Bishopric of Havelberg

The Bishopric of Havelberg (German: Bistum Havelberg) was a Roman Catholic diocese founded by King Otto I of Germany in 946, from 968 a suffragan to the Archbishops of Magedeburg. A Prince-bishopric (Hochstift) from 1151, Havelberg as a result of the Protestant Reformation was secularised and finally annexed by the margraves of Brandenburg in 1598.

Bishopric of Havelberg

Bistum Havelberg
Coat of arms
Lower Saxon Prince-bishoprics of Hildesheim, Halberstadt, Magdeburg and Havelberg (violet), about 1250
Wittstock (from about 1325)
Common languagesBrandenburgisch, Polabian
Historical eraMiddle Ages
 Diocese founded by King Otto I
 Transformed into collegiate church
 Annexed by Brandenburg
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Northern March
Margraviate of Brandenburg


The episcopal seat was in Havelberg near the confluence of the Elbe and Havel rivers. The bishopric roughly covered the western Prignitz region, between the Altmark in the west and the Brandenburgian core territory in the east. While the episcopal territory was supervised by nine Archdeacons (Pröpste), the bishop's—considerably smaller—secular estates were subdivided into four Ämter:


King Henry the Fowler in 929 marched against the Polabian Slavs settling east of the Elbe River and defeated them in a battle near Lenzen. Occupying the eastern riverbank, Henry had a fortification built on a hill above the Havel tributary, near its mouth into the Elbe. His son Otto I continued the expeditions and in 936/37 established the Saxon Eastern March (Marca Geronis) on the conquered territories. In 948 he founded the dioceses of Havelberg and Brandenburg, initially suffragans to the Archbishops of Mainz, from 968 to the newly established Archdiocese of Magdeburg. Part of the Northern March from 968, Havelberg diocese was occupied by revolting Lutici tribes in the Great Slav Rising of 983 and merely remained a titular see.

Not until 150 years later, King Lothair III of Germany re-occupied Havelberg in 1130; the eastern Elbe bank was finally reconquered by the Ascanian margrave Albert the Bear in 1136/37. Its first and most famous Prince-Bishop was the Premonstratensian canon Anselm of Havelberg, who had been anointed already in 1129 by the Magedeburg archbishop Norbert of Xanten. Anselm first took his seat at Jerichow in 1144. Upon the Wendish Crusade in 1147, he was able to found a cathedral chapter at Havelberg and to begin the building of Havelberg Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1170.

The diocesan and secular territory were already separated in 1151. However, the bishops held no secular rights in the town of Havelberg itself, which was enfeoffed to the Brandenburg margraves. A charter issued by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to declare the residence an episcopal city was never carried out, and in the following centuries, the Havelberg bishops gradually moved their residence to their Amt Wittstock about 50 kilometres (31 mi) to the northeast. In 1383 the Holy Blood of Wilsnack became a famous pilgrimage site, while Dietrich Man was bishop. From the 14th century onwards, the Havelberg bishops also used Plattenburg Castle as a summer residence.

After long-lasting quarrels with the mighty Brandenburg prince-electors, the Premonstratensian chapter finally gave in to transform Havelberg into a collegiate church (Stift). From 1514 onwards the deans of the cathedral were appointed by the Margraves of Brandenburg. In the course of the Protestant Reformation, the Bishopric of Havelberg turned Lutheran and from 1554 was administrated by Joachim Frederick of Hohenzollern, son of Elector John George of Brandenburg. The Bishopric was finally secularised and incorporated into Brandenburg in 1571. Its annexation was complete, when Joachim Frederick succeeded his father as Brandenburg elector in 1598.


Name From To
Udo 946 983
Sede vacante 983 991
Hilderich 991 1008
Erich 1008 1024 ?
Gottschalk 1024 ? 1085
Wichmann 1085 1089
Hezilo before 1096 1110 ?
Bernhard 1110 ? 1118
Haimo 1118 1120
Gumbert 1120 1125
Anselm 1126 1155
Walo 1155 1176
Hugibert/Hubert 1176 1191
Helmbert 1191 1206
Sibodo of Stendal 1206 1219
Wilhelm 1219 1244
Heinrich I von der Schulenburg or perhaps von Kerkow 1244 1270
Heinrich II von Sternberg 1270 1290
Hermann of Brandenburg, son of Margrave John I 1290 1291
John I of Brandenburg, son of Margrave John II 1291 1292
John II 1292 1304
Arnold (possibly von Plötz) 1304 1312
Rainer von Dequede 1312 1319
Heinrich III 1319 1324
Dietrich I Kothe 1325 1341
Burkhard I von Bardeleben 1341 1348
Burkhard II, Count of Lindow-Ruppin 1348 1370
Dietrich Man 1370 1385
Johann III Wöplitz 1385 1401
Otto von Rohr 1401 1427
Friedrich I Krüger 1427 1427
Johann IV von Beust 1427 1427
Konrad von Lintorf 1427 1460
Witticho Gans zu Putlitz 1461 1487
Busso I of Alvensleben 1487 1493
Otto II von Königsmarck 1493 1501
Johann von Schlabrendorf 1501 1520
Georg von Blumenthal 1520 1521
Hieronymus Schulz, formerly Bishop of Brandenburg 1520 1522
Busso II of Alvensleben 1522 1548
Frederick II of Brandenburg (Lutheran), son of Elector Joachim II Hector 1548 1552
Sede vacante 1552 1554
Joachim Frederick of Brandenburg (Lutheran) 1554 1598


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