Wessenberg, Ignaz Heinrich von
WESSENBERG, IGNAZ HEINRICH VON
German ecclesiastic; b. Dresden, Nov. 4, 1774; d. Constance, Aug. 9, 1860. He came from a noble family. He studied at Dillingen from 1792; at Würzburg from 1794, where he came into contact with Karl von dalberg and other supporters of the enlightenment; then at Vienna (1796–97). From 1792 he accumulated benefices as cathedral canon at Augsburg, Basel, and Constance. While a subdeacon he became vicar–general of the Diocese of Constance (1802); he was not ordained until 1812. Dalberg sought to have him made coadjutor bishop of Constance (1814), but Rome refused recognition. He was vicar of the cathedral chapter and administrator of the Diocese of Constance from 1817 despite the strong objection of Pius VII, who suppressed the see in 1821. The pope also disapproved the selection of Wessenberg as bishop of Freiburg and Rottenburg (1822).
Wessenberg's wide range of studies had not included special theological training, but he possessed deep insight into the practical needs of souls and suggested valuable pastoral and liturgical reforms that were far ahead of his time. He also labored zealously and effectively to aid persons in moral danger or in physical suffering. Commendably he urged such improvements as clergy conferences to continue clerical education after ordination, scripture reading in families, and better understanding of the Mass by the faithful. On the other hand, he disapproved pilgrimages, processions, and other external manifestations of piety, Marian devotions, the Rosary, numerous holy days, dogmas, monasteries, and mendicant orders. He exceeded his authority in dispensing from religious vows and the obligations of the Breviary for slight reasons. Wessenberg's pastoral and social labors evinced a certain loftiness of character. Less admirable was his attitude toward the pope and the Roman Curia, which developed from his own unpleasant experiences and from the currently widespread influences of febronianism, josephinism, and Episcopalism; yet he retained a fundamental loyalty to Rome.
Wessenberg was also a Catholic humanist well versed in politics, philosophy, pedagogy, music, and poetry. He sought to bridge the cultural gap between the church and the contemporary world, and cultivated close relations with outstanding Protestant intellectuals and scholars. His principal writings were: Uber die Folgen der Säcularisation (1801); Coup d'oeil sur la situation actuelle et les vrais intérêts de l'église catholique (1825); and Die Grossen Kirchenversammlungen d. 15 u. 16 Jahrhunderts (4 v. 1840). Two of his works are listed in the Index: Die Stellung des römischen Stuhls gegenüber dem Geiste des 19. Jahrhunderts (1833) and Die Bisthums–Synode und die Erfordernisse und Bedingungen einer heilsamen Herstellung derselben (1849).
Bibliography: c. grÖber, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 10:835–839 k. aland, "Wessenberg–Studien," Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins 95 (1943) 550–620; 96 (1948) 450–567; 105 (1957) 475–511. e. reinhard, "Briefe des … I. von Wessenberg an den Grafen F. A. von Spiegel," ibid. 105 (1957) 225–264. w. mÜller, "Wessenberg in heutiger Sicht" Zeitschrift für schweizerische Kirchengeschichte 58 (1964) 293–308.