) the foundation of the secular jurisdiction of the Bishops of Basle was laid by the grants made by King Rudolph III of Burgundy; the king appointed the bishop administrator and protector of several religious foundations, bestowed a number of towns and territories on him, and conferred various rights, such as the right of coinage, hunting-rights, etc. Adalbert rebuilt the cathedral which had been pillaged by the Magyars and consecrated it with much pomp in 1019 in the presence of the Emperor Henry II and his wife. Adalbert's immediate successors Ulrich II (1025-40) and Dietrich (1041-53) were included among the spiritual princes of the Holy Roman Empire. In the period following Adalbert's administration the territory of the diocese was greatly increased, especially through gifts made by the Emperors Henry II, Henry III, and Conrad II.

As princes of the empire the Bishops of Basle were drawn into the struggle between the papacy and the empire; most of the bishops took sides with the emperors against the popes. Berengar (1057-72) promoted, in opposition to Alexander II, the nomination of the Antipope Honorius at a synod held at Basle in 1061; Burkhard of Hasenburg (1071-1107) was one of the most resolute champions of the imperial claims and a faithful partisan of Henry IV whom he accompanied to Canossa. Ortlieb of Froburg (1137-64) went with the Emperor Conrad III on a crusade to Palestine and took part in the Italian campaigns of Frederick Barbarossa; Ludwig of Ortlieb was also a partisan of the emperor and of the Antipope Paschal; Alexander III, therefore, deposed him in 1179. Among the succeeding bishops the most noteworthy were: Henry II of Thun (1238-49), who built the oldest bridge across the Rhine near Basle (replaced in 1904-06 by a new one; Henry of Isny (1275-86), a Franciscan, who after 1286 was Archbishop of Mainz, as was also his successor Peter Rich of Richenstein (1286-96), a devoted partisan of Rudolph of Hapsburg; Peter of Aspelt (1296-1306), later Archbishop of Mainz, who laboured to restore church discipline in his diocese. During the fourteenth century the prestige of the See of Basle declined; many of the bishops involved the diocese in debt in various ways; by taking part in the political quarrels, by feuds with the nobles living in Basle, and by quarrels with the city, which was rapidly growing in strength. The city of Basle brought nearly the whole of the jurisdiction over itself from the impecunious bishops and made itself almost entirely independent of episcopal secular rule. When John II of Münsingen (1335-65) was placed under the ban, along with the city of Basle, as a partisan of Louis the Bavarian, the citizens of the town threw the papal nuncio into the Rhine and forced the clergy to continue the church services or to leave the place. The earthquake of 1356 destroyed a large part of the city and also did much damage to the cathedral. John III of Vienne (1366-82) became involved in a dispute with Bern which led to a quarrel with Basle and the siege of this city by the bishop. The increased burden of debt thus caused was a source of great anxiety to the succeeding bishops, several of whom resigned their office. It was not until the episcopate of John IV of Fleckenstein (1423-36), who held two reform synods, that the see rose again to high reputation. The Council of Basle (1431-49) was held in the city of the same name during this episcopate and that of the following bishop, Frederick of the Rhine (1436-51). (See COUNCIL OF BASLE.) The diocese suffered greatly at the time of the struggle of the Swiss confederation with Charles of Burgundy; many towns and castles were ravaged and burned during these troubles.

