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Friedrich, Prince of Schwarzenberg

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Cardinal and Prince-Archbishop of Prague, b. at Vienna, 6 April, 1809; d. there, 27 March, 1885. Son of Prince Joseph John Schwarzenberg and his spouse Pauline (née Princess Arenberg), he was baptized in his father's palace in Vienna. When Napoleon advanced upon Vienna, the mother fled with her one-month-old child to Krummau in Bohemia. In the summer of the following year she accompanied her husband and eldest daughter to Paris to be present at the marriage festivities of Napoleon and Archduchess Marie-Louise. During the celebration she and her daughter were burned to death; a golden necklace, on which were engraved the names of her ten children (including that of Friedrich), alone made it possible to identify the charred mass as her remains. Her sister-in-law Eleanora henceforth acted as mother to the children and was always called by Fritz his "Engelstante". When he was five years old, Fritz was placed under the care of the learned and able Father Lorenz Greif. Having completed the secondary school course in the Schotten gymnasium, he applied himself to juridical studies with great success. Reluctantly he now revealed to his father his desire to consecrate his life to the service of God in the priesthood, as this was for him the surest way to heaven. The father gave his consent with some hesitation.

Fritz began his theological studies at Salzburg, as his numerous relatives in Vienna would prove too great a distraction. Archbishop Gruber was his spiritual father, and one cannot peruse their correspondence without emotion. Able professors, among whom Joseph Othmar von Rauscher was conspicuous, fanned the enthusiasm of the young student. Fritz was to make his last year's theology at Vienna, where he was to reside in the clerical seminary. The rector, Franz Zenner, a strict disciplinarian, acted almost harshly towards Schwarzenberg. Besides the university lectures he received private instruction in philosophy from Günther, who later exercised a constant guiding influence over his pupil. On entering the clerical state, Friedrich had promised his father to accept none of the higher orders before his twenty-fourth year. On the completion of his theological studies, the question arose of how the remaining two years were to be passed. Friedrich was seized with a desire to travel, which his father was anxious to gratify. However, Bishop Gruber insisted that he must study for the doctorate, while Zenner demanded that the candidate for the doctorship must continue to reside in the seminary. Schwarzenberg's refusal to comply was followed by a breach which the young man, however, endeavoured to remedy. He successfully passed the examinations for the doctorate. Finally, in 1833, he was ordained by Gruber. The young priest was appointed curate in the cathedral parish; he derived great satisfaction from the performance of his pastoral duties. But clouds now threatened him; he had to hurry to his dying father, to whom he administered the last sacraments. In June, 1835, the fatherly archbishop died in Friedrich's arms, after receiving extreme unction from him.

On 23 September, 1835, the metropolitan chapter requested that Schwarzenberg be made archbishop, though he was not yet thirty years old, and thus needed a papal dispensation. Anxious and sad of heart, he accepted the staff of St. Rupert with courage and determination. In the archdiocese the Protestant people of the Zillertal were the chief cause of trouble; they remained there, notwithstanding every effort to induce them to withdraw and in spite of the patent of emigration of Archbishop Firmian (1731). An imperial resolution of 1837 ordered their return to the national Church or their emigration. Archbishop Schwarzenberg was greatly pained to see hundreds of those Zillertaler leave their native land, and left nothing untried to induce them by affectionate persuasion at least to leave their children behind, promising to educate and support them; but in vain. Among the institutions founded or favoured by Schwarzenberg may be mentioned: the Mozarteum, the Cathedral Musical Society, the Art Society, the boys' seminary (Borromäum), the convent of the Sisters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul at Schwarzach for the nursing of the sick and the education of the young. The foundation at Schwarzach bore magnificent fruit, but impoverished him. It was only fitting that a marble monument of him was erected there in 1910.

On 29 March, 1848, he issued an exhortation to the clergy, urging them to correct the mistaken views and unfounded anxieties of their flock, to keep the pulpit free from political declamations and allusions, and to cultivate good feelings with the secular authorities. Schwarzenberg was no friend of politics, even church politics. However, for more than forty years he was the leading churchman in Austria, and during those years arose a host of new institutions, tendencies, and conditions, profoundly affecting Church and State in the Hapsburg empire. These conditions entailed a huge amount of work for him. Although the Council of Trent had commanded provincial councils to be held every three years, the custom had fallen into disuse. In Salzburg the last provincial synod had been held in 1573. Schwarzenberg, after so long an intermission, convened a synod which sat from 31 August to 12 September, 1848. In the address to the imperial parliament, the synod laid down what the Catholic Church must needs demand from the civil power in order to secure the liberty and independence which rightfully belonged to her, and which could not be denied her without inconsistency and injustice in view of the free development of civil rights. The bishops at this synod also issued a pastoral, subjecting Sommaruga's fundamental principles of state education to severe criticism.

