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 > W > Kingdom of Würtemberg

Kingdom of Würtemberg

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...

In area the third and in population the fourth of the states of the German Empire. It is situated between Bavaria and Baden. Its area is 7534 sq. miles; in 1910 it had 2,437,574 inhabitants. In 1905 there were 695,808 Catholics, 1,583,745 Protestants, 11,107 other Christians, and 12,053 Jews. The capital is Stuttgart. The kingdom is divided into four circles: Neckar (in which 11 per cent of the inhabitants are Catholics); Black Forest (26 per cent); Jagst (32 per cent); and Danube (62 per cent). The southern part of the country is largely Catholic, as is also the majority of the higher nobility, the members of which were formerly immediate princes of the empire.

The territory includes a part of the old tribal duchy of Alamannia or Swabia (Suevia). The original nucleus of the present kingdom was a Countship of Würtemberg, at the junction of the small rivers Rems and Fils with the Neckar. The name Württemberg, originally Wirtenberc, is derived from a castle of the same name on the Roten Berg (red mountain) south of Stuttgart. The first known ancestor of the present ruling family is Count Konrad (1081-92); the unbroken succession of rulers began with Count Ulrich I (1241-65). The possessions of the Counts of Würtemberg grew steadily larger. Contrary to the custom in other German states, the principle of primogeniture was established at an early date. Count Eberhard the Bearded (1450-96) was made a duke in 1495 by the Emperor Maximilian I. In 1803 Würtemberg received the electoral dignity, and in 1805 Napoleon raised it to a kingdom. Like the other states of southern Germany, Würtemberg became a member of the Confederation of the Rhine, and until after the battle of Leipzig (1813) it was an ally of France. In 1815 it entered the German Confederation, in 1866 it supported Austria in the war with Prussia. At the close of the Austro-Prussian war it was obliged, like the other states of South Germany, to form an offensive and defensive alliance with Prussia. When the German Empire was founded in 1871, Würtemberg became a member of the confederation, and was granted, like Bavaria, certain special privileges. The present ruler is King William I (b. 1848), who is childless. Since the Reformation the royal family has been Protestant. Duke Charles Alexander (1733-37) had become a Catholic in 1712, when a general in the Austrian army, before he ascended the throne; he was succeeded in the government successively by his sons, also Catholics: Duke Charles Eugene (1737-93), a despot, spendthrift, and profligate, Duke Louis Eugene (1793-95), and Duke Frederick Eugene (1795-97). The last-named duke married a Prussian princess, and, through the influence of Frederick the Great of Prussia, permitted his children to be brought up as Protestants. The succession of Protestant rulers began with Duke Frederick II (1797-1816), who was made King of Würtemberg in 1805 and after that was called Frederick I. On the death of the present king the Protestant line becomes extinct. The succession to the throne is in a collateral branch descended from Duke Alexander (d. 1833), a brother of the first King of Würtemberg. The son of this Alexander, also named Alexander (d. 1881), married a Catholic princess of the Orléans family and allowed his children to be brought up as Catholics. The heir to the throne is a grandson of this latter Alexander, Duke Albert (b. 1865), or, in case of his death, his son Duke Philip Albert (b. 1893). In 1898 a law bearing upon the Catholic succession to the throne was enacted, which regulated the relations of a Catholic king to the Protestant State Church.

Christianity spread rapidly in the territory of the present Kingdom of Würtemberg in the seventh and eighth centuries. As early as the Roman era it had found a foothold at scattered spots in the second and third centuries, but was not permanently established until the reign of Charlemagne (d. 814). The care both of religious life and of the entire intellectual life was exercised by the monasteries, especially by those of the Benedictines. Probably the most celebrated Benedictine abbey was that of Hirsau, which was founded about 850 and reorganized to conform to the Rule of Cluny by the abbot Blessed Wilhelm (d. 1091). After the Reformation the abbey was a Protestant institution, and in 1692 it was destroyed by the French. Other important Benedictine abbeys were: that at Alpirsbach, in the Kinzigtal, founded in 1095 and existed until 1648; its fine Romanesque abbey church is now used by the Protestants; the abbey at Ellwangen, founded in 764, from 1460 a house of secular Augustinian Canons which was directly dependent on the Empire, and which was suppressed in 1803; its fine abbey church is in the Romanesque style; the abbey at Murrhardt, founded by the Emperor Louis the Pious, suppressed during the Reformation; a part of it was the celebrated late Romanesque chapel, now used by the Protestants, called Walderichskapelle; the abbey at Weingarten (1052-1802), the richest abbey in Swabia; the abbey at Wiblingen (1093-1806); that at Sweifalten (1089-1803), etc. Two noted Cistercian abbeys which have preserved almost entirely their typical medieval form are: the abbey at Maulbron, founded in 1146, became a Protestant theological seminary in 1556, and the abbey at Bebenhausen, founded in 1185, made a Protestant monastery school in 1560, and since 1807 a royal hunting castle. Among the proofs of the flourishing condition of Catholic life in the cities during the era before the Reformation are some of the celebrated monuments of Gothic architecture, as: the minster at Ulm, now used by the Protestants, which next to Cologne cathedral is the largest church building in Germany, and has an area of about 75,778 sq. feet; the Church of the Holy Cross and of Our Lady, at Schwäbisch-Gmund, without a tower; and the Church of Our lady at Reutlingen, now used by the Protestants. Among the noted Catholic churches of a later date special mention should be made of the Catholic cathedral at Rottenburg (seventeenth century), and the church at Weingarten, a structure of the eighteenth century in the baroque style. This latter church is distinguished for a relic of the Holy Blood, in honour of which a large equestrian procession, called the Blutritt, is held annually on the Friday after Ascension Day.