The Diocese of Basle attained its greatest extent in the course of the fifteenth century. The spiritual power of the bishops, but not their secular jurisdiction, extended over the entire northwestern part of the present Switzerland lying between the Rivers Aare, Rhine, and Doubs, over the southern part of the present Alsace as far as Rappoltsweiler and Schlettstadt, as well as over some small districts in Baden and France. The Reformation was to rob the bishops of a large part of their flock. At the beginning of the religious agitation the diocese was under the rule of Christopher of Utenheim (1502-27), one of the most distinguished of the Prince-Bishop of Basle. He was a friend of the arts and sciences and promoter of the new art of printing, then flourishing at Basle. In order to train and reform his clergy Bishop Christopher held in 1503 a synod at which excellent statutes were issued; he also called learned men as professors and preachers for the university that had been founded in 1460. This late measure, however, promoted the entry of the new doctrine. A number of the scholars who had been appointed, as Capito, Pellicanus, Oeeolampadius, and for a time also, Erasmus and Glareanus, took sides with the Reformers and worked for the spread of the Reformation. Basle became a centre for the printing and dispatch in all directions of the writings of the Reformers. Before long the Great Council and the citizens were split into two religious parties and internal disputes were common. Bent from extreme age, Bishop Christopher, in 1527, resigned his see. Before his successor Philip of Gundelsheim (1527-53) was able to enter the city, the party advocating the new doctrine obtained control, the Catholic members of the great Council were driven from office, the Catholic religion was declared to be abolished, the monasteries were closed, and the churches were plundered. The bishop changed his place of residence to Pruntrut (Porrentruy); the cathedral chapter went to Freiburg-in-the-Breisgau and did not return into the territory of the diocese until 1678 when it established itself at Arlesheim.

Succeeding bishops devoted themselves to repairing the severe losses which the diocese had suffered during the Reformation. The bishop who deserves the greatest credit for the restoration of the prosperity of the bishopric was Jacob Christopher Blarer von Wartensee (1575-1608). He made an alliance offensive and defensive with the Catholic cantons of Switzerland in 1580, proclaimed the decisions of the Council of Trent, held in 1581 a diocesan synod which bore good fruit, and brought back to the Church numerous subjects who had been estranged from the Catholic religion. He was ably seconded in his labours by the Jesuits whom he called in 1591 to Pruntrut and put in charge of the newly founded college. His successors followed in his footsteps, especially Joseph William Rink von Baldenstein (1608-28). In the course of the Thirty Years War the diocese suffered from invasions by the troops of Bernard of Weimar. During the episcopate of Bishop John Conrad von Roggenbach (1656-93) the cathedral chapter established itself once more in the diocese, at Arlesheim, as has been mentioned above. Bishop Conrad von Reinach (1705-37), who founded the seminary for priests and built Castle Delsberg, a residence of the prince-bishops, issued a series of ordinances in 1726 which curtailed the rights and privileges of the land. This caused a revolt that lasted into the episcopate of his successor Jacob Sigmund von Reinach (1737-43) and was only suppressed with the aid of French troops. The three leaders of the revolt were executed in 1740. An estrangement resulted that was not overcome in spite of all the efforts of the succeeding bishops, Joseph William Rink von Baldenstein 91744-62), Simon Nicholas von Froberg (1762-75), and Frederick Ludwig von Wangen-Geroldseck (1775-82).

The French Revolution put an end to the secular jurisdiction of the bishops. The prince-bishopric was occupied by French troops in 1792 and Bishop John Sigmund von Roggenbach (1782-94) fled to Constance. His territory was turned into the Rauracian Republic which after four months was incorporated, 1793, in the French Republic. Besides the loss of secular jurisdiction the bishop had also to forego a large part of his ecclesiastical diocese, for, according to the Concordat made in 1801 between Pius VII and Napoleon, a large part of the Bishopric of Basle was given to the Diocese of Strasburg. The next bishop, Francis Xavier von Neveu (1794-1828), resided first at Constance and then at Offenburg; he ruled only a small territory in the present Cantons of Solothurn, Aargau, and Bern. It was not until 1814 that the bishop obtained again the right to ecclesiastical supervision over the larger part of the former prince-bishopric; but his efforts to bring about the restoration of the secular power were unavailing. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna gave the territory of the diocese of the Cantons of Bern and Basle, with the exception of the portion already belonging to Germany. Not long after this, however, the Diocese of Basle was enlarged. After the disorders of the Napoleonic era the Swiss confederation had been reorganized; in order to make it equally independent in Church matters the Swiss part of the Diocese of Constance was separated in 1814 from that bishopric and placed provisionally under a vicar Apostolic. Long negotiations were entered into between the cantons in the territory of which these portions of the diocese lay, and it was finally resolved to carry out the plan that had been steadily urged by the Canton of Solothurn; this was, to revive the Bishopric of Basle and to define anew its boundaries. The negotiations with Rome were concluded in 1828; the Bull of Leo XII, "Inter praecipua Nostri Apostolatus munera", issued 7 May, 1828, settled the boundaries of the new Diocese of Basle, and the Bull of 13 July, 1828, was solemnly read at Solothurn in the collegiate church of Sts. Ursus and Victor which had been elevated to a cathedral. Bishop Francis Xavier von Neveu died a few days later. The new cathedral chapter, which had been appointed, in order to bring it into existence by the pope, nominated as bishop the dean of the cathedral who had formerly been the administrator Apostolic, Anthony Salzmann (1828-54). The new Diocese of Basle, which is directly dependent on the Apostolic See, embraced at first the Cantons of Lucern, Bern, Solothurn, and Zug; in 1829 Aargau and Thurgau were added; somewhat later Basle, for the Catholic district of Birseek; in 1841 Schaffhausen, first provisionally, and then, in 1858, definitely although without confirmation from Rome.

