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Bishopric of Courland

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Title: Bishopric of Courland  
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Subject: Archbishopric of Riga, History of Latvia, Livonia, Northern Crusades, History of Estonia, Prince-bishop, Crusader states, List of states in the Holy Roman Empire, Livonian Order, Duchy of Courland and Semigallia
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Bishopric of Courland

Template:Infobox former country/autocat
Bishopric of Courland
Episcopatus Curoniensis
Bisdom Curland
Prince-Bishopric of Terra Mariana
Bishopric of Courland (light orange).
Capital Pilten
Languages Latin, Low German, Curonian
Government Principality
Bishop of Courland
 -  1234-1236/37 Engelbert (1st)
 -  1560-1583 Magnus (last)
 -  Established 11 February 1234
 -  Disestablished 20 April 1562
Currency Ferding, Schilling
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The Bishopric of Courland (Latin: Episcopatus Curoniensis, Low German: Bisdom Curland) was the second smallest (4500 km2) ecclesiastical state in the Livonian Confederation founded in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade. During the Livonian War in 1559 the bishopric became a possession of Denmark,[1] and in 1585 sold by Denmark to Poland-Lithuania.


In ancient times the Curonians, a Baltic tribe, inhabited Courland and had strong links with the maritime tribes in both sides of the Baltic sea. In 1230 Curonian king Lammechinus signed agreement with the vice-legat Baldwin of Alna (Baudoin d’Aulne) of the pope Gregory IX about the voluntary conversion of his people to Christianity and receiving the same rights as the inhabitants of Gotland. In 1234 Dominican monk Engelbert was appointed to be the first bishop of Courland. In 1242 the area of Courland passed under the influence of the Teutonic Knights owing to the amalgamation of this order with that of the Brethren of the Sword in 1237. In 1253 the territory of Courland was divided between the Bishopric of Courland and the Livonian branch of the Order of Teutonic Knights. After severe defeat of knights in the Battle of Durbe the Bishop Heinrich of Lützelburg left Courland in 1263 and the new bishop Edmund of Werth returned in his bisphoric only after suppression of Curonian and Semigallian insurgencies in 1290.

During the Livonian War (1558–1582), under the increasing pressure of Muscovy, the Livonian Confederation dissolved. In 1559 the Bishop of Courland and Ösel-Wiek Johannes V von Münchhausen sold his lands to King Frederick II of Denmark for 30,000 thalers. The Danish king gave the territory to his younger brother Duke Magnus of Holstein.[2] Duke Magnus was crowned King of Livonia in 1570. In 1577, having lost Ivan’s favor and receiving no support from his brother, Magnus called on the Livonian nobility to rally to him in a struggle against foreign occupation. He was attacked by Ivan’s forces and taken prisoner. On his release, he renounced his royal title.[3]

Magnus spent the last six years of his life at the castle of Pilten, where he died as a pensioner of the Polish crown.[4] He promised to transfer it to the Duchy of Courland after his death, but this plan failed and only later Wilhelm Kettler did regain this district. After Magnus of Livonia died in 1583, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth invaded his territories in the Duchy of Courland and Frederick II of Denmark decided to sell his rights of inheritance.


  • September 1234 : Bishopric of Courland (Bistum Kurland) established (formally declared in 11 February 1232), consisting of three separate enclaves after numerous distributions of the Curonian lands among the Bishops of Courland, and of Riga, and the Teutonic Order.
  • 1290 : The cathedral chapter is incorporated into the Teutonic Order lands, the bishopric is subjected to the Order.
  • 1341 : The bishops were also rulers of the island of Runö (now Ruhnu in SW-Estonia) from at least 1341.
  • 1520 : Made a sovereign principality (prince-bishopric) of the Holy Roman Empire (formally from Jan 1521), but style of prince not used.
  • 20 May 1560: Sold to the King of Denmark, given as an appanage (Stift Kurland) to Magnus Herzog von Holstein, the brother of the king Frederick II of Denmark.
  • 1578 : Bishop Magnus accepts sovereignty of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (not ratified by the Sejm of Poland-Lithuania, nor recognized by Denmark).
  • 20 April 1585 : Sold by Denmark to Poland-Lithuania according to the Treaty of Kronenborg.

Bishops of Courland

Name From To
Engelbert, OP 1234 1236/37
N. N. 1245 1250
Heinrich of Lützelburg, OFM 1251 1263
Edmund of Werth, OT 1263 1292
Burkhard, OT 1300 1321?
Paul OT 1322 1330/32?
John I 1328 1331/32
John II, OT 1332 1353
Ludolf, OT 1354 1359?
Jacob, OT 1360 1371?
Otto, OT 1371 1398?
Rutger of Brüggenei, OT 1399 1404?
Gottschalk Schutte, OT 1405 1424
Dietrich Tanke, OT 1424 1425
Johann Tiergart, OT 1425 1456
Paul II Einwald 1457 1473
Martin Lewitz 1473 1500
Michael Sculteti 1500 1500
Henry II Basedow 1501 1523
Hermann II Ronneberg 1524 1540
John II of Münchausen 1540 1560
Magnus of Livonia 1560 1583

See also


External links

  • Courland by Herman Rosenthal
  • Courland Geography and Natural History
  • Die Kurländische Ritterschaft
  • Duchy of Courland, 1561-1795
  • Liepājas un Kurzemes bīskapa

Coordinates: 57°13′02″N 21°42′10″E / 57.2172°N 21.7028°E / 57.2172; 21.7028

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