As early as the years 1520-30 the Reformation found entrance into Würtemberg. The extravagance and cruelty of a number of the rulers and the harsh oppression of the people had led to several fierce wars with the cities and revolts of the peasantry; all this prepared the way for the new doctrine. Duke Ulrich (1498-1550), who had been driven from the country on account of his acts of violence and had been put under the ban of the empire in 1519 for murder, became a Protestant. With the aid of Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who is well known on account of his two marriages, Ulrich acquired possession of his territories once more, and introduced the Reformation throughout them, while at the same time he confiscated all the lands of the churches and monasteries. The work of the Reformation was completed by Ulrich's son Duke Christopher (1550-1568). Würtemberg suffered terribly in the great religious struggle known as the Thirty Years War. At the beginning of the nineteenth century it had an area of 2093 sq. miles and 650,000 inhabitants. Owing to the great changes brought about in Germany by Napoleon, Würtemberg obtained during the years 1802-1810 an increase of population that doubled the number of its inhabitants and an increase of territory that gave the country its present extent. This increase added Catholic districts once more to the state, which up to then had been entirely Protestant. The additions were, mainly, a large part of the Austrian possessions in Swabia, the lands of the Teutonic Knights, which up till then had been held immediately from the empire, the lands belonging to the provostship of Ellwangen, the lands of various monasteries which had held their territories directly from the empire, etc. A state board called the spiritual council was at once appointed to protect the sovereign rights of the State as against the Catholic Church; since 1816 this board has been called the church council. The newly acquired Catholic districts, however, belonged to different dioceses, e.g. the dioceses of Constance, Augsburg, Wurzburg, and Speyer, consequently a vicar-generalate was created which was provided with a seminary for priests and a Catholic theological faculty at Ellwangen. In 1817, however, the office of the vicariate general and the seminary for priests were transferred to Rottenburg, where they were established in the Carmelite monastery of that place, and the Catholic theological faculty was united with the University of Tübingen.

On 16 Aug., 1821, the papal Bull "Provida sollersque" erected the new Diocese of Rottenburg for the entire territory of Würtemberg; it was united with the Church province of the Upper Rhine and was made suffragan to the Archbishop of Freiburg. The Bull "Ad dominici gregis custodiam", of 11 April, 1827, regulated the right to the appointment of the bishop and of the cathedral canons, and in 1828 Vicar-General von-Keller was enthroned as first bishop. The list of bishops is: Johann Baptist von Keller (d. 1845), Joseph von Lipp (d. 1869), Karl Joseph von Hefele (d. 1893), William von Reiser (d. 1898), Franz Xaver von Linsenmann (d. 1898); since 18 Jan., 1899, Paul Wilhelm von Kepler (b. 1852; ordained priest, 1875). During the decade of 1840 a dispute arose between the bishop and the State concerning the limits of the State's rights of sovereignty and supervision. In 1854 the Government made an agreement with the bishop which, however, was not recognized by the pope. A concordat between the pope and the kingdom, which was made in 1857, was not accepted by the Diet. After this the law of 30 Jan., 1862, made a one-sided adjustment of the relations between State and Church. In most particulars this law repeated the contents of the Concordat, so that up to now actual conflict has been avoided. Würtemberg was spared the violent conflict between Church and State, known as the Kulturkampf, which raged in almost all of the German countries of the empire during the years directly following 1870. This peace was due to the kindliness of the king, the good sense of the Government, and the moderate position taken by the Diet. It is only of late years that religious differences have become more evident in political life. Much is said in the history of the Church of Würtemberg of the Rottenburg dispute. This was a quarrel between the bishop, the Catholic theological faculty, and the director of the Wilhelm School at Tübingen on the one side, and the heads of the seminary for priests and a large body of the priests on the other side, as to the religious, scholarly, and moral training of the clergy. The matter was settled by the intervention of the Holy See.

