Bishopric of Courland
Episcopatus Curoniensis
Bisdom Curland
Bishopric of Courland (light orange).
Bishopric of Courland (light orange).
Common languagesLatin, Low German, Curonian
Bishop of Courland 
• 1234–1236/37
Engelbert (1st)
• 1560–1583
Magnus (last)
• Established
11 February 1234
• Disestablished
20 April 1562
CurrencyFerding, Schilling
Succeeded by
Duchy of Courland and Semigallia

The Bishopric of Courland (Latin: Episcopatus Curoniensis, Low German: Bisdom Curland) was the second smallest (4500 km2) ecclesiastical state in the Livonian Confederation founded in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade. During the Livonian War in 1559 the bishopric became a possession of Denmark,[1] and in 1585 sold by Denmark to Poland–Lithuania.


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In ancient times a Baltic tribe, the Curonians, inhabited Courland and had strong links with the maritime tribes in both sides of the Baltic sea. In 1230, Lamekinas, Duke of West Courland, signed an agreement with the vice-legat Baldwin of Alna (Baudoin d’Aulne)[2] of the Pope Gregory IX about the voluntary conversion of his people to Christianity and receiving the same rights as the inhabitants of Gotland.[3]

In 1234 Dominican friar Engelbert was appointed to be the first bishop of Courland. In 1242 the area of Courland passed under the influence of the Teutonic Knights owing to the amalgamation of this order with that of the Brethren of the Sword in 1237. In 1253 the territory of Courland was divided between the Bishopric of Courland and the Livonian branch of the Order of Teutonic Knights. After severe defeat of knights in the Battle of Durbe the Bishop Heinrich von Lützelburg left Courland in 1263 and the new bishop Edmund of Werth returned in his bishopric only after suppression of Curonian and Semigallian insurgencies in 1290.[4]

During the Livonian War (1558–1582), under the increasing pressure of the Tsardom of Russia, the Livonian Confederation dissolved. In 1559 the Bishop of Courland and Ösel-Wiek Johann V von Münchhausen sold his lands to King Frederick II of Denmark for 30,000 thalers. The Danish king gave the territory to his younger brother Duke Magnus of Holstein.[5] Duke Magnus was crowned King of Livonia in 1570. In 1577, having lost Ivan's favor and receiving no support from his brother, Magnus called on the Livonian nobility to rally to him in a struggle against foreign occupation. He was attacked by Ivan's forces and taken prisoner. On his release, he renounced his royal title.[6]

Magnus spent the last six years of his life at the castle of Pilten, where he died as a pensioner of the Polish crown.[7] He promised to transfer it to the Duchy of Courland after his death, but this plan failed and only later Wilhelm Kettler did regain this district. After Magnus of Livonia died in 1583, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth invaded his territories in the Duchy of Courland and Frederick II of Denmark decided to sell his rights of inheritance.[8]


Bishops of Courland

Name From To
Engelbert, Dominican Order 1234 1236/37
Hermann I 1245 1250
Heinrich I of Lützelburg, Franciscan 1251 1263
Edmund of Werth, Teutonic Order 1263 1292
Burkhard, Teutonic Order 1300 1321?
Paul I, Teutonic Order 1322 1330/32?
Johann I of Courland 1328 1331/32
Johann II, Teutonic Order 1332 1353
Ludolf, Teutonic Order 1354 1359?
Jacob, Teutonic Order 1360 1371?
Otto, Teutonic Order 1371 1398?
Rutger von Brüggenei, Teutonic Order 1399 1404?
Gottschalk Schutte, Teutonic Order 1405 1424
Dietrich Tanke, Teutonic Order 1424 1425
Johann III Tiergart, Teutonic Order 1425 1456
Paul II Einwald[9] 1457 1473
Martin Lewitz 1473 1500
Michael Sculteti 1500 1500
Heinrich II Basedow 1501 1523
Hermann II Ronneberg 1524 1540
Johann V von Münchhausen 1540 1560
Magnus of Livonia 1560 1583

See also


  1. ^ The Latvians: A Short History By Andrejs Plakans; p. 19 ISBN 0-8179-9302-9
  2. ^ Bishop Baudoin d’Aulne, O. Cist. †
  3. ^ "Lamekins". Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  4. ^ "Bishop Heinrich von Lützelburg". Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  5. ^ Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture By Richard C. Frucht; p.70; ISBN 1-57607-800-0
  6. ^ War and Peace in the Baltic, 1560–1790 By Stewart Philip Oakley ISBN 0-415-02472-2
  7. ^ Frederik II and the Protestant Cause: Denmark's Role in the Wars of Religion By Paul Douglas Lockhart Page 38 Page 39
  8. ^ "Magnus af Øsel". Den Store Danske. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  9. ^ Bishop Paul Einwald von Walteris, O.T.

Coordinates: 57°13′02″N 21°42′10″E / 57.2172°N 21.7028°E / 57.2172; 21.7028