The Bishopric of Chur
18 October 2021
The early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) were crucial centuries in the history of Raetia. The creation of Churrätien and Medieval and modern Graubünden (1524-1803-1815) occurred in this period.
The transition from Roman rule to the Middle Ages was a long process. The political structures, the social, economic and linguistic conditions, the ecclesiastical and cultural situation and the geographical orientation changed.
In the first half of the 4th century, the Roman province of Raetia was divided into the provinces of Raetia prima (Capital Curia (Chur) and Raetia seconda (capital Augst).
Raetia prima included the valleys of the Vorder- and Hinterrhein and the Engadine. The Rhine and Lake Constance were the border in the north.
The border in the west went from Stein am Rhein to Pfyn, over the rivers Glärnisch and Clariden to the Gotthard massif. The rivers Inn and the Rhine, and Mera and Adda were the borders in the south.
Raetia prima was a northern periphery of the Roman Empire. In the early Middle Ages (6th-7th centuries ), the region was a southern periphery of the Merovingian and Frankish Empires.
The Carolingian Empire (8th-9th centuries) was a periphery that fluctuated between Italy and the northern Alps, and later (10th-12th centuries century), a southwestern periphery of the eastern Franconian-German Empire.
At the same time, however, Raetia has always been a transit country in the central Alps. Raetia was, therefore, both a peripheral and a transitional location.
It explains the political and strategic importance (the passes Julier, Septimer, Lukmanier and Splügen), but at the same time, also the relative independence because of the mountains (the peripheral area).
The diocese of Chur played a crucial role. The bishop of Chur is mentioned for the first time in 461. Milan was the archbishopric until 843.
Mainz became the Archbishopric afterwards, until 1803 when the Vatican took direct control and authority over all Swiss Bishoprics (Basel, Lausanne, Geneva, Sion, Chur). The changes show this region’s geographical and political importance in the Middle Ages and the (Early) Modern Period.
(Source: R. Kaiser, Churrätien im frühen Mittelalter, Basel 2008).