The germs of many conflicts lay hid in this merely provisional new arrangement and in the uncertainty as to the legal relations of the new see. However, during the episcopate of Bishop Salzmann and that of his immediate successor Charles Arnold (1854-62), the founder of a seminary for priests at Solothurn, peace was fairly well preserved. During the episcopate of Eugene Lachat (1863-85) a struggle broke out, caused by the Old-Catholic movement which won many adherents in Switzerland. The liberal cantons of the Diocese of Basle (all except Lucerne and Zug) closed the seminary for priests in April, 1870, and forbade the promulgation of the decrees of the Council of the Vatican. When in 1871 the bishop, nevertheless, proclaimed these decrees, the majority of the cantons belonging to the diocese voted his deposition, 29 January, 1873, and dissolved the cathedral chapter, 21 December, 1874, which had refused to elect a new bishop. The bishop, being forced to leave his residence, went to Lucerne which, like the canton of Zug, had protested against the action of the other cantons and had remained faithful to the bishop. Here in Lucerne he continued to administer the diocese. His appeals to the federal authorities of Switzerland were rejected and the Catholic community was forbidden to have communication with him. It was not until the pontificate of Leo XIII that this unfortunate state of affairs was brought to an end and peace re-established. Bishop Lachat resigned his office in 1885 and was made titular Archbishop of Damietta and Administrator Apostolic of the newly formed Bishopric of Lugano (see below). He died in 1886. On 19 January, 1885, the Holy See appointed Frederick Fiala Bishop of Basle (1885-88). The new bishop sought to efface the traces of the late struggle and re-establish the cathedral chapter; he died 4 May, 1888. Leonard Haas (1888-1906) was appointed to the see 11 July, 1888. Bishop Haas was an eloquent preacher; he encouraged the use of congregational singing and held a diocesan synod in 1896. He was followed in 1906 by Dr. Jacob Stammler, born 2 January, 1840, and ordained to the priesthood in 1863.


The present Diocese of Basle (excluding Lugano) embraces the Cantons of Basle, Bern, Lucerne, Solothurn, Aargau, Thurgau, and Schaffhausen; in 1900 it contained 444,471 Catholics and 903,400 Protestants. The majority of the inhabitants are Germans, although in the Canton of Bern some 6,000 Catholics speak French. For the spiritual direction of the Catholic community the diocese is divided into 8 deaneries, 14 rural chapters, 406 parishes, and 149 curacies and chaplaincies. The parishes in the Cantons of Zug and Schaffhausen are not united in a rural chapter. The secular priests number 660; the regular clergy (O.S.B. and O.M.C.) 85. The cathedral senate, which as the right to elect the bishop, consists of five resident canons (canonici residentiales) and six non-resident canons (canonici forenses); besides these there are seven cathedral capitulars, who do not belong to the cathedral senate. In 1907 the office of capitular was vacant. There is a collegiate church at Lucerne having an independent provost and 9 canons (in 1907 the canonries were not filled), and a collegiate church at Beromunster with 1 provost and 20 regular canons (the number of canons in 1907 was 17).

