Echter von Mespelbrunn, Julius

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Prince-bishop of Würzburg; b. Mespelbrunn, Lower Franconia, March 18, 1545; d. Würzburg, Sept. 13, 1617. He came of a noble, strongly Catholic family. He studied in the Netherlands, Italy, France, and in Cologne. In 1569 he became a member of the cathedral chapter of Würzburg and was dean in December 1573 when he was elected prince-bishop. After a preparation of 18 months, he was ordained priest and consecrated bishop in May 1575. The Jesuits helped him in the reform of his diocese, which was predominantly Protestant, and Würzburg became outstanding in the counter reformation. In 1582 Echter made a university of the Jesuit college in Würzburg, and in 1589 he founded a seminary. Having set in order the administration and economy of his diocese, he began, with new priests, to reclaim the Protestants of the diocese for Catholicism. Using strong political pressure he regained 100,000 in three years. He built about 300 churches, in the "Julius style," and the "Julius hospital" (1579) shows his interest in social measures. His enthusiasm for the Catholic League (1614) contributed to its success, especially in Fulda and Bamberg. Personally he was ascetic and pious; politically he believed in absolutism. According to the spirit of his time, he persecuted witches. He had early leanings toward humanism, but the claim that he also had inclinations toward Protestantism is erroneous.

Bibliography: g. von pÖlnitz, Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn (Munich 1934); Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 3:639640. w. engel, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 3 2:301.

[g. j. donnelly]