New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
New Advent
Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > P > Diocese of Passau

Diocese of Passau

Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...


Located in Bavaria, suffragan of Munich-Freising, including within its boundaries one district and one parish in Upper Bavaria and the City of Passau and 10 districts in Lower Bavaria (see GERMANY, Map).


The Diocese of Passau may be considered the successor of the ancient Diocese of Lorch (Laureacum). At Lorch, a Roman station and an important stronghold at the junction of the Enns and the Danube, Christianity found a foothold in the third century, during a period of Roman domination, and a Bishop of Lorch certainly existed in the fourth. During the great migrations, Christianity on the Danube was completely rooted out, and the Celtic and Roman population was annihilated or enslaved. In the region between the Lech and the Enns, the wandering Bajuvari were converted to Christianity in the seventh century, while the Avari, to the east, remained pagan. The ecclesiastical organization of Bavaria was brought about by St. Boniface, who, with the support of Duke Odilo, erected the four sees of Freising, Ratisbon, Passau, and Salzburg. He confirmed as incumbent of Passau, Bishop Vivilo, or Vivolus, who had been ordained by Pope Gregory III, and who was for a long time the only bishop in Bavaria. Thenceforth, Vivilo resided permanently at Passau, on the site of the old Roman colony of Batavis. Here was a church, the founder of which is not known, dedicated to St. Stephen. To Bishop Vivilo's diocese was annexed the ancient Lorch, which meanwhile had become a small and unimportant place. By the duke's generosity, a cathedral was soon erected near the Church of St. Stephen, and here the bishop lived in common with his clergy. The boundaries of the diocese extended westwards to the Isar, and eastwards to the Enns. In ecclesiastical affairs Passau was probably, from the beginning, suffragan to Salzburg. Through the favour of Dukes Odilo and Tassilo, the bishopric received many costly gifts, and several monasteries arose — e.g. Niederalteich, Niebernburg, Mattsee, Kremsmünster — which were richly endowed. Under Bishop Waltreich (774-804), after the conquest of the Avari, who had assisted the rebellious Duke Tassilo, the district between the Enns and the Raab was added to the diocese, which thus included the whole eastern part (Ostmark) of Southern Bavaria and part of what is now Hungary. The first missionaries to the pagan Hungarians went out from Passau, and in 866 the Church sent missionaries to Bulgaria.

Passau, the outermost eastern bulwark of the Germans, suffered most from the incursions of the Hungarians. At that time many churches and monasteries were destroyed. When, after the victory of Lech, the Germans pressed forward and regained the old Ostmark, Bishop Adalbert (946-971) hoped to extend his spiritual jurisdiction over Hungary. His successor Piligrim (971-91), who worked zealously and successfully for the Christianization of Pannonia, aspired to free Passau from the metropolitan authority of Salzburg, but was completely frustrated in this, as well as in his attempt to assert the metropolitan claims which Passau was supposed to have inherited from Lorch, and to include all Hungary in his diocese. By founding many monasteries in his diocese he prepared the way for the princely power of later bishops. It is undoubtedly to his credit that he built many new churches and restored others from ruins. His successor, Christian (991-1002) received in 999 from Otto III the market privilege and the rights of coinage, taxation, and higher and lower jurisdiction. Henry II granted him a large part of the North Forest. Henceforward, indeed, the bishops ruled as princes of the empire, although the title was used for the first time only in a document in 1193. Under Berengar (1013-45) the whole district east of the Viennese forest as far as Letha and March was placed under the jurisdiction of Passau. During his time the cathedral chapter made its appearance, but there is little information concerning its beginning as a distinct corporation with the right of electing a bishop. This right was much hampered by the exercise of imperial influence.