The schools for the education of the clergy are: a cantonal theological school at Lucerne with a seminary for priests, and at Zug St. Michael's boarding-school for boys. The private seminary for teachers at Zug is entirely Catholic in character. In accordance with the Swiss constitution the public schools are open to members of all denominations, consequently there are no genuine Catholic parish schools. In the Cantons of Lucerne and Zug, which are almost entirely Catholic, instruction is given in many of the schools by Catholic teaching-sisters, who are obliged to pass a state examination. The male orders and their houses in the Diocese of Basle are as follows: Capuchins, 7 houses with 73 priests, 19 clerics, and 24 lay brothers; the Hermit-Brothers of Luthern, 1 house; the Benedictines of Mariastein, who were included in the Swiss congregation of the Benedictines, were driven in 1874 from Mariastein and have gone to Durrenberg near Salzburg; the Benedictines of Muri have gone for the same reason to Gries near Bozen, and the Cistercians of Wittengen to Meherau near Breganz. The female orders and congregations are more largely represented in the diocese than the male orders. These institutes and their houses are as follows: Benedictine nuns, 4; Franciscan Sisters, 1; Cistercians, 2; Clares, 1; Sisters of St. Francis de Sales, 1 house with a boarding-school for girls attached; Sisters of Charity, 5; Sisters of the Divine Providence, 1. There are large numbers of the Sisters of the Cross of Ingenbohl, who have charge chiefly of orphan asylums and hospitals and who act as attendants on the sick; also of the teaching Sisters of the Holy Cross of Menzingen, who carry on large institutes for girls at Menzingen, Baldegg, and Cham, and conduct, besides, 250 elementary schools, and 45 institutions for the poor, orphans, and sick in different parts of Switzerland. In addition to the three Catholic schools for girls mentioned above, there are similar institutions at Solothurn and Lucerne. The most important Catholic church of the diocese is the Cathedral of Solothurn, which was built, 1762-63, in the style of the Italian Renaissance; others worthy of mention are: the collegiate church of St. Leodegar at Lucerne (built 1633-35); the church of St. Oswald at Zug; the churches of the former monasteries of Fischingen, Kreuzlingen, and Beromunster; the church of the institute at Menzingen, etc. The most frequented pilgrimages are: Mariastein near Basle, and Vorburg near Delsberg. (See SWITZERLAND).

The Diocese of Lugano

The Diocese of Lugano was erected by a Bull of Leo XIII (7 September, 1888). It includes the Swiss Canton of Ticino, where the population is almost entirely Catholic and Italian is the common language. Before the Diocese of Lugano was founded the Canton of Ticino was under the jurisdiction, in ecclesiastical matters, of bishops who were not Swiss. The smaller, northern part belonged to the Archdiocese of Milan, and, consequently, still uses the Ambrosian Rite; the other, and much larger part of the canton, belonged to the Diocese of Como. Soon after the formation of the Canton of Ticino, in 1803, efforts were made to separate it in its church relations as well as from foreign powers and to unite it in these with the rest of Switzerland. But it was several decades before the Great Council, in 1855, went thoroughly into the matter. Without consultation with the Holy See the Federal Council in 1859 declared the jurisdiction of the Bishops of Como and Milan to be abolished in the territory of Switzerland; after this negotiations were begun with Rome. No settlement of the question was reached until the pontificate of Leo XIII. By the convention of 1 September, 1884, made between the Curia and the Federal Council, Ticino was canonically separated from its former diocesan connections and was placed provisionally, under an administrator Apostolic, the pope appointing as administrator Bishop Lachat of Basle (see above). After Bishop Lachat's death (1886) the new Bishopric of Ticino was formed by the Bull of circumscription "Ad universam" of Leo XIII (7 September, 1888), and united with the Diocese of Basle under the title of the Diocese of Basle-Lugano. The same year the Church of San Lorenzo was elevated to a cathedral. The union is merely a nominal one, for, although the Bishop of Basle is called the Bishop of Lugano he exercises no rights of jurisdiction in this diocese. It is, in reality, under the independent rule of an administrator Apostolic who has the rank and power of a bishop. He is appointed by the pope with the concurrence of the Bishop of Basle from among the members of the clergy of the Canton of Ticino. The first administrator Apostolic was Eugene Lachat; he was followed by Mgr. Vincent Molo (1887-1904), and Mgr. Alfred Peri-Morosini. The latter was born 12 March, 1862, and was consecrated 17 April, 1904.