Of fundamental importance for the Church in Austria was the meeting of bishops at Vienna in 1849. The Reichstag which sat at Kremsier in February debated the relations of Church and State in a very unfriendly spirit. However, the cardinal's brother, Felix, was already prime minister, and by the appointment of Rauscher, the archbishop's teacher, as Bishop of Sekkau, Schwarzenberg greatly strengthened the influence of the bishops. The cardinal succeeded without much difficulty in convening the bishops of Austria; the bishops of Hungary and the Lombardo-Venetian territory, in which peace had not yet been restored, were not invited. On 29 April twenty-nine bishops and four episcopal proxies met in the palace of the prince-archbishop, and between this date and 20 June held sixty sessions. The cardinal conducted the sessions with the greatest tact. Among the theologians were Kutschker and Fessler. The assembly laid the results of their deliberations before the Government in seven memorials: on marriage; on the religious, school, and educational funds; on benefices and church property; on education; on ecclesiastical administration and offices and religious services; on monasticism; on ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In the decrees, which include 207 paragraphs, the bishops lay down "a common line of action for their future aims and action". This first assembly of the bishops of Austria lay the foundation for the revival of the Church in Austria; it marks the beginning of an Austrian episcopate, whereas before there had been only individual bishops. To urge the carrying out of the memorials, and to represent the bishops permanently, a standing committee of five was appointed under the presidency of the cardinal. It existed until the sixties.

About this time also the cardinal was named Archbishop of Prague. In spite of his earnest protests both at Rome and at Vienna, the appointment was confirmed, and the cardinal made his solemn entry into Prague on 15 August, 1850. He had not yet familiarized himself with his new duties when Pius IX ordered him and the Primate of Gran to undertake the visitation of all monasteries in Austria which were not subject to the superior-general of an order; these monasteries were 380 in number. He had no share in the settling of the concordat, but did his utmost to carry it out. For this object a meeting of the bishops was held at Vienna under his presidency from 6 April to 17 June, 1856. Sixty-six prelates — German, Hungarian, Italian, and Slav — were present, representing the Latin, Greek, and Armenian Rites. Memorials were again addressed to the Government concerning the schools, marriage, ecclesiastical property, the filling of vacant benefices, monasteries, and the right of patronage. The Primate of Prague thereupon organized an ecclesiastical matrimonial court, held a provincial and two diocesan councils, and promoted the sciences, the growth of the orders, the societies, and the arts. That the concordat was carelessly executed is false. As his adviser in questions of canon law the cardinal chose Professor Friedrich von Schulte, likewise appointing him, although he was a layman, counsel of the spiritual matrimonial court in all three instances and titular consistorial counsel. Schwarzenberg showed himself a zealous friend of his teacher, Günther, and sought by repeated intercession at Rome to prevent the condemnation of his writings. The first serious delay in the execution of the provisions of the concordat occurred when the administration of church property, benefices, and foundations were to be turned over to church officials. The cardinal thought that the questions of the manner of transfer had been agreed upon, and furnished printed instructions on the administration of property to the church officials and to the patrons. The minister of state, Schmerling, stopped the transfer of the ecclesiastical property in Prague. In union with his three suffragans, Schwarzenberg protested to the emperor, the minister of state, and the governor (19 March, 1862). However, the only effect of this protest was the assertion of principle.

