Wolfger von Erla

Wolfger von Erla[lower-alpha 1] (c. 1140 – 23 January 1218), was the Bishop of Passau from 1191 until 1204, when he became Patriarch of Aquileia. Wolfger's diocesan court occupies a place of central importance in the history of German literature. His travel accounts provide the only contemporary and non-literary reference to the famous Minnesänger Walther von der Vogelweide. He may also have been the patron of the author of the Middle High German Nibelungenlied.

Wolfger was born to a noble family from Erla on the river Enns. He entered the church and became, in 1183, the dean of Pfaffmünster and in 1184 of Zell am See. He was married and had a least one son, being ordained to the priesthood only after being elected to the see of Passau. His son, who appears often in his episcopal expense account, regularly travelled with him while he was bishop. It is likely that Wolfger was either widowered at the time of his election, or else his wife had entered a convent.

In 1195, Wolfger pressed for the release of Richard the Lion-hearted, then imprisoned in Dürnstein under the care of Hadmar II of Kuenring. He joined the Crusade of 1197 alongside Frederick I of Austria, and on his return petitioned Pope Innocent III to formally approve the Teutonic Knights in 1199. He also urged the creation of another diocese out of the territory of the diocese of Passau, but this never came to fruition before he began vigorously seeking election to the patriarchate of Aquileia.

In 1204, Wolfger built the castle of Obernburg because of a feud with the Count of Ortenburg in defiance.[1]

As patriarch he defended his secular powers and in 1209 regained control over the marches of Istria and the Carniola. He generally maintained good relations with both the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and the emperor-elect Philip of Swabia appointed him his Reichslegaten (imperial legate) in the Kingdom of Italy, a position he retained under the Emperor Otto IV after Philip's assassination in 1208. Wolfger obtained the support of the cities of Milan, Pavia, Piacenza, Cremona and Brescia for Otto. In 1215, he attended the Fourth Lateran Council and withdrew from imperial politics thereafter.


  1. Also called von Ellenbrechtskirchen or von Leubrechtskirchen. In Italian his name is Volchero.
  1. Georg Juritsch (1894), Geschichte der Babenberger und ihrer Länder (Innsbruck), p. 378.


  • Helmut Birkhan. Der achthundertjährige Pelzrock: Walther von der Vogelweide—Wolfger von Erla—Zeiselmauer. Proceedings of the Walther-Symposion der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 24–27 September 2003, in Zeiselmauer. Vienna: 2005.
  • Egon Boshof. Link Wolfger von Erla – Bischof von Passau, Patriarch von Aquileja. Ostbairische Lebensbilder. Passau: 2004, 1, pp. 22–39.
  • Egon Boshof. Wolfger von Erla : Bischof von Passau (1191–1204) und Patriarch von Aquileja (1204–1218) als Kirchenfürst und Literaturmäzen. Heidelberg: 1994.
  • Hedwig Heger. Das Lebenszeugnis Walthers von der Vogelweide: die Reiserechnungen des Passauer Bischofs Wolfger von Erla. Vienna: 1970.
  • Franz von Krones. "Wolfger von Ellenbrechtskirchen". Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 44. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1898, pp. 124f.
  • Pio Paschini. "Il patriarcato di Wolfger di Ellenbrechtskirchen". Memorie Storiche Forogiuliesi, 9 (1915), pp. 20–39.
  • Anette Zurstraßen. "Wolfger von Erla".Lexikon des Mittelalters, 9, p. 308.
  • Wolfger von Erla in Austria-Forum (in German)  (at AEIOU)
  • Bistum Passau
  • "Wolfger von Erla". Germania Sacra people index (in German). Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Diepold of Berg
Bishop of Passau
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Pilgrim II
Patriarch of Aquileia
Succeeded by
Berthold von Meran
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