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Two small principalities of Central Germany, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, which, however, have been connected by personal union under one sovereign since 1909.

The principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt has an area of 363 square miles, and in 1910 had 100,712 inhabitants. The territory of the state consists of two non-contiguous districts, the Upper Barony in Thuringia and the Lower Barony south of the Harz Mountains. The Upper Barony (capital, Rudolstadt) has an area of 280 square miles; the Lower Barony (capital, Frankenhausen) an area of 83 square miles. The Upper Barony includes the exclave of Leutenberg lying to the east. As regards religion, in 1905, of 96,835 inhabitants 95,641 were Lutherans, 994 Catholics, and 82 Jews. Consequently the Catholics number only one per cent of the population; in 1871 they numbered only one-tenth per cent.

The principality of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen has has an area of about 333 square miles, and in 1910 had 89,984 inhabitants. The territory of this state also consists of two main districts called the Lower Barony situated south of the Harz, and the Upper Barony in Thuringia south of the Prussian city of Erfurt. The Lower Barony (capital, Sondershausen) is in area about 200 square miles, while the Upper Barony (capital, Arnstadt) has an area of about 132 square miles. In 1905 of the 85,152 inhabitants of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen 83,389 were Lutherans, 1521 Catholics, and 195 Jews. The Catholics, therefore, number nearly two per cent of the population; in 1871 they were only three-tenths per cent.

The Schwarzburg principalities are a part of the region occupied by the old tribe of the Thuringians, who in the sixth century succumbed to the united attack of the German tribes of the Franks and Saxons. In the ninth and tenth centuries several counts became independent rulers in different parts of the Thuringian territory. Among these were the counts of Keverenburg (Käfernburg), from whom sprang the princely house of Schwarzburg, which takes its name from a castle on the small Thuringian river called Schwarza. Gundar (Günther), a son of the Frankish king Lothair IV, is regarded as the founder of the family. The first count mentioned in a document is Sizzo III (1009-60). In the course of time appeared the ruling lines of Käfernburg, Schwarzburg, and the senior and cadet lines of Blankenburg. In 1548 Günther XL, who was also called Günther with the Heavy Jaw, again united all the lands of Schwarzburg under his rule. The territories were again divided by various partitions and treaties, and finally, by the Hauptrezess of Ilm in 1599, into the two domains and lines of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Arnstadt (or Schwarzburg-Sondershausen). In 1710 Emperor Joseph I raised Louis Frederick I of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt to the rank of a hereditary prince of the empire. In 1713 primogeniture was introduced, and a treaty of succession was made with Schwarzburg-Sondershausen. In 1807 Louis Frederick II joined the Confederation of the Rhine; in 1815 Prince Frederick Günther joined the German Confederation. In the war of 1866 between Prussia and Austria the government voted against the Austrian proposal for the mobilization of the forces of the confederation against Prussia. Ruler and people joined the North German Confederation. Since 1871 the principality has been one of the confederated states of the German Empire. Prince Günther Victor (b. 1852) has been the ruler since 1890.

In Schwarzburg-Arnstadt the sons of Christian Günther I founded, without prejudice to the unity of the original territory, three lines, those of Sondershausen, Arnstadt, and Ebeleben. However, the two latter lines became extinct (Arnstadt in 1669, and Ebeleben in 1681). After the death of Anthony Günther I of the Sondershausen line his two sons divided the government between them and founded the lines of Sondershausen and Arnstadt. In 1697 the Prince of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen was made a prince of the empire, and his territory declared an independent principality of the empire; the same rank and independence of territory was conferred upon the ruler of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt in 1709. Before this they had been under the suzerainty of various German states. The house of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt became extinct in 1716. The Prince of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen became the sole ruler of the territory, which took the name of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen. The law of primogeniture had been introduced in Sondershausen in 1713, and a treaty of succession had been made with Rudolstadt. In 1806 Prince Günther Frederick Charles secretly supported Prussia in the war between Prussia and France. Napoleon, on this account, sent a French army into the territory of Schwarzburg, which plundered and devastated the country. In 1807 the prince joined the Confederation of the Rhine, and in 1815 entered the German Confederation. In 1866, in the war between Prussia and Austria, both prince and people were opposed to the mobilization of the forces of the confederation against Prussia. They declared themselves on the side of Prussia, and the country joined the North German Confederation. In 1871 the principality became one of the confederated states of the German Empire. With the death of Prince Charles Günther in 1909 the Sondershausen line became extinct. In virtue of the treaty of succession of 1713 the sovereignty the treaty of succession of 1713 the sovereignty went to Prince Günther Victor of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, who since then has called himself Prince of Schwarzburg. The two principalities have not at the present time lost their constitutional independence by this personal union; however, a closer union of the two states is frequently urged. The marriage of Prince Günther Victor of Schwarzburg being without issue, Prince Sizzo of Leutenberg has been recognized as a member of the ruling house of equal rank, and was made Prince of Schwarzburg in 1896. Prince Sizzo is the son of Prince Frederick Günther, who died in 1867, by his morganatic marriage with the Countess von Reina, and the sovereignty of both states will devolve upon him when Prince Günther Victor dies.

