CHUR Quera (Romansch); Caira (It); Coire (Fr).
Diocese in the old Roman province of Rhaetia, including most of the present Swiss Canton of Graubünden (the upper valleys of the Rhine and the Inn) and also the upper valley of the Adige, now in northern Italy. The city of Chur, now the capital of the Canton of Graubünden, is on the River Plessur, near its confluence with the Rhine.
The diocese belonged to the province of Milan until 843, and from then until 1803 it was the southernmost bishopric in the province of Mainz. It was the Alpine diocese of the province of Mainz and included, besides Graubünden and the Forest Cantons, parts of the Vorarlberg and the upper valley of the Adige.
The Bishops were politically powerful through much of the middle ages.
Their principal temporal possessions were the city of Chur and the Engadine (the upper valley of the Inn). An alliance of the Bishops’ subjects, called the Gotteshausbund (the League of God’s House), was formed in 1367 and began to reduce their power, until by 1526 it was gone. The Bishops however remained Imperial princes and were members of the Austrian Imperial Circle even after the independence of Switzerland was recognised in the Peace of Westphalia, 1648.
The diocese lost its Vorarlberg and upper Adige lands in 1809, part of the process of adjusting ecclesiastical to state boundaries, which led also to the destruction of the diocese of Constance in the readjustments after the fall of Napoleon. Its lands in eastern Switzerland were added to Chur. Northeasternmost Switzerland was separated again with the creation of a new bishopric of St Gallen in 1823, but Zürich remained with Chur. The separation was only fully effective in 1847 as the Bishop of Chur held both dioceses until then.
Liechtenstein, for centuries part of the diocese, was separated from it in 1997 when Wolfgang Haas was appointed as Archbishop of Vaduz. A staunch conservative, he had become the coadjutor of Chur in 1988 and its Bishop in 1990, the cause of controversy amongst the priests and laity of the diocese and also between the diocese and the secular authorities, not least the heavily populated Canton of Zürich. His translation may have solved the problem in Chur, but it upset the government and parliament of Liechtenstein, despite the Archbishop’s Liechtenstein birth, and they boycotted the enthronement*.
The Roman Catholic dioceses in Switzerland do not form a province. They come directly under the Holy See, whose spiritual prince may have long lost his earthly territories, but whose monarchical powers can still ruffle a thousand feathers, even in a largely Catholic Principality.
* Jonathan Steinberg, Why Switzerland?, 224-6; Alfred Huber, Staatskunde Lexikon, 205, 298.