Period II newsletter

Cathédrale de Bâle (Basler Münster), 11e -15e siècle. Photo: TES.

Swiss Bishoprics and Cultural Heritage

In the centuries between the (slow) dissolution of the Roman Empire (5th century) and the rise of the great Monarchies and dynasties (10-12th centuries), the Church and the bishop were the most dominant social, economic and political institutions with secular power. The diocese is new sovereignty based on an ecclesiastical (diocese) territory, and it possesses many properties (often far beyond the diocese). The bishop is the highest authority with formally the archbishop of the archdiocese and the Pope as his superiors and with local secular rulers and princes as direct competitors or allies.

The division into bishoprics and their Archbishoprics give a good impression of the rich cultural heritage of Switzerland. Besançon and its French-speaking culture was the Archbishopric of Lausanne and Basel. The territory of the bishopric of Basel reached far into Alsace and north-west Switzerland. The bishopric of Constance stretched over central and northeastern Switzerland and parts of Southern Germany and belonged to the Archbishopric of Mainz and its German culture. The bishopric of Chur also had Mainz as Archbishopric. The area of the south of Switzerland was divided into the Archbishoprics of Milan and Como Italian influences. The bishopric of Sion was part of the Archbishopric of Tarentaise and culture of Savoy. The bishopric of Geneva belonged to the Archbishopric of Vienne and Provençal culture. The Swiss bishoprics have always been ruled by Archbishoprics with other cultures. These cultural crossroads and platforms still define the country. (Sources: K. Speich, H. Schläpfer, Eglises et Monastères suisses, Zurich 1979; F. Mazel, L, Évêque et le territoire. L´invention médiévale de l´espace (Ve-XIIIe siècle, Paris 2008).