Before the great religious schism of the sixteenth century the Schwarzburg domains belonged, in ecclesiastical matters, to the Archdiocese of Mainz. The permanent representative of the archbishop in Thuringia was an auxiliary bishop who resided at Erfurt. The Reformation found early entrance into Schwarzburg. In the Upper Barony it was definitively introduced by Count Henry XXXII (1531-38), who was called the "Reformer". At his death the Upper Barony fell to Count Günther XL (1526-52). At first under the pressure exerted by his feudal suzerain, the strictly Catholic Duke George of Sace-Meissen, Günther remained a Catholic; still he encouraged the new doctrine and, at the Diet of Ratisbon in 1541, went over publicly to the Protestant side. All Catholic life vanished completely from his territories. In the Catholic era the Schwarzburg territories had belonged to the Archdeanery of Jechaburg, where in 1004 a monastery of Augustinian Canons Regular had been established; in 1552 the monastery received a Lutheran dean, and in 1572 was secularized. Venerable architectural monuments still give proof of the flourishing conditions of Catholic life in the era before the Reformation, although a large number of Catholic edifices were destroyed during the Peasants' War in 1525. Celebrated memorials of this period are the ruins of the Benedictine Abbey of Paulinzella (intended both for monks and nuns), which was established in 1106 by St. Paulina, daughter of the Thuringian Count Moricho, jointly with her son Werner, and was suppressed in 1534; further, the Church of Our Lady at Arnstadt, the church at Stadtilm, and many village churches, which have excellent carvings from the celebrated school of carving in the Benedictine Monastery of Saalfeld.

In 1771 Catholic services were held again in the principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt for the miners who had come from Austria, and had been granted the right to exercise their religion, but not in public. Catholics received the right of publicly exercising their religion when the principality joined the Confederation of the Rhine and later joined the German Confederation. In both principalities the periodical church services were under the care of priests from Erfurt. Much of the credit for the further development of Catholic affairs in Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt is due to James Hermann von Bertrab, who, although a Catholic, was the head of the Rudolstadt ministry until his death in 1887. In Schwarzburg-Sondershausen the first Catholic parish was formed at Arnstadt. From 1817 the Government permitted the holding of Catholic services. By an edict of the sovereign of 15 April, 1837, the Catholic parish was granted corporate rights. By a decree of the Propaganda of 27 June, 1869, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Catholics of the two principalities was transferred to the Bishop of Paderborn. Before this the bishop had exerted himself on behalf of the Catholics of Schwarzburg, but lacking a canonically legal title had hesitated to introduce any regular parish work. By an edict of the ruler of 10 Novebmber, 1871, the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Paderborn was recognized by the government in Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, and permission was given for the appointment of a permanent priest at Rudolstadt for the entire Upper Barony of Rudolstadt under the title of mission priest. By decree of the ruler of 10 July, 1874, the parish received the legal rights of a private juridical person. In Schwarzburg-Sondershausen the transfer of the jurisdiction to the Bishop of Paderborn was looked upon as a concession of the Government made to the bishop of the time, because the transfer was a one-sided one, made without agreement with the Government. Each new bishop, therefore, must notify the Government of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen of his appointment, whereupon he receives a new confirmation of his right to exercise jurisdiction.

A permanent mission priest was appointed at Arnstadt for the entire Upper Barony of Sondershausen by an edict of the ruler of 26 January, 1871. At a later date another Catholic parish was formed at Sondershausen, where in 1896 a permanent parish priest was appointed for the Lower Barony of Sondershausen. Since 1900 the spiritual care of the Lower Barony of Rudolstadt has also been transferred to this priest by the bishop. These parishes received legal competence by an edict of the ruler of 9 July, 1902. The legal competence of the parish at Arnstadt was again confirmed by an edict of 9 February, 1905. By a law of 21 July, 1905, both parishes were raised to corporations of public right. While the State gives the Catholic communities no financial aid of any kind, Prince Charles Günther won the gratitude of the Catholics by his contributions to the building of churches and by promoting the interests of his Catholics subjects. Notwithstanding the permanent transfer to the Bishop of Paderborn the Schwarzburg territory has remained canonically a mission country. The parishes of both divisions belong to the deanery of Erfurt. In many cases, instead of the bishop, the "ecclesiastical court" of Erfurt exercises jurisdiction, as it also does in the government district of Erfurt-Merseburg. Since 1881 there has been, with the tacit permission of the Government, a house of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth (Grey Sisters) from Breslau at Rudolstadt, who work as visiting nurses. The Government does not claim the right of supervising the administration of the property of the Church. No tithes may be collected. In both principalities all the primary schools are Lutheran. There are private Catholic primary schools since 1882 at Rudolstadt (62 children in 1910), since 1898 at Sondershausen (28 children in 1910), and since 1872 at Arnstadt (72 children in 1910). Neither the State nor the community gives any financial aid. In Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt children who have received Protestant baptism cannot be taken as pupils in the Catholic private schools, even if they spring from mixed marriages or from purely Catholic marriages.


APFELSTEDT, Gesch des Schwarzburgischen Hauses (Sondershausen, 1856); EINICKE, Zwanzig Jahre Schwarzburg. Reformationsgesch. (2 vols., Nordhausen, 1904-09), Protestant; FREISEN, Staat und kathol. Kirche in den deutschen Bundesstaaten, II (Stuttgart, 1906), 145 sqq.; IDEM, Der kathol. u. protestant. Pfarrzwang (Paderborn, 1906), 47 sqq.

About this page

APA citation. Sacher, H. (1912). Schwarzburg. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Sacher, Hermann. "Schwarzburg." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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