In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Catholic Historical Review 88.2 (2002) 316-317

[Access article in PDF]

Book Review

Das katholische Domkapitel zu Hamburg von den Anfängen bis zur Reformation und seine Wiedererrichtung 1996:
Eine kanonistische Untersuchung

Das katholische Domkapitel zu Hamburg von den Anfängen bis zur Reformation und seine Wiedererrichtung 1996: Eine kanonistische Untersuchung. By Jürgen Wätjer. [Adnotationes in Ius Canonicum, Band 19.] (Bern: Peter Lang: Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften. 2001. Pp. 283. $45.95 paperback.)

The reunification of Germany prompted Pope John Paul II to establish on January 7, 1995, an archiepiscopal see in Hamburg to serve a north German diocese that straddled the former border between the two German states. The cathedral chapter was constituted the following year, on February 4. In this nearly unrevised dissertation that was submitted to the Catholic Theological Faculty at the University of Bochum, Jürgen Wätjer asks whether there is any legal continuity between the medieval cathedral chapter, which survived until 1809 as a Lutheran foundation, and its modern successor, and concludes, unsurprisingly, that there is none. Wätjer discusses five main topics from a legal rather than a historical perspective: the internal structure of the medieval chapter; its position within the archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen; the chapter's relations with other ecclesiastical and secular lords; the chapter's transformation into a Lutheran foundation; and the new institution.

The tumultuous history of the Hamburg church in the early centuries of its existence led to the chapter's anomalous position as the second cathedral chapter in the archdiocese. St. Ansgar, who became the archbishop of Hamburg in 831, established a Benedictine monastery there; but a Viking attack forced him to flee and to combine in 847 the bishoprics of Hamburg and Bremen. The monastery survived until 983 when it was destroyed in a Slavic attack. Archbishop Unwan (1013-1029) re-established the chapter, this time with canons; but the Abodrites destroyed it in 1072. Archbishop Adalbero (1123-1148) re-endowed the chapter in 1140 and restored its former metropolitan rights, but it was unable to assert them against its Bremen counterpart. In 1223 Hamburg was forced to acknowledge Bremen's archiepiscopal dignity, but the provost, dean, and scholastic were granted the right to participate in the election of the archbishop. The provost served thereafter as the highest ecclesiastical official [End Page 316] north of the Elbe, and the chapter remained the most prestigious foundation in the city. Although its members were drawn largely from burgher families, there were repeated conflicts in the later Middle Ages with the Rat over the canons' immunity, exemption from urban exactions, and supervision of the city's schools. The canons were remarkably oblivious to the magnitude of the religious changes in the 1520's, as can be seen by their attempts to defend their fiscal privileges at the imperial court in Speyer from attacks by the kings of Denmark, the peasants of Dithmarschen, and the Rat. The last public Mass was said in the cathedral in 1529, and Protestant worship was introduced in 1532. The Lutheran chapter retained its immunity but played no significant role in the political or religious life of Hamburg.

Wätjer has pieced together the rather fragmentary, largely late-medieval evidence about the chapter, but the dissertation style makes for somewhat disjointed reading. Nevertheless, we should be grateful that he has assembled the available information about this ecclesiastical oddity in a single place.


John B. Freed
Illinois State University



Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 316-317
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.