Hugo von Hohenlandenberg, period portrait, oil on canvas

Meersburg as the new ecclesiastical townHugo vonHohenlandenberg

When Constance, the former ecclesiastical city, joined the Reformation in 1526, Prince-Bishop Hugo von Hohenlandenberg (1457–1532) left the city permanently. He chose Meersburg as the new seat for the prince-bishops of Constance.

Constance circa 1475, with one of the oldest illustrations of the cathedral

The free imperial city of Constance was quite confident.

A fast career and then what?

Hugo von Hohenlandenberg, the Prince-Bishop of Constance, came from landed gentry in the region that is now Switzerland. He had a storybook career: first as provost in Erfurt, then as canon in Basel and Chur, before finally coming to Lake Constance. In 1496, the Constantine chapter named him bishop of the Bishopric of Constance and sanctified the same year, representing the pinnacle of his career. However, the counsel soon disapproved of the bishop's attempts to gain more secular influence in town.

The bishop as a moral authority?

The counsel soon complained about the bishop's lifestyle. He supposedly tolerated frequent celibacy violations by his priests and profited considerably from the collected indulgences. He himself is said to have given in to temptation as well. Rumor had it that he had a year-long relationship with Barbara von Hof, the wife of the mayor of Constance. In 1519, a plague year, the Reformation took hold in Constance, which the city council further supported with an official decree, along with the support of Ambrosius Blarer.

Meersburg Castle and the New Palace from Lake Constance

Meersburg became a bishops’ residence out of necessity.

Why did the bishop move to Meersburg?

Tensions between the Protestant city and the Catholic bishop continued to grow. Out of necessity, Hohenlandenberg moved into the old Meersburg Castle, which had long been part of the prince-bishops of Constance's holdings. He made Meersburg the new seat for the prince-bishops of Constance. Not until 200 years later did one of his successors, Johann Franz Schenk von Stauffenberg, make use of the Meersburg location high above the lake. The prince-bishops’ Baroque residence radiated far across the lake toward the Protestant city, a Catholic crown for the town.

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