At the beginning of the Conflict of Investures, St. Altmann (q.v.) occupied the see (1065-91) and was one of the few German bishops who adhered to Gregory VII. Ulrich I, Count of Höfft (1092-1121), who was for a time driven from his see by Henry IV, furthered the monastic reforms and the Crusades. Reginmar (1121-38), Reginbert, Count of Hegenau (1136-47) who took part in the crusade of Conrad III, and Conrad of Austria (1149-64), a brother of Bishop Otto of Freising, were all much interested in the foundation of new monasteries and the reform for those already existing. Ulrich, Count of Andechs (1215-21), was formally recognized as a prince of the empire at the Reichstag of Nuremberg in 1217. The reforms which were begun by Gebhard von Plaien (1221-32) and Rüdiger von Rodeck (1233-1250) found a zealous promoter in Otto von Lonsdorf (1254-65), one of the greatest bishops of Passau. He took stringent measures against the relaxed monasteries, introduced the Franciscans and Dominicans into his diocese, promoted the arts and sciences, and collected the old documents which had survived the storms of the preceding period, so that to him we owe almost all our knowledge of the early history of Passau. (See Schmidt, "Otto von Lonsdorf, Bischof zu Passau", Würzburg, 1903.) Bishop Peter, formerly Canon of Breslau, contributed much to the greatness of the House of Habsburg by bestowing episcopal fiefs on the sons of King Rudolph. Under Bernhard of Brambach (1285-1313) began the struggles of Passau to become a free imperial city. After an uprising in May, 1298, the bishop granted the burghers, in the municipal ordinance of 1299, privileges in conformity with what was called the Bernhardine Charter. The cathedral having been burned down in 1281, he built a new cathedral which lasted until 1662. Albert III von Winkel (1363-80) was particularly active in the struggle with the burghers and in resisting the robber-knights. The Black Death visited the bishopric under Gottfried II von Weitzenbeck (1342-62). George I von Hohenlohe (1388-1421), who, after 1418, was imperial chancellor, energetically opposed the Hussites. During the time of Ulrich III von Nussdorf (1451-79) the diocese suffered its first great curtailment by the formation of the new Diocese of Vienna (1468). This diocese was afterwards further enlarged at the expense of Passau by Sixtus IV. Towards the close of the fifteenth century the conflict between an Austrian candidate for the see and a Bavarian brought about a state of war in the diocese.

The Reformation was kept out of all the Bavarian part of the diocese, except the Countship of Ortenburg, by the efforts of Ernest of Bavaria who, though never consecrated, ruled the diocese from 1517 to 1541. The new heresy found many adherents, however, in the Austrian portion. Wolfgang I Count of Salm (1540-55) and Urban von Trennbach (1561-98) led the counter-Reformation. Under Wolfgang the Peace of Passau was concluded, in the summer of 1552 (see CHARLES V). The last Bavarian prince-bishop was Urban, who in his struggles during the Reformation received substantial aid for the Austrian part of the diocese from Albert V, Duke of Bavaria, and, after 1576, from Emperor Rudolph II. All the successors of Urban were Austrians. Bishop Leopold I (1598-1625) (also Bishop of Strasburg after 1607) was one of the first to enter the Catholic League of 1609. In the Thirty Years' War he was loyal to his brother, Emperor Ferdinand II. Leopold II Wilhelm (1625-62), son of Ferdinand II, a pious prince and a great benefactor of the City of Passau, especially after the great conflagration of 1662, finally united five bishoprics. Count Wenzelaus von Thun (1664-73) began the new cathedral which was completed thirty years later by Paul Philip of Lamberg. He and his nephew Joseph Dominicus, his mediate successor (1723-62), became cardinals. When Vienna was raised to an archdiocese in 1722, he relinquished the parishes beyond the Viennese Forest, hence was exempted from the metropolitan authority of Salzburg, and obtained the pallium for himself and his successors. Leopold Ernst, Count of Firmian (1763-83), created cardinal in 1772, established an institute of theology at Passau and, after the suppression of the Jesuits, founded a lyceum. Under Joseph, Count of Auersperg (1783-95), Emperor Joseph II took away two-thirds of the diocese to form the two dioceses of Linz and St. Pölten (see LINZ). The last prince-bishop, Leopold von Thun (1796-1826), saw the secularization of the old bishopric in 1803; the City of Passau and the temporalities on the left bank of the Inn and the right bank of the Ilz went to Bavaria, while the territory on the left banks of the Danube and of the Ilz went to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and afterwards to Austria. On 22 February, 1803, when the Bavarians marched into Passau, the prince-bishop withdrew to his estates in Bohemia, and never revisited his former residence.

By the Concordat of 1818, the diocese was given the boundaries which it still has. After the death of the last prince-bishop, Passau's exemption from metropolitan power ceased, and the diocese became suffragan of Munich-Freising. Bishop Charles Joseph von Riccabona (1826-38) turned his attention to the care of the rising generation of clergy. With the support of King Louis I, he founded a preparatory course and then reopened the lyceum with a faculty of law and of theology. Henry von Hofstätter (1839-75) established a complete theological seminary, and a school for boys. The former of these found a great benefactor in Bishop Franz von Weckert (1875-79); the latter, in Michael von Rampf (1889-1901), who for sixteen years had been vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising. He was followed by Antonius von Thoma (March-October, 1889), who was promoted to the archiepiscopal See of Munich, and succeeded by Antonius von Henle (1901-06), who was transferred to Ratisbon. The present diocesan, Sigismund Felix von Ow-Felldorf, was appointed 11 January, 1906, and consecrated on 24 February, 1906.

