BRESLAU ~ Bishopric.
See also BRESLAU ~ Duchy
Bishopric in Silesia.
The city of WROCŁAW, Polish since 1945, is on the River Oder, at a place where the river divides into several channels.
Silesia was originally part of Poland, but the senior branch of the Piast family was ousted from the Senior Principality in Poland in 1146, though it managed to hold on to Silesia, with the support and protection of the Emperors. Jaroslaw, the Bishop of Breslau at the end of the 12th century, was a Piast Prince. In 1195 he became Duke of Neisse, a Silesian principality, which lay south of Breslau, around the town and river of that name (now Nyza).
The Bishop was recognised as a Prince of the Empire in 1290, but in 1335 the King of Bohemia acquired the Duchy of Breslau and began to assert his overlordship over Silesia, a process helped by his heir’s acquisition of the German Crown in 1346-7. So the Bishop ceased to be a Prince of the Empire though he kept his Duchy.
In 1740-2 the bulk of the Duchy of Neisse came under the overlordship of the King of Prussia, though a small portion remained within the Kingdom of Bohemia held by the ruler of Austria. In 1810 the Prussian lands belonging to the Duchy and therefore to the Bishop, were secularised; eventually they became part of Poland in 1945. The small Austrian part went to Czechoslovakia in 1918, and is now in the Czech Republic.
The ecclesiastical history of the diocese also reflects the changes that occurred in Silesia. When the Bishopric at Wrocław was founded in 1000 and refounded in 1050, it belonged to the province of Gniezno. By 1344 Silesia had a considerable German population, its Dukes had been at least semi-detached from Poland for nearly two hundred years and the Kingdom of Bohemia was becoming more and more dominant within the region. So when the Bishopric of Prague was promoted to an Archbishopric in that year, the diocese of Breslau was included in the new province.
In 1748, a few years after Prussia had seized most of Silesia, the Pope placed the diocese directly under his own authority. Breslau became an Archbishopric in 1930, with a province in the eastern German lands, but the transfer of the lands east of the Oder-Neisse line to Poland in 1945 put an end to this brief elevation. The former archdiocese was for the time being administered by an apostolic delegate, but in 1972 the Holy See made an agreement with the Polish government and recognised the lands transferred in 1945 as belonging to the Polish Church. As a result the apostolic delegate in Wrocław was replaced by an Archbishop.