The year 1866, so unfortunate in the history of Austria, was especially unfortunate for Schwarzenberg. On 25 May, while on his tour of visitation, he fell ill of smallpox. The German war seemed already unavoidable, and, when the manifesto of 15 June announced its outbreak, the cardinal, who regarded it as his duty to remain at Prague, ordered public prayers and intercessory processions. One of the consequences of the misfortune of the Bohemian fields of battle was the change in the relations between Church and State. On 25 May, 1858, the decrees of the Reichstag concerning marriage, schools, and interconfessional relations were confirmed by the emperor. On 22 June Pius IX condemned the decrees; the bishops had on 3 June issued a common instruction to the clergy, and on 24 June issued a collective pastoral. Both these last-mentioned decrees were condemned by the imperial courts as breaches of the public peace and confiscated. It was to be expected that the legal proceedings pending against Bishop Rudiger of Linz would be extended to the bishops of Bohemia. In February, 1869, Schwarzenberg received the following instruction from the Holy See: "If the bishops or ecclesiastics are summoned before lay judges, let them in every possible case plead their causes through an attorney, and never appear personally and of their own accord before such judges". The cardinal regretted this, since he had hoped that his ill-treatment might awaken many slumbering Catholics. The conflict about the concordat was not yet over, and a new conflict was threatening which in the name of freedom endangered the liberties of the Church, when Pius IX convened the Council of the Vatican (8 December, 1869-18 July, 1870). On the question of the infallibility of the pope, Schwarzenberg supported the minority.

The void left by the annulment of the concordat, Stremayr in 1874 sought to fill up by four new inter-confessional laws dealing with the regulation of the external legal relations of the Catholic Church, the taxes providing for the so-called Religionsfond, the legal relations of the monasteries, and the recognition of new religious corporations. During the deliberations of the House of Peers Schwarzenberg vigorously opposed the proposed laws and condemned them in a carefully prepared speech. However, it was impossible to defeat them entirely. Of Stremayr's four new laws that on the legal status of religious communities, authorizing the minister of public worship to suppress any monastery and to confiscate its property, had not yet passed. As soon as Schwarzenberg heard that the monastery law was to be discussed in the House of Peers in the middle of January, 1876, he convened a meeting of the bishops of the House of Peers; the eight bishops assembled in the Schwarzenberg palace. To the deliberations were also admitted Abbot Helferstorfer, Leo Thun, and His Excellency Falkenhayn. The result of the meeting was the "Declaration" signed by all the Austrian bishops that entertain the certain hope that a law of such content and so harmful in its effects shall never be enacted. Should, however, they find themselves disappointed in this confident expectation, they must declare that so harmful a law should not be enacted and protest against the imputation that the Church could ever tolerate and ratify a religious order whose vocation and activity would merit the mistrustful and suspicious regulations expressed in the draft of the law. The bill was passed, but did not receive the sanction of the emperor.

In 1882 the division of the University of Karl Ferdinand into a German and a Czechish was effected, but Cardinal Schwarzenberg would not agree to the division of the theological faculty, holding that it was the vocation of the priest to work for the reconciliation and union of the various races in Bohemia. After his death this separation could not be prevented.

Among the many institutions, etc., introduced by Schwarzenberg we may mention: the priestly exercises, pastoral conferences, provincial synods (two), diocesan synods, the heritage of St. Adalbert for the support of poor priests, diocesan relief funds; establishments of the Jesuits, Redemptorists, Notre-Dame, Grey Sisters, Sisters of St. Borromäus, and Sisters of St. Vincent; popular missions; the Forty Hours' Adoration; the canonization of St. Agnes of Bohemia; the jubilee of Methodius; the jubilee of the Diocese of Prague; the papal jubilees; the Katholikenverein; the Bonifaciusverein; the Confraternity of St. Michael; the Prokopius fund for the publication of good books; perpetual adoration; vestment societies; the cathedral building society. At the first episcopal meeting in Austria and at all the succeeding conferences, Schwarzenberg had always presided. At the meeting of 1885 he accepted his election as president, but reserved the right of joining in the debate. At the eighth session the cardinal was unable to appear on account of ill-health; on the next day Schwarzenberg again presided, although very feverish, but hurried from this session to what was destined to be his death-bed. His remains lie in the cathedral at Prague.


NOSTITZ-RIENECK, Kardinal Schwarzenberg: Ein Gedenkbild in Ungetrübter Glanz (Vienna, 1888), 1-44; WOLFSGRUBER, Friedrich Kardinal Schwarzenberg, I, Jugend u. Salzburgerzeit (Vienna, 1906).

About this page

APA citation. Wolfsgrüber, C. (1912). Friedrich, Prince of Schwarzenberg. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Wolfsgrüber, Cölestin. "Friedrich, Prince of Schwarzenberg." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald Rossi. In Memoriam Lothar Schadinger.

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

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