According to the Swiss census of 1900 the Diocese of Lugano includes 135,200 Catholics in a total population of 142,800 for the Canton of Ticino. For purposes of religious administration the diocese is divided into 14 episcopal vicariates, 5 rural chapters, and 248 parishes and chaplaincies; 54 parishes use the Ambrosian Rite; the other 194 parishes belong to the Latin Rite. The care of souls is exercised by 330 secular priests and 22 regular clergy. The cathedral chapter consists of an arch-priest and 16 canons (10 resident and 6 non-resident). The collegiate churches are: Bellinzona, a provost and 14 canons; Agno, a provost and 7 canons; Locarno, a provost and 8 canons; Balerna, a provost and 8 canons, and Mendrisio, a provost and 8 canons. Catholic institutions of learning are: the seminary for priests at Lugano; the episcopal seminary for boys, Santa Maria near Pollegio; the papal academy at Ascona; the College Don Bosco at Bellinzona; the Institute Dante Allighieri, conducted by the Somaschi, at Bellinzona, and the institute at Olivone. The orders and congregations in the diocese and the number of their houses are as follows: Capuchins, 4 houses; the Somaschi, 1; Benedictine nuns, 1; Augustinian nuns, 1 house, which has an academy in connection with it; Capuchin nuns, 1; Sisters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul, 2 (hospitals at Lugano and Locarno); School-Sisters of Menzingen, 2 (college at Bellinzona); Sisters of the Holy Cross, 3 (they also conduct an asylum for the deaf and dumb at Locarno); Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, 1; Sisters of the Childhood of Jesus, 1; and the Sisters of the Divine Providence, 1. The most noted church of the diocese is the cathedral of San Lorenzo at Lugano, which was built in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and has a celebrated Renaissance façade; the most frequented place of pilgrimage is the shrine Madonna del Sasso not far from Locarno, which is the national shrine of the Canton of Ticino.


I. BASLE: Neugart, Episcopatus Constantiensis Alemannicus (St. Blasien, 1803, Freiburg, 1862, 2 vols.); Schneller, Die Bischofe von Basel (Zug, 1830); Touillat, Monuments de l'histoire de l'ancien eveche de Bale (Porrentruy, 1852-66, 5 vols.); Merian, Geschichte der Bischofe von Basel (Basle, 1860-62), 2 parts extending to 1330; Attenhofer, Die rechtliche Stellung der katholischen Kirche gegenuber der Staatsgewalt in der Diozese Basel (Lucerne, 1869); Vautrey, Histoire des eviques de Bale (Einsiedeln, 1884-86, 2 vols.); Schmidlin, Die katholisch-theolo-gische und kirchliche Litteratur des Bistums Basel vom Jahre 1750 bis zum Jahre 1893 (Bern, 1894-95); Fleiner, Staat und Bischofswahl im Bistum Basel (Leipzig, 1897); Daucourt, Les eveches suisses (Freiburg, 1901); Idem, Dictionnaire historique des paroisses de l'eveche de Bale (Porrentruy, 1893-1905, 5 vols.); Buchi, Die katholische Kirche der Schweiz (Munich, 1902); Slatus cleri omnium Helvetiae dioecesium (Solothurn, 1905).

II. LUGANO: Franscini, Der Kanton Tessin, historisch, geographisch und statistisch geschildert (St. Gall and Bern, 1835); Peri-Morosini, La questione diocesana ticinese, ovvero origine della diocesi di Lugano (Einsiedeln, 1892); Rahn, Die mittelalterlichen Kunstdenkmaler des Kantons Tessin (Zurich, 1893); Borrani, Il Ticino sacro (Lugano, 1899); Cantu, Storia della citta e della diocesi di Como (Milan, 1829-32, 3d ed., Como, 1899-1900); Motta, Bolletino storieo di Ticino I (since 1879), and the works by Buchi and Daucourt quoted in the bibliography above.

About this page

APA citation. Lins, J. (1907). Basle-Lugano. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Lins, Joseph. "Basle-Lugano." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Susan Birkenseer.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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