The relations between Church and State are regulated by the law of 30 Jan., 1862. Both the bishop and the vicar-general appointed by him received the rank of nobles. The bishop is elected from among the clergy of the diocese by the cathedral chapter, which consists of a cathedral dean and six canons; the list of candidates is first handed to the ruler, who strikes off the names of the most distasteful to him. The members of the cathedral chapter are selected alternately by the bishop or chapter, the ruler having the same rights as in the election of a bishop. The governmental right of supervision (jus circa sacra) is exercised by the Catholic Church council, a board subordinate to the ministry of worship and consisting of secular and ecclesiastical members, which is appointed by the Government. General ordinances issued by the bishop that are not purely ecclesiastical in character, and papal Bulls, Briefs, etc., which touch upon governmental or civil affairs, are subject to the approval of the State. Episcopal or papal decrees in regard to purely ecclesiastical matters need only to be submitted to the State authorities for inspection at the time of their promulgation. For admission to an ecclesiastical office the candidate must have the civil rights of a citizen of Würtemberg, must have attended a gymnasium, have studied at the University of Tübingen, and have passed the final examination of the Catholic theological faculty there. For the training of the clergy there are seminaries for boys connected with the gymnasium at Ehingen and Rottweil, and the Wilhelm School at Tübingen for the students of theology at the University of Tübingen. These three schools are supported by the State. In these institutions the bishop directs the religious training under the supervision of the State; in other respects they are under the direct control of the Government, which is exercised through the Catholic Church council. In particular, the council controls the reception and dismissal of the pupils. The director and his assistants, called repetents, are appointed by the bishop. After passing the final theological examination at the university, which comes at the close of a four-years course in theology, the candidates for the priesthood are sent to the seminary for priests at Rottenburg, which is controlled by the bishop alone. The bishop also has charge of the Catholic religious instruction in all schools.

The consent of the State, which can be recalled at any moment, is necessary for the admission of religious orders and congregations and for every new house of an order or congregation. The State treats the vows of the members of the orders as revocable. Up to the present time only female orders have been permitted in Würtemberg. The largest number of houses (about 130) belong to the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the mother-house being at Untermarchtal; the Congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis has over 100 houses, the mother-house being at Reute. Up to now the Government has not granted the repeated requests of the bishop and of the Catholic portion of the population for the admission of male orders. The State granted the diocese an endowment from the former property of the Church, e.g. in houses, lands, and revenues in money; this property is administered by the episcopal court under the supervision of the Government. The sustentation fund established in 1808 received definite sums from the revenues of vacant ecclesiastical positions; these amount serve to supplement the salaries of parish priests, to pension retired priests, etc. The fund is administered by the Government and Church together. The administration of the property of the local churches is also regulated by the State (laws of 14 June, 1887, and of 27 July, 1906). A definite allowance is added from the state treasury to the incomes of the priests from their benefices; in 1911 the total amount of state aid was fixed at 225,000 marks annually. Measures are being taken for the reorganization of the financial relations between Church and State. In 1910 the number of churches, chapels, and stations was 1031, of these 698 were parishes; there were 1179 priests, and 29 deaneries. The primary schools are denominational. When the number of Catholics in a commune falls below 60 the Catholics must support a Catholic school out of their own means. The spiritual supervision of the schools was greatly limited in 1903 and 1909. Of the higher schools 4 classical gymnasia and 1 gymnasium with scientific instead of Classical courses are entirely Catholic. All Catholic schools are under a special government board, the Catholic higher school council. There are a number of Catholic educational institutions for poor, orphaned, and sick Catholic children; these institutions are generally conducted by members of the female orders, as is also a government institution, the royal orphanage at Oxenhausen. Religious fraternities and societies are numerous.


SCHNEIDER, Wurttembergische Geschichte (Stuttgart, 1896); WELLER, Geschichte Wurttembergs (Leipzig, 1909); Wurttembergische Kirchengeschichte, ed. KALVER MISSIONSVEREIN (1893), Protestant; SCHMID, Reformationsgeschichte Wurttembergs (Heilbronn, 1904), Protestant; PFAFF-SPROLL, Kirchliche und statliche Verordnungen fur die Geistlichkeit des Bistums Rottenburg (2nd ed., 2 vols., 1908-09); GOZ, Das Staatsrecht des Konigreichs Wurttemberg (Tübingen, 1908); FLEINER, Staatsrechtliche Gesetze Wurttembergs (Tübingen, 1907); SAGMULLER, Die kirchliche Aufklarung am Hofe Karl Eugens von Wurttemberg (1906); ERZBERGER, Die Sakularisation in Wurttemberg (1902); KEPPLER, Wurttembergs kirchliche Kunstaltertumer (Rotenburg, 1888).

About this page

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

MLA citation. Sacher, Hermann. "Kingdom of Würtemberg." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to the Christian Community of Würtemberg.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. 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.