Actual conditions

The diocese is divided into a city commission and 19 rural deaneries. In 1910 it numbered 222 parishes, and 102 other benefices and exposituren, 607 clerics, of whom 219 were parish priests, 49 were engaged at the cathedral and in diocesan educational institutions, and 67 were regulars. The resident Catholic population was 354,200. The cathedral chapter consists of a cathedral provost, a dean, 8 canons, 6 vicars, 1 preacher, and 1 precentor (Domkapellmeister). The diocesan institutions are the seminary for clerics, dedicated to St. Stephen, with 95 alumni, and the boys' seminary at Passau; the state institutions are a gymnasium at Passau, 2 homes for priests, 1 home for super-annuated priests. There is a state lyceum at Passau with 8 religious professors, where candidates for the priesthood study philosophy and theology. The following orders and congregations were established in the diocese: Benedictine Missionaries of St. Ottilien, a missionary seminary with 9 fathers and 20 brothers; Capuchins, 5 monasteries, 54 fathers, 24 tertiary clerics, and 65 lay brothers; Redemptorists, 1 monastery with 3 fathers and 3 brothers. Female orders: Benedictines, 1 convent, 46 sisters; Cistercians, 1 house, 48 sisters; English Ladies, 3 mother-houses 30 affiliated institutions, 866 members; Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame, from the mother-house at Munich, 7 institutions, with 35 sisters; Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul from the mother-house at Munich, 18 houses with 79 sisters; Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer, from Neiderbronn, Alsace, 2 institutions with 9 sisters; Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, from Mallersdorf, Lower Bavaria, 25 institutions with 125 sisters. The English Ladies and the School Sisters devote themselves to the education of girls, while those in most of the remaining institutions of the diocese (the Benedictines and Cistercians being contemplatives) are occupied with the care of the sick. Among the pious organizations of the diocese may be mentioned the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Society of St. Elizabeth, the Brotherhood for the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Society of St. Cecilia, the Societies of Catholic Workmen, the Volksverein of Catholic Germany. The most important Catholic periodicals are "Die Donauzeitung" and "Die Theologisch-praktische Monatschrift", both published at Passau.

The cathedral, with the exception of the choir and the transept built in 1407, was rebuilt after the fire of 1662 by the Italians Lorago and Canone, in the baroque style; its two towers were finished in 1896-98 by Heinr. von Schmidt. From Gothic times date the parish church of the city of Neuötting (1450-80), the cathedral at Altötting (fourteenth and fifteenth centuries) with the tombs of Karlmann and of Tilly, the Herrenkapelle near the cathedral at Passau (1414); Renaissance and Baroque are the former Cistercian church at Aldersbach (1700-34), the Church of the Premonstratensians at Osterhofen (completed in 1740), the parish church at Niederalteich, formerly the church of a Benedictine abbey (1718-26). The diocese contains the most famous place of pilgrimage in all Bavaria: the Chapel of Our Lady at Altötting, which is visited each year by from 200,000 to 300,000 pilgrims. In this chapel the hearts of the Bavarian royal family have been preserved opposite the miraculous picture, since the time of the Elector Maximilian I.


BUCHINGER, Geschichte des Fürstentums Passau (Munich, 1816-24); SCHÖLLER, Geschichte der Bischöfe von Passau (Passau, 1844); ERHARD, Geschichte der Stadt Passau (Passau, 1862, 1864) (the bishops especially are treated in the first volume) SCHRÖDI, Passavia sacra: Geschichte des Bistums Passau bis zur Säkularisation des Fürstentums Passau (Passau, 1879); ROTTMAYER, Statistische Beschreibung des Bistums Passau (Passau, 1867); RÖHM, Das historische Alter der Diözese Passau (Passau, 1880); Die bischöflichen Seminarien der Diözese Passau (1893); HEINWIESER, Die rechtliche Stellung der Stadt Passau bis sur Stadtherrschaft der Bischöfe (Passau, 1910); Schematismus für das Jahr 1910 (Passau, 1910); Verhandlungen des Historischen Vereins für Niederbayern (Landshut, 1846-). The traditions of the diocese are treated in BITTERAUF, Necrologia von Fastlinger. On the Peace of Passau, KÜHNS, Geschichte des Passauer Vertrags (Giessen, 1907) and BONWETSCH, Geschichte des Passauischen Vertrags von 1552 (Göttingen, 1907).

About this page

APA citation. Lins, J. (1911). Diocese of Passau. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Lins, Joseph. "Diocese of Passau." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

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. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2023 by New Advent LLC. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.