Prince-Bishopric of Verden
Principality of Verden
(Hoch)Stift Verden (1180–1648)
Coat of arms of Verden
Coat of arms
The territory of Verden (pink, below right) around 1655
The territory of Verden (pink, below right) around 1655
StatusState of the Holy Roman Empire
CapitalVerden (seat of chapter),
Rotenburg (residence of pr.-bishops since 1195)¹
Common languagesGerman, Low German
Catholic Church till the 1550s, then Lutheranism
• 1395–1398
Prince-Bishop Dietrich
• 1398–1399
Prince-Bishop Conrad II
• 1623–29, 1635–45
Administrator Frederick II
• 1630–1631
Prince-Bishop Francis
• 1631–1634
Admin. John Frederick
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Break-up of Saxony
15 May 1648 1648
1806[1]730 km2 (280 sq mi)
• 1806[1]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Duchy of Saxony
Kingdom of Westphalia
1: Rotenburg castle was built in 1195, this may have been when the diocese had effectively acquired territorial power as prince-bishopric.

The Prince-Bishopric of Verden (German: Fürstbistum Verden, Hochstift Verden or Stift Verden) was an ecclesiastical principality of the Holy Roman Empire that was located in what is today the state of Lower Saxony in Germany. Verden had been a diocese of the Catholic Church since the middle of the 8th century. The state was disestablished in 1648. The territory was managed by secular lords on behalf of the Bishop of Verden. As a Prince-Bishopric of the Empire, the territory of the state was not identical with that of the bishopric, but was located within its boundaries and made up about a quarter of the diocesan area. By the terms of the Peace of Westphalia, the Prince-Bishopric was disestablished and a new entity was established, the Duchies of Bremen and Verden.


The territory of the Prince-Bishopric of Verden covered the eastern part of the present district of Verden (its border ran between Langwedel and Etelsen), and the southern part of the district of Rotenburg (Wümme) and parts of the districts of Harburg and the Heath district (Heidekreis).



The Diocese of Verden was founded around 800 in Verden upon Aller as a suffragan in the ecclesiastical province of Mainz. When the old Duchy of Saxony was carved up in 1180, some of the territory around the Sturnmigau' was erected as a state in Imperial immediacy. The Bishop of Verden, in addition to his spiritual duties, was, ex officio, the temporal ruler of the Prince-Bishopric of Verden. The first Prince-Bishop — Tammo of Verden — ruled an area that was about a quarter of the extent of the diocesan territory. In 1195 Prince-Bishop Rudolph I founded the castle of Rotenburg upon Wümme as a stronghold against the neighbouring Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen. Later the castle took on the function of a prince-episcopal Residenz.

The bishops, and hence the prince-bishops, were elected by the cathedral chapter. However, the papacy tried to influence the elections and sometimes succeeded in getting their candidates elected. Such candidates, who were usually not local men, did not enjoy local support and were seen as Landfremde or alien.

From the early 16th century the prince-bishopric belonged to the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle (colloquially: Westphalian Circle), a fiscal and military subsection of the empire. Verden sent its representatives to the Imperial Diet and to the Imperial Circle. While Verden, like the neighbouring County of Hoya, was a member of the Westphalian Circle, other adjacent territories, such as the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg and the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen, were part of the Lower Saxon Circle. At times, the prince-bishops also ruled the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen in personal union. In order to maintain their two seats in the diets, the states of Bremen and Verden were never formally united in a real union. The same is true for the collectively governed Duchies of Bremen and Verden which emerged in 1648 from the two secularised prince-bishoprics.

The Reformation

From 1558, a gradual change of confession to Lutheranism took place across the Verden diocesan. Within the hochstift, the Reformation was concluded with the enactment of a church ordinance by Administrator Eberhard von Holle, in 1568. In 1630, during the Thirty Years' War, a Catholic bishop, Francis of Wartenberg, took over again as a consequence of the Edict of Restitution, but was only able to hold office until 1634. Thereafter, the Catholic Church was only represented there by the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Missions.


In 1648, by the terms of the Peace of Westphalia, the state was disestablished. In its place, a principality of the Empire was established that was ruled by the Swedish crown. The Principality of Verden was in turn disestablished in 1712. During this period, the principality was ruled in personal union with the territory of the former Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen; they were informally known as the Duchies of Bremen-Verden or more formally the "Duchy of Bremen and Principality of Verden".

See also



  1. ^ Köbler, Gerhard: "Historisches Lexikon der deutschen Länder. Die deutschen Territorien vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart", Munich 1995, page 650