Basle ~ Bishopric

BASLE ~ Bishopric

(For city/canton see BASEL)

Map of the Bishopric of Basel during the 16th ...

Map of the Bishopric of Basel during the 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diocese, which in the middle ages belonged to the province of Besançon.   Its teritory now lies in Switzerland, France and Germany.

The see was established in the 4th century at Augusta Rauracorum (now Augst), a few miles upstream from Basle, but moved in the 7th century.   The Bishops acquired a quite substantial territory on both sides of the Jura to the southwest of Basle, a mainly French-speaking region.   There were also a couple of small exclaves on the right bank of the Rhine north of the city of Basle – the larger and more northerly was around the town of Schliengen.   The Bishop lost control of the city in the late 14th century, but continued to live there until the Reformation, when he moved his residence to Porrentruy (Pruntrut) on the French side of the Jura and his ecclesiastical capital to exile in Freiburg im Breisgau.

The Bishopric belonged to the Upper Rhenish Circle of the Empire from 1500.   It had been associated with the Swiss Confederates since the Burgundian threat in the 1470s, and was the only associate of the Swiss to belong to an Imperial Circle.

In 1529 the town of Biel at the southern extremity of the territory in the Jura allied itself with the city of Bern and embraced the Reformation.   All the lands on the Swiss side of the Jura were allied with the Swiss Confederation and were Protestant in faith by 1579, though they continued nominally to belong to the Bishop’s lands.   The remaining lands of the Bishopric became allied to the Catholic Confederates in that year.

In 1792 revolution drove the Bishop from Porrentruy and the Rauracian Republic was established in the Jura lands, only to be annexed by France the following year, when it became the Department of Mont Terrible.   The territory around Biel/Bienne that had been allied to the Swiss Confederation was added to the department in 1798.   In 1800 Mont Terrible was absorbed into the Department of the Haut-Rhin.

In 1803 the last small remnants of the Prince-Bishopric, the pockets of land on the right bank of the Rhine, were secularised and became part of Baden.

The bulk of the old Prince-Bishopric became part of the Swiss Confederation in 1814-5, small parts going to the Cantons of Basle and Neuchâtel, the rest, including the old allied territory, becoming part of the Canton of Bern.

This was a decision by the great powers in the Congress of Vienna, seeking to compensate Bern for the loss of its old subject territory in Vaud and Aargau.

At the beginning of 1979 that part of the old Bishopric belonging to Bern which had remained under the Bishop’s rule until 1792 and so was Catholic in faith, became the new Canton of Jura.   The lands allied to the Confederation in 1529 and 1579, Protestant in faith, remained in Bern.   Also remaining in Bern for the time being was the Laufental, Catholic in faith but German in language, until it transferred to Baselland in 1994.

In 1828 a new diocese of Basle had been created in western Switzerland, out of parts of the former dioceses of Basle, Lausanne and Constance.   The Bishop resides in Solothurn.

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