Dalberg, Karl Theodor von
DALBERG, KARL THEODOR VON
Archbishop of Mainz, prince-elector and archchancellor of the holy roman empire, prince-primate of Germany, grand duke of Frankfort, president of the Confederation of the Rhine; b. Herrnsheim, near Worms, Germany, Feb. 8, 1744; d. Regensburg, Feb. 10, 1817. Attracted by ambition to the ecclesiastical state, to which his parents early destined him, he studied in the Protestant faculties of law at Göttingen and Heidelberg from 1759, and gained a doctorate in civil and Canon Law (1761), but studied little theology. Travels through neighboring countries to complete his studies placed him in close, sympathetic touch with contemporary trends in fe bronianism, gallicanism, and the enlightenment whose humanistic ideals particularly attracted him. In 1754 he became a benefice holder in wÜrzburg and Mainz, and in 1762 entered the service of the Elector of Mainz, where he was preoccupied with educational problems,
as he was from 1772 as governor of Erfurt. He was dean of the cathedral chapter in Würzburg and Mainz (1779–86), and soon after at Worms and Constance. After being chosen coadjutor to the archbishop of Mainz and Constance (1787), he ceased to be a Freemason and was ordained (Feb. 2, 1788) and consecrated bishop (Aug. 31, 1788). He became coadjutor bishop (June 1788) and then bishop of Constance (1800), archbishop of Mainz and Worms (1802), and bishop of Regensburg (1802). Dalberg appointed as vicar-general (1802) and coadjutor bishop (1814) of Constance Ignaz von wessenberg, with whom he shared many views on Canon Law, pedagogy, liturgy, and other subjects.
With the help of Napoleon I, Dalberg emerged from the vast ecclesiastical secularizations in Germany (1803) with increased jurisdiction and dignities. By obtaining the See of Regensburg (1802), which became a metropolitan see (1805), he became elector and archchancellor of the Empire, and primate of Germany (although not recognized as such by Rome). When the Confederation of the Rhine was proclaimed, Dalberg became its president (1806). Napoleon named him Grand Duke of Frankfort, but ceded Regensburg to Bavaria (1810). Napoleon's downfall (1814) ended the secular power of Dalberg, who henceforth lived modestly and piously at Regensburg. His attempt to create a German national church along Febronian lines largely independent of Rome was forestalled when Pius VII concluded concordats with individual German states instead of a single one for all Germany.
Dalberg was a capable administrator, generous and interested in liturgical and pastoral reforms, science, and literature. He was highly regarded by Goethe, Schiller, and Wilhelm von Humboldt. He served as chancellor of the University of Erfurt and rector of the University of Würzburg, founded Karls University in Aschaffenburg (1808), and tried to restore the University of Mainz after the ravages of the French Revolution. Dalberg remains a controversial figure, but recent judgments on him have been more favorable.
Bibliography: h. bastgen, Dalbergs und Napoleons Kirchenpolitik in Deutschland (Paderborn 1917). g. schwaiger, "Die Kirchenpläne des Fürstprimas K. Th. von Dalberg," Münchener theologische Zeitschrift 9 (1958) 186–204. l. lenhart, Neue deutsche Biographie (Berlin 1953–) 3:489–490. h. raab, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 3:125–126. a. franzen, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiasitques